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The Musical Box “Genesis SEBTP Show” – Wolverhampton 27th May 2002

A rather apt show at a time when the UK government are pondering when to make the final push to rid the country of its currency (sovereignty and other traditions) and become fully ensconced in Europe by adopting the Euro.  Though Selling England By The Pound reflected on the change over to decimal currency and commercialism (whatever happened to Green Shield Stamps?), you could say that, like Nostradamus, Genesis in retrospect gave us a glimpse of what was to be (it is now illegal to sell ‘loose’ food in pounds and ounces).  Anyway, enough of the politics and onto the show.

The Musical Box is a French-Canadian outfit who have studied archive footage and researched early Genesis concerts extensively and now recreate those concerts using, as far as is possible, the same set designs, Gabriel costumes, choreography, set lists and even the same (or same make of) instruments except for Mellotron for which a sample is used understandably.  The guys in the band were barely born when the original concerts were staged, but they are all serious Genesis fans (well, up to the Lamb).

I had applied for a photography pass prior to the gig, but was told that no photography whatsoever was permitted even without flash, although an explanation was not forthcoming.  Just before the show started an announcement was made over the speaker system by the theatre management reinforcing the band’s request for no photography, which is something that’s never happened at any gig I’ve been at in the past.  So are they prima donnas or is there some licensing problem with Genesis (note that when a play is performed, agreement has to be obtained from the copyright owners of the play before any form of recording of the performance can take place which stops many amateur theatre groups from videoing their own performance for their own private and personal enjoyment).  Who knows, but when you consider that the ticket prices are generally higher than those for bands like Camel and Jethro Tull and much higher than for IQ and Jadis who perform both new and old material of their own, the expression ‘milking it’ springs to mind.  There again, most tribute bands seem to charge a fortune and get away with it.  I’m going off at a tangent again – sorry!

To cut a long story short, they performed almost all of SEBTP (More Fool I – Phil Collins’ vocal piece was omitted as was, I think, After The Ordeal), and from Foxtrot, Horizons, Supper’s Ready (superb) and Watcher of The Skies plus The Knife (Trespass) and The Musical Box (Nursery Chryme).  I have a multi-generation video copy of a 1973 Genesis performance at Oxford for comparison and even Peter Gabriel’s banter between songs is performed albeit in a French accent.  Flute playing did not seem right on some songs, though on Supper’s Ready and Firth of Fifth it couldn’t be faulted.  Keyboards were excellent and Hackettesque guitar was almost better than the man himself.  Full credit to lead guitarist Denis Champoux; he made it look so easy including the changeover from electric to acoustic a number of times during a song without missing a note.  Denis Gagné on vocals managed to sound, as well as look, like Gabriel though as previously commented his spoken pieces could not disguise his French accent.  Guillaume Courteau (drums, backing vocals), Sébastien Lamothe (guitars, bass, pedals, backing vocals) and François Richard (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals) equally played their parts with amazing accuracy, which is something that I think Genesis would struggle to do even back in 1973.

The overall performance was so accurate we could have been listening to the original album.  And therein lies the problem.  There was something very important missing, apart from the original Genesis, and that was atmosphere.  They played as if the audience wasn’t there.  No point shouting out “Supper’s Ready” which we sometimes jokingly do when attending other prog concerts (or is it just me?) as TMB are re-enacting the original show in the style of a theatrical production with no room for improvisation.  The Wolverhampton Civic Hall was about two thirds full in my estimation, a male dominated audience in the late 30’s to early 50’s age range in the main who by and large knew the music.  Pre-gig music included some ELP (which someone thought was YES, so maybe they don’t know their prog that well), YES and Gentle Giant.  Yet after the last song, the band left the stage not to return resulting in a rather quiet and subdued audience leaving the theatre.

To sum up, this is not a gig in the true sense, but a theatrical show depicting a concert from the past.  Extremely well performed but it left me wondering why I went in the first place having spent most of the time listening for tiny flaws (no applause…) in the playing.  Would I go to see them again?  To be honest, I’m really not sure.  Maybe I should try Regenesis.

Jem Jedrzejewski


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