Three Sides Live captures Genesis as they strike a final onstage balance between their two musical worlds.
On the one side stood their proggy past; on the other, pop stardom. Even the album itself – released in tandem with a film of the same name on June 1, 1982, it chronicles the tours in support of 1980's Duke and 1981's Abacab – seems to be peeking ahead. The fourth side features a handful of sleek tracks left over from the Duke sessions and 1982's 3x3 EP.
"The direction we took is very obvious, having started off in a very complex and technical background," Mike Rutherford told the Oklahoman in 1982. "If you want to progress and change, where do you go? You don't want to get more technical and complex. You have to go simpler in the sense you get more into feeling. We're quite unique in that, but I kind of like that."
Along the way, Three Sides Live deftly showcases a band in transition, somewhere between what it had just been and what it was about to become. In fact, as the movie documentary gets underway, we find Phil Collins at the drums — but only briefly, as he jumps up almost immediately to take the mic for "Behind the Lines." It’s really the perfect opening image. Genesis were headed toward a new thing, a hugely successful popular thing, and Collins – then just coming off the first in a string of platinum-selling solo projects – was the face of that shift.
"You have to accept that you're working in the world of popular music, and the yardstick really is [commercial] success," Tony Banks later told Rolling Stone. "There were various stages in our career where if we hadn't had that commercial success, the band wouldn't have kept going. We wouldn't have been able to keep going. After Peter [Gabriel] left and Steve [Hackett] left, we were fortunate because we had, far and away, our most commercially successful period."
The alchemy that ultimately brought the band to that place happens here in real time, as the trio leads fans through new sounds like "Misunderstanding," a made-for-radio dating-mishap song; "No Reply At All," with its plasticine riff; and "Paperlate," a horn-driven studio extra by Collins.
Minor progressive triumphs remain: The title track from Abacab is still a smart mixture of improvisation and New Wave, while "Dodo/Lurker" is dark and dangerous. But Genesis, now bolstered with a pair of touring members in Chester Thompson and Daryl Stuermer, are clearly ready to move on. A medley of songs from 1974's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway serves as a brief tip of the hat to the Gabriel years, and it's perhaps the most uninspiring moment of the entire project.
Collins lamented in an interview for the film that fans "tend to put us in one area, which we're not afraid to be in, but at the same time, we're also in lots of other areas. They like to think of you over there, and Earth, Wind and Fire over there, and Devo over there. But we're not any one particular thing."
A more telling reach back into the catalog can be found with the sweetly romantic "Afterglow" from 1976’s Wind and Wuthering — the final album featuring Hackett. It's one of the most overt early hints at where Genesis were going, long before "Invisible Touch" was a gleam in Collins' eye. Still, there's far more energy surrounding newer, more straight-forward conceits like "Man on the Corner" and "Turn It On Again."
"You can't worry about the old fan," Rutherford admitted in his talk with the Oklahoman. "Of course, you care. You want them to like you more than anything – but you've got to do what you enjoy doing. It's as simple as that. There's no other way to do it and be honest with yourself."
Three Sides Live peaked at No. 2 in the U.K., where the remaining studio content was replaced by more live material, and at No. 10 in the U.S. – setting the stage Collins' Hello, I Must Be Going! in November (featuring his first No. 1 solo hit in the U.K.) and then Genesis' four-times platinum self-titled smash in 1983.
That makes Three Sides Live a recommended entry point for anyone who came to Genesis via the MTV-era hits, and is now curious about what came before. It's a perfect bridge to the past.
© Ultimate Classic Rock, by Nick Deriso