Genesis fans who have spent the last 13 years praying for a reunion woke up this morning to the news that Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, and Tony Banks were photographed together last night at a Knicks game.
According to the fan site Genesis News, there are rumors that the group met up in the city to "test the waters for future activities."
GENESIS: Tony, Mike & Phil spotted at Madison Square Garden yesterday. Facts & rumors: https://t.co/FCWkPHk1tG @GenesisTabletop @MeeksGenesis #genesistheband @rutherfordnet @ProgMagazineUK pic.twitter.com/wRjzqEnCSd— Genesis News Com (@genesis_news) January 23, 2020
Still, these rumors require some very, very large caveats. First, Collins turns 69 in one week, so the band might be in town for a birthday party. After all, they remain one of a handful of dormant megabands (R.E.M. among them) that remain friends. (They split in 1996 so Collins could focus on his solo career, but it was a very civil parting and they reformed in 2007 for a triumphant reunion tour.) So, any rumors of future activity may be based on nothing more than wishful thinking. (A representative for the band merely said there is "nothing to report from this end" regarding the meetup.)
That said, there are some genuine reasons for hope here. Collins recently finished his Not Dead Yet world tour and has a blank calendar for the foreseeable future. Rutherford has toured heavily with a new incarnation of Mike and the Mechanics in recent years, but he also has nothing on the books going forward. Banks released a classical album in 2018, but he’s never toured outside of Genesis and shouldn’t have much trouble fitting a reunion into his schedule.
Collins also played a handful of Genesis songs on his last tour and was joined by Rutherford for 1978’s "Follow You Follow Me" at a June 2019 show in Berlin. Longtime Genesis touring guitarist Daryl Stuermer is a member of Collins’ touring band, so this was pretty close to a Genesis reunion itself. And as the tour wound down near the end of 2019, Collins teased the subject of a Genesis reunion at many shows. "We remain close friends," he’d often say "So you never know…"
When Rolling Stone spoke to Rutherford in April 2019, he wasn’t willing to rule a reunion out. "I always say, ‘Never say never,'" he said. "Look, if you asked me two or three years ago when Phil was retired, I would have said no. But there’s no plans. Let’s establish that. I’m going to go on tour with Phil for six shows in June. That’s with the Mechanics. It’ll be quite fun for us. But never say never. The fact that he’s back on the road is quite interesting."
A major roadblock that seemed to prevent a Genesis reunion for years was the simple fact that Collins can no longer play drums due to nerve damage in his hands. He switched from being the drummer to their lead singer in 1976, when Peter Gabriel quit the band, although Collins continued to sit behind the kit for large chunks of their live shows. But his teenage son Nicholas now drums at Collins’ solo gigs, and he re-creates his father’s parts with stunning precision.
When Rolling Stone spoke with Nicholas in 2017, we raised the prospect of him playing for Genesis one day. "I would be ecstatic if that happened," he said. "That Genesis stuff, drumwise, is something else; absolutely unbelievable. But, to be honest, I don’t think there will be another Genesis reunion tour. They did it in 2007 and I doubt it’ll happen again."
Still, lot can change in three years. Since that time, Collins hit just about every market in the world on tour. Another solo tour at this point wouldn’t be a huge deal, whereas a Genesis one would be enormous. They played stadiums in 2007 and easily could again, especially in Europe.
When they quietly came together in 2006 to see if a reunion was feasible, rehearsals took place in New York City. For all we know, they are holed up somewhere now seeing if a Phil/Mike/Tony/Daryl/Nicholas lineup can handle "Tonight Tonight Tonight" and "In the Cage." (And, if they want to re-create the signature two-drummer Genesis sound, there’s no reason longtime touring drummer Chester Thompson can’t join in on the fun.)
To add speculation on top of speculation, it’s possible, although far less likely, that Peter Gabriel and guitarist Steve Hackett would be involved in a reunion. Gabriel hasn’t released an album of new songs since 2002’s Up and hasn’t toured since his 2016 co-headlining run with Sting. His future plans are a complete mystery. Hackett is in a very different position since he has dates booked through the end of the year, but any Genesis tour probably wouldn’t happen until 2021. He’s said many times that he’d happily participate if they ask him.
The dream scenario for many fans is a tour that includes Collins, Gabriel, Rutherford, Banks, Hackett, Nicholas Collins, Stuermer, and Thompson. They could do two nights in every city. Gabriel would front the band the first night and Collins on the second one. Hackett could perform on any song the band released from 1971 to 1977, and Collins could sit near his son and contribute background vocals and maybe some light percussion on the Gabriel songs.
Nothing like this has ever happened in rock history and almost certainly won’t happen this time. It’s nothing more than ludicrous fan fiction and pegging it to three old friends catching a Knicks game together is insane. But it does feel like something might be in the works and a Phil/Mike/Tony Genesis tour of 2021 feels very far from impossible. We’ll see.
In the meantime, we hope they enjoyed the game last night. They weren’t seated far from Vanessa Hudgens, and they got to see Lebron James score 36 points. It must have been fun.
© RollingStone, by Andy Greene