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1980s pop charmers turning it on again

Pepsi Center - DenverGenesis typically gets tagged as a 1980s pop machine, but its formal recording career stretches back four decades through a number of genres.

Still, the Genesis that showed up at the Pepsi Center on Saturday night was not the prog-addled, Peter Gabriel-led art-rock outfit of the '70s, but rather the Reagan-era Phil Collins vehicle everyone remembers. At least in composition and stage presence.

Hitting the states for the first time in 15 years, the five-piece band sounded fine on the expected hits, but also tackled some of the more intricate prog-rock that helped establish it, long before Phil Collins' solo career exploded. It required a bombast and attention span that feels rare these days.

Sporting a concert screen more than 200 feet wide and 40 feet tall, the band entered the mostly full arena amid deafening cheers and plenty of raised fists. A shaved-head Collins, dressed in black, was flanked by guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford, keyboardist Tony Banks, drummer Chester Thompson and bassist Daryl Stuermer.

Collins toyed with the audience at times, dancing and leading them in clap-a-longs, charming them with his schtick-y dialogue (perfected word for word at many tour stops before this) and generally affecting a theatricality that would have made Peter Gabriel proud.

During "No Son of Mine," Collins peered into the rafters as if at the prow of a warship, bathed in silvery-blue light, Banks' hollow synths chiming behind him. "Land of Confusion" revealed a sandpapery grit to Collins' vocals, and "Hold on My Heart" whipped out the maudlin lyrics and delivery that made the band's '80s output such an easy critical target. Ditto with "Throwing it All Away" and "Follow You, Follow Me."

A long-winded set-up for "Home by the Sea" and "Second Home by the Sea" infantilized the audience, but the song's dark melodies and airtight construction - not to mention a crystalline sound mix - elevated it beyond the hokey visuals and lyrics.

So was the show, with ticket prices tipping $200 at the upper end, worth it?

Well, you know what they say about not being able to please everyone all the time. The band certainly gave it its best shot.

© The Denver Post, by John Wenzel

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