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And the Collins said: reunite!

Well, it should be said that this paper's official line (as driven by this writer) on rock reunions is: Only Death Prevents Them. Taxes certainly don't. As long as members live, it doesn't matter if they've planted enough icepicks in one another's backs to hang Elton John's wardrobe on - they will reunite, as sure as Van meets Halen and Led meets Zep. And in fact, The Gazette knew fully a year ago that Genesis II would reunite. Phil Collins told me.

We'd met on the release of an interesting video game called Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, in which Collins was the first celeb to play himself in a PSP videogame. The premise: You are Phil's bodyguard and you must protect him; which of course means you could allow harm to come to him. Collins memorably asked, "Er, is it possible to 'get' me?"

Collins had come very close to guaranteeing a Genesis tour, in the process of dealing with other issues (dealt with below).

The interesting sub-theme of this reunion is a phenomenon we'll call The Triumph of the Elvis Impersonator, to wit: Genesis is the first and likely only stadium band to be lured back onto the road by the success of its clone.

Make no mistake: We are well aware that Genesis approves of and has facilitated the unparalleled success of Montreal spitting-image band The Musical Box, granting them permission to use music and visuals to stage wildly successful re-creation tours. Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Collins have all joined them onstage. (Collins is supposed to have commented about The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway: "They played it better than we did.") However, it is no stretch to imagine Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks watching these Quebec kids sell out arenas and eventually coming to the conclusions that a) those are our songs, let's have a go and b) those are our dollars.

I have written my share of uncharitable words about Genesis, mainly because one had to grow up in Quebec to know the Tyranny of the Prog, the extent to which that music sucked up all available airwave space while the rest of the world was listening to, you know, rock 'n' roll. (To wit, 1992: "Genesis has outlived the era when art or progressive rock bore the concurrent title AOR - 'album-oriented rock' - which meant the band didn't expect to have hit singles and everybody at the record label could relax and stroke their whiskers significantly.")

But there seemed something almost sad about the announcement of the Turn It On Again tour. Seldom has less passion heralded or greeted so large an operation. The quotes from Collins and bandmates at press conference time read almost as surrender to the inevitable. "We couldn't think of a reason why not to, really," Collins told USA Today, before mentioning the golf game he'll rededicate himself to in October. Reviews of the Sept. 7 Toronto show were lukewarm, rating the band's Spielbergian visuals over the musicians' engagement.

We can, however, dispense with any charges of cash-grabbing - or rather, any exceptional ones. That is, the $227 stadium ticket is by definition a cash-grab, no matter who does it. And everybody does. Genesis isn't even the only megaband reuniting for a tour this summer without a new album. And bands who draw much more love and respect plunder their catalogues far more regularly for cash-generating re-releases. But enough about me. The fun thing about Genesis is how much criticism, how many howls of protest and derision they draw from the other side, the side that loves them: We'll call them the jesters.

By which we mean, the real fans: the archivists and trainspotters who grudgingly buy tickets in the vain hope the band will play Supper's Ready, while nonetheless denouncing anything released after Gabriel's 1975 departure as fraudulent or commercial. And you can see the premise of their complaint, which would run like this: The Beatles didn't follow Let It Be with a decade of power ballads. Led Zeppelin didn't turn Robert Plant into the drummer when John Bonham departed. They want their Nursery Crymes - they want their yesterday, and they will never surrender. Never mind that the first Collins-led album, A Trick of the Tail, outsold all the Gabriel ones. And never mind the explosion of the Genesis brand in the '80s. They say you can't argue with success. Well, of course you can. You can shriek, mock and deride when you are the self-appointed guardian of the prog. But someone was buying those 150 million albums, and it wasn't just that Marillion guy.

I would point out that prog-rock, with its supposedly avant garde but in reality middle-class musical values, always carries the built-in program of its eventual mediocrity. But let us return to that conversation with Collins last September. He was disarmingly frank about the band's hope to lure Gabriel out on the road for the running of the Lamb. Just as frank about Gabriel's elusiveness, and how the unforgiving record-release-tour schedule prevented Peter from committing ... before 2008. He also delivered all this information in a manner indicating the whole thing was as inevitable as death, taxes and Pink meeting Floyd. So, it looks like you'll all have Genesis to kick around for a while - a prediction to be settled if and, probably, when the Lamb lies down in the Big O next year.

© Canada.com, by Mark Lepage

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