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Big things never arrive

I'm not sure anyone or anything is to blame. Fans faced long line-ups getting into the place, but, after a stop at one of the many concession stands once inside, most were in their seats by the time the field lights lowered (late) at 9 p.m. Following the proggy instrumentals Behind the Lines and Duke's End, the driving, synthesized Turn it On Again began the concert in earnest. “We're Genesis,” said sociable frontman Phil Collins after, “and we're gonna try and entertain you this evening.”

They did try, in their way. But the thing of it is, Genesis is not really a stadium band – even if the stadium is a relatively small one (at some 20,000 seats), and even if the LED-panelled Water World backdrop dazzled with lights, live video and set-closing fireworks. The feeling was that the touring unit – Collins and charter members Tony Banks on keyboards and Mike Rutherford on bass and guitar, with longtime associates Chester Thompson and Daryl Stuermer on drums and guitars, respectively – was playing to divided loyalties.

The percussive and politically-minded 1986 hit Land of Confusion roused some of the fans; others applauded earlier, artier material.

“Are there any old people here tonight? Apart from us? Collins asked, rhetorically. “This is your moment then, it's time for us to play some very, very old songs.” And so the introduction went for a medley that began with the whirling, swirling In the Cage, from 1974's conceptual (some-say) masterpiece, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. The concert ended with the anthem Carpet Crawlers, also from Lamb.

Collins, 56, was the workhorse of the bunch, working 160 of 160 minutes. Bald, grizzled and hammy (whipping out a small camera for snapshots), the showman either doubled-drummed with Thompson (both beating on a vinyl chair at one point) or fronted on the eerie Mama or the middle of the road Throwing it All Away

Collins's voice has lost nothing. The set list was honed, blending together slow-dance ballads with melodic rock and more progressive works. Medleys and epic tunes ebbed and flowed. But the performance, professional as it was, just never took off. Before the sprawling Domino, Collins grandstanded, literally, by directing separate audience sections to cheer on his command.

That's the way it was all night, really – a big crowd disconnected from itself. First encore tune I Can't Dance – “what a silly song,” Collins quipped – must have bewildered the right-brained faction.

And a gorgeous, swaying number from 1973's Selling England by the Pound should have had everyone together on the chorus. Hey, maybe they were, in their heads, singing to themselves “I know what I like, I like what I know.”

© Globe and Mail, by Brad Wheeler

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