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Father time, mother nature slow Genesis

Hand it to the members of the band as well. They didn't miss a beat for the moisture, not even in the tricky time signatures of the '70s-vintage prog-rock "In the Cage" medley being played when the showers really took hold.

These are not kids we're talking about, on or off stage. Unlike a lot of veteran acts (the Rolling Stones, the Police, presumably the reunited Van Halen), Genesis doesn't seem to have picked up many new fans who are only now getting their first chance to see them. Front man Phil Collins joked from the stage, "Apart from what's up here, are there any other old people in the audience tonight?"

As well, Genesis -- the core of Collins, guitarist Mike Rutherford and keyboard player Tony Banks, along with longtime touring partners Daryl Stuermer (guitar, bass) and Chester Thompson (drums) -- is in the secure position of being a band without any need to justify itself. There's no new music to push, no need to enhance a legacy as one of the biggest bands of the '70s and '80s, no real hope of winning over the critics who prefer the earlier, Peter Gabriel-led version of the band. Collins has even said in interviews that the band isn't really making any money on this trek.

There's something refreshing about seeing a band with nothing to prove.

Wrapping up the tour with this and a Saturday show (also at the Bowl), Genesis was confident and relaxed enough to give at least as much emphasis to the complex work that made it a prog leader in the early years as to the smoother pop that made it a chart mainstay later. Not only did the guys tackle "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)," one of the Gabriel-era signature songs, but they also showed images of the band from that time on video screens, including shots of Gabriel in full flower -- literally, wearing his famed flower costume.

There's also something frustrating about seeing a band with nothing to prove.

The always-personable Collins, who moved from the full-time drumming role to lead singer after Gabriel's departure in 1975, couldn't resist pushing "I Know What I Like" across the line from art to shtick with a hammy tambourine dance and delivering the "Me, I'm just a lawn mower" line like a music-hall aside rather than as Gabriel's Dada absurdity.

That was the pattern. The opening sequence of beyond-pop showcases "Duke" and "Turn It On Again" was followed immediately by the plain "No Son of Mine." The challenging "In the Cage" set led to the bland ballad "Hold on My Heart."

Collins even apologized for the menacing "Mama" and offered the pastoral "Ripples" as compensation -- tongue-in-cheek, sure, but an apology nonetheless.

And throughout there was a workmanlike quality. The most exciting playing came from Stuermer (in particular on the old "Firth of Fifth") and Thompson, and at times the music sounded a bit deflated.

Unfortunately, some fans also seemed a bit deflated. One, who asked that his name not be used, came from Florida specifically for this show, at more than $350 a seat for himself and two friends.

"I flew 3,000 miles for this," he said dejectedly as the band started "Domino," his favorite Genesis song. "I just have one word: 'uninspired.' "

And hardy only goes so far. Not long after, the rain intensified, and after some climactic fireworks were shot off, Collins announced that it was too wet to do the encores.

Rain-dampened fireworks -- a perfect metaphor for the show.

© LA Times, by Steve Hochman

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