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Genesis On The Road Again

"I suppose there aren't that many years left," Rutherford, 56, said down the line during a summer European tour stop in Berlin. Genesis begins its North American tour this Friday in Toronto.

"This has been coming for awhile -- we sort of drifted into it. Talked about it for awhile and we even went, 'Shall we? Nah?' But this time around, we had a meeting at the end of '03 with (original singer) Peter (Gabriel) and ('70s guitarist) Steve Hackett, and discussed maybe doing a few shows around (1974's) The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway album. But we kind of realized after the meeting that Pete had an album out next year, so in a way, if ever it happened, and who knows, it was a way off.

"So in the meantime we thought, well, should we try to do something with the three of us, which has been the bulk of our career, really? And so we said, 'Yeah, let's do something -- not a massive tour, not too huge.' So here we are."

To explain, after Gabriel left Genesis in the mid-'70s to pursue a solo career, drummer Collins took over as lead singer. The band's sound then went from art/prog-rock to more pop/rock, and as a result its fanbase exploded exponentially, making it one of the biggest groups in the world by the mid-'80s.

Rutherford has not ruled out Gabriel returning to the fold at some point. Gabriel is currently touring on his own.

"Who knows?" Rutherford said. "It's a project idea, which is out in the ether. In a sense, no one's pushing anyone to do it -- (that) sort of thing."

Whether by coincidence or not, since Gabriel went solo it has never failed, Rutherford said, that whenever Genesis had album out or went on tour, so did Gabriel.

"Every time we used to have an album out, after a five-year gap, the same month there'd actually be a Gabriel album. The timing's crazy. He's doing a few shows (now). I think he's decided to go out on tour because of WOMAD, to celebrate 25 years, and headline it. I guess while you're headlining it, you might as well do, once the band has rehearsed, a few shows in Europe. I think he's doing sort of smaller festivals in Europe. I've looked at the schedules and he's always where we are ..."

The first show of a major tour by any band is notoriously full of kinks to be worked out, especially in this case when band members have been apart for 15 years. But Rutherford gives Genesis fairly high marks for its June 11 launch in Helsinki.

"I think we were more (musically) together than normal for the first show," he said. "Maybe because there's no new album -- so there aren't six new songs -- or maybe because the tour isn't that long, so you want it to start off in pretty good form. We definitely had nerves but it felt pretty good, actually. The really weird thing was Helsinki was (in) daylight; it didn't get dark at all."

So that wasn't exactly the best setting for an outdoor stadium show, especially one that features huge screens and eye-catching visuals.

Rutherford said it helped that the group was well-rehearsed. Tour rehearsals actually began last year, with a few weeks of practices in New York. "(That was) just to get a feel to see if we actually felt good about it," Rutherford said. "And it felt pretty good straight away, really."

That was followed by more rehearsals in March and April in Switzerland, and even more in Brussels.

After their Turn it on Again reunion tour launched in Helskini, Genesis played 23 other shows across Europe, concluding with a July 14 date in Rome.

The North American leg begins Friday in Toronto at BMO Field, after a few days of production rehearsals in T.O. There are 24 shows through Oct. 13 on this leg, including two other stops in Canada -- Sept. 14 at Montreal's Stade Olympique, and Sept. 15 at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place.

"(In) North America, more shows are indoors, so we have to rehearse a slightly different production," Rutherford said.

The European audiences were multi-generational, as you might expect for a band that formed in 1966.

"A lot of people are seeing us for the first time, as well as people who are old fans. It's a nice cross-section."

The European setlist was hits-heavy, what with no new album to push. And Rutherford seems to like it that way.

"We're trying to avoid any of that kind of thought," he said of the 'will they or won't they record a new album?' debate.

"I'm really enjoying this time 'round, actually, just being on tour without anything else in your head. Normally, there would be albums to promote and stuff to do, and this time 'round it's just playing the songs. It's actually quite nice. The lack of distraction has proved very enjoyable this tour. I think it means we really focused on the tour, in a way we didn't use to."

Genesis played 21/2-hour shows in Europe.

"Normally there's five or six new songs from (a new) album. We've got more space to put in more variety. It's a slightly heavier set than we've done for a while, I think. In the past, Phil probably played drums for 10 minutes, and he's playing about 40 minutes of drums this time ... It's a slightly heavier set, definitely."

Rutherford cites Domino among his favourite songs on this setlist, one of those that signal the final stretch of the show.

"There's always the home straight where you think, 'Right, it's the last 40 minutes.' It's a nice feeling."

A camera crew is documenting all of the Genesis reunion shows for a DVD release, but Rutherford doesn't seem to mind.

"Every breath we take, I'm afraid," he says, jokingly. "It's just a couple of guys, one guy ... He's around all the time, so actually you don't get pissed off 'cause he's sort of a) a nice guy and b) he's not very intrusive."

During the band's long hiatus, Collins has had the most successful solo career, of course, while Banks has dabbled in classical music. Rutherford formed Mike + The Mechanics in 1985 and their most famous hit was probably The Living Years.

"We sort of started off big in America and Europe, and then it kind of witched over from being not so much in America to being bigger in Europe, so we've done quite a bit of that in Europe over the past two years."

Rutherford said "half the charm" of touring with his sideband is its completely different dynamic.

"I always thought the Mechanics would be the sort of low-key thing, and it took off in a really wonderful way that surprised me ... Live, it's a very different sort of feeling, which is quite nice. And we play smaller venues, which is nice."

Not that band infighting has ever been a problem for Genesis.

"We get on really good, we always have done," Rutherford said. "This tour has been a really good feeling so far. I think it's appreciation of the way we kind of work."

HIT IT, BOYS!

Genesis setlist from the band's June/July European tour:

- Behind the Lines
- Duke's End
- Turn it on Again
- No Son of Mine
- Land of Confusion
- In the Cage
- The Cinema Show
- Duke's Travels
- Afterglow
- Hold On
- My Heart
- Home by the Sea
- Second Home by the Sea
- Follow You Follow Me
- Firth of Fifth
- I Know What I Like
- Mama
- Ripples
- Throwing it all Away
- Domino
- Drum Duet
- Los Endos
- Tonight Tonight Tonight
- Invisible Touch
- I Can't Dance
- The Carpet Crawlers

© Winnipegsun, by Jane Stevenson

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