Genesis returned to the U.S. earlier this month to launch one of the most successful concert tours of recent memory. Not only is the band scheduled to play sold-out arenas and stadiums in 17 cities; in Philadelphia and Chicago alone, the band is camped out for three days in a row. The tour arrives Tuesday at the United Center.
Ticket sales like that are hard to come by, so it's a safe bet the masses didn't trample to the box office to hear "The Knife," a nine-minute operatic tome exploring violence in society, "Supper's Ready," a 23-minute suite, or "Watcher of the Skies," which was inspired by sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke.
Those songs, like much of the headier, more theatrical material from the band's earliest days, is largely unknown to most Genesis fans, who largely came to the band starting in 1977, about one-third of the way through its history. That's when drummer and singer Phil Collins took charge from founding member Peter Gabriel and turned Genesis into a pop powerhouse accompanied by guitarist Mike Rutherford and keyboardist Tony Banks.
"It's the post-prog stuff that really reached the masses, first with (the hit single) 'Follow You Follow Me' in 1978. So it's the hits that drove the ticket sales," said Chicago radio veteran Bobby Skafish, now hosting afternoons on WDRV 97.1-FM.
Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of Pollstar, the leading trade journal for the concert industry, said that there was a "pent-up demand" for this tour, considering the band has had a 15-year absence from the road.
Including Gabriel in the lineup "might have added a whole new dimension," Bongiovanni said. "But in many ways, the commercial success in America is largely the lineup that is touring now, the post-Peter Gabriel lineup."
Tour setlists will please the casual fan and aggravate diehards as they are heavy with familiar hits and light on the more esoteric fare, although moments are taken to represent the Gabriel era. According to interviews, the tour was originally designed to encompass the band's entire timeline. One plan was to stage special concerts to re-create "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway," the band's seminal 1974 double album, considered the high point of the Gabriel-Collins collaboration, but Gabriel and former guitarist Steve Hackett opted not to participate.
"Peter's the guy you've got to ask," Banks told Billboard earlier this month. "I think we're all quite up for it, and I think Peter's quite up for it, in a way. But he can't make a decision. He's always been a bit like that."
Instead, this current tour will run about two-and-a-half hours, feature prepared video montages of the band's history and include longtime Genesis sidemen Chester Thompson on drums (when Collins steps away from his own drum kit) and Milwaukee native Daryl Stuermer on guitar.