"There's no new album to sell, so touring defies business logic," Collins, 56, said yesterday during a break in rehearsals at the Air Canada Centre for the first concert of Genesis's 20-city North American tour. It takes place at the spanking new BMO Field at Exhibition Place tomorrow night.
"It defies business logic," he repeated. "Sounds like a good enough reason to me."
It has been 15 years since the farewell of Genesis V.2 – the post-progressive, post-Peter Gabriel, post-Steve Hackett version in which Collins, the band's former drummer, took on vocal responsibilities and artistic control, and steered Banks and bassist-turned-guitarist Rutherford into a golden commercial bonanza through the 1980s. All three men, their vintage veneer starting to show signs of wear, seemed apprehensive yesterday about their reasons for picking up the pieces this late in the game and mounting a massive spectacle bulging with new technology, arena TV screens 65 metres wide and three storeys high, and serviced by a crew the size of a small army. They might, after all, tarnish the Genesis legacy as one of pop's most extravagantly successful touring acts.
Joining The Police, Rush, Jethro Tull, Van Halen, Crowded House and other 1980s hit-makers who've recently reunited to cash in on their pre-digital-era popularity, Genesis is mining what remains of treasure deposited during the last golden age of radio – the memories of fans who bought more than 100 million of the band's albums in those years.
"When the box set of the original Genesis recordings was set to come out in 2005, we all had a meeting in November 2004 and we talked about maybe promoting the release with a small tour of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a handful of shows," Collins continued. "Peter and Steve said they'd think it over and get back, but that never happened.
"I'd have been happy to sit back and play drums again. I'm getting a bit weary of being referred to as Peter's replacement, anyway. But it didn't turn out that way. So we thought, `Why not just the three of us?' I mean, this has been the Genesis lineup since 1975."
It took three years for the three musicians to carve sufficient time out of their jammed solo schedules to mount the Turn It On Again show, a retrospective of the entire Genesis oeuvre, Banks said.
"There's a master list from the last two tours, and in the middle we've added 40 minutes that draw from a broader spectrum of Genesis material than usual, stuff from a long time ago, and some double drummer stuff.
"Most people see Genesis as a two-period band, the progressive and the commercial, but it's all the same to us, and we're trying to show with this set how it all fits together."
With a massive array of new gadgetry and a colossal sound palette at his disposal, Banks's great challenge these days is finding ways to make the older material sound more contemporary.
"There were lots of odd sounds on those old recordings ... we were inventing them as we went along. We're treating those songs as blank sheets now, building them up from scratch, but retaining the original flavour."
They are already a huge success in Europe. Augmented by drummer Chester Thompson and guitarist Daryl Stuermer, Genesis played for 1.5 million people there earlier this summer, selling out almost every show. Turn It On Again is being modified during three days of rehearsals in Toronto for indoor as well as outdoor applications during its North American run, produced by veteran Toronto-based promoter Michael Cohl.
"It's a different rig, a lot of technology," explained Rutherford. "But we've always liked technology. Musically, it's one of the most difficult sets we've ever put together, because it covers so much ground. It's really heavy stuff, very demanding."
At the suggestion that the three musicians, all in their late 50s, try to ward off tour boredom, road weariness and bad food with daily exercise routines, they grimaced in mock horror.
"No, we don't do that," said Collins. "Not joggers, us ... we don't do any heavy lifting.
"Well, golf now and then ..."
© The Star, by Greg Quill