True, there were no surprises when the steamroller called Genesis rolled into Scotiabank Place last night. Then again, the 14,000 folks in the sold-out audience weren't there for surprises, but rather for a night of much-loved and smoothly delivered rock tunes from the 1970s, '80s and '90s. Which is exactly what they got.
Greeted by a standing ovation, the British trio - once one of the world's most popular bands - performed Turn It On Again, No Son Of Mine, Land Of Confusion and others on a massive, dramatic stage.
A 70-metre long, rollercoaster-like screen, meanwhile, glittered with lights and video simulations behind the trio. Over the stage, yet more lights shone down, perhaps a nod to the middle-aged eyes of frontman Phil Collins, bassist Mike Rutherford and keyboardist Tony Banks (the three were helped out by Chester Thompson on drums and Dan Stuermer on guitar).
"Any old people here tonight?" asked Collins early in the set. Audience roar. "Older than us, that is?" he added with a laugh. More roar.
This was a little after he greeted his audience in old-fashioned and slightly ironic fashion with, "We are Genesis and we are your entertainment tonight." In true Genesis fashion, last night's show included jams, romantic pop and a bit of prog rock pomp from the band's early days when Peter Gabriel, who left for a solo career in 1974, fronted the band and Collins played drums (Collins clambered aboard a second drum kit several times last night).
In fact, Gabriel was originally asked to join this tour, the band's first in 15 years, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a double concept album. Gabriel, for reasons of his own, declined. Ottawa was one of only three Canadian stops on the band's current tour. Last night's set list was virtually identical to the one the band worked out for both the European and North American legs of the tour, including tunes like 1992's Hold On My Heart, which the ever-emotive Collins sang while perched on a stool. A veteran crowd worker, last night Collins elicited clap-alongs, singsongs and every manner of audience participation he could have asked for. He also snapped pictures of the audience on a digital camera at one point and later slapped his knees and feet with a tambourine, which unaccountably drew a rapturous response from the audience. Those moves were probably all wise, as Collins is not a very dynamic performer, relying instead on his vocal prowess and the band's big instrumentation for excitement. Not that keyboard player Banks looked very excited. He spent most of the night, at least from what we saw on the two oval video screens bookending the stage, glowering at his instrument. His long-time band mate Rutherford broke into an occasional quiet grin. As press time loomed, Collins was cackling his way through 1983's Mama, the menacing tune that was the band's biggest U.K. hit and a clear favorite with Ottawa fans.
© Ottawa Citizen, by Patrick Langston