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No Collins, No Charisma

No Collins, No CharismaDavid Cheal watches a new frontman head up Genesis at the NEC Birmingham

"What's my problem?" yelled Genesis's new lead singer Ray Wilson during the preamble to a rendition of their 1992 hit I Can't Dance. I think we were supposed to yell "You can't dance", but I must say that I had an overwhelming urge to shout: "You're not Phil Collins!"

When Phil Collins took over as the group's lead singer in 1975, following Peter Gabriel's departure, Genesis were widely written off. But their record company boss said that Collins "sounded more like Peter Gabriel than Peter Gabriel", and it proved to be an inspired decision.

When Collins himself went from Genesis to exodus in 1996, remaining band members Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks made the brave decision to audition for a replacement. Wilson, a comparatively callow youth from Dumfries, who had previously fronted the guitar-rock band Stiltskin (they did the theme tune to the "hunk in the lake" Levi's commercial), is probably as good as they'll get.

But while he is technically a near-flawless vocalist whose voice has a certain husky charm, his singing lacks character; he sounds like every rock vocalist you've ever heard. For long periods during this show I found myself yearning for the brightness, the clarity and the plaintive, almost canine quality of Collins's singing. Nor is Wilson much to look at - he managed the remarkable feat of making Collins look charismatic in comparison.

Having said all that, this show, at the beginning of their latest British tour, was not by any means a bad one. The older songs, such as The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Follow You, Follow Me and Home by the Sea, were all played with warmth and conviction, and The Dividing Line, from the new album, Calling All Stations, had a certain brooding grandeur.

Hydraulic lights and video screens showing swirly skies and abstract patterns helped compensate for the lack of human glamour, and mention should be made of drummer Nir Zidkyahu, a percussive powerhouse who resuscitated some of the group's drearier material.

In the end, though, the show was all about the man who has, he says, joined the group he idolised when he was growing up. He sang his heart out and chatted enthusiastically to the appreciative audience, but, unlike his predecessor, he faces a long hard struggle to become firmly established as the authentic voice of Genesis.

© UK Telegraph

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