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The time I saw Genesis in Rome

The name of their tour comes from the song 'Turn It on Again' from the1980 release Duke. Turn It On Again: The Hits is also the name of a greatest hits album released in 1999 and re-released this year in support of the Turn It On Again Tour. On July 14, 2007, Genesis would use the Colosseum in Rome as their backdrop for the conclusion of their reunion tour. I was there with two ears and a heart to witness the band 'Turn It On Again.' Turn it on really loud.

Nothing could be more apropos than Genesis playing in the homeland of Catholicism. On Sunday morning most good Romans will go to church, but on Saturday night salvation was sought under the stars at the Circus Maximus, Rome's temporary basilica of rock.

In olden days, the Circus was used for chariot races and gladiatorial games, but time and Italian football hooligans have ravaged the grassy field. Now, on a usual Saturday night, the large oblong track is rife with fires surrounded by bongo-thumping hippies and, of course, teenagers getting drunk.

I went because it was free and I think it is funny that old musicians get back together and think that it isn't going to be a train wreck. Genesis will follow in the tradition of Paul McCartney, Simon & Garfunkel, Bryan Adams and Billy Joel as show biz moguls coming out of retirement to wax nostalgic in front of an estimated 500,000 tourists and locals starved for some live outdoor music in Rome.

The image of the three original members walking in unison, dressed in white brings to mind the holy trinity.

For the concert, the city had transformed the Circus into a multimedia corridor with speaker towers every couple hundred meters interspersed with large video screens. It was going to be hard to miss the action with this impressive setup. In any case, themusic.com was recording the show as part of a live series of Genesis Encore Performance CDs, which you could purchase from the Web site.

The Circus Maximus is basically a large oval track with raised hills on all sides perfect for sitting on and alternately watching people slide down. This caused quite a dust cloud, but a spectacular light show.

I was two hours early, enough time to grab a decent sandy seat on the hill, which was much better than standing and waiting for the concert to start.

They started around 9 p.m., just as the sun was going down opening with snippets from the 'American Beauty' original soundtrack, which I am told Italians adore. People in the crowd immediately flipped open a sea of cell phones as the band struck up a 10-minute instrumental medley of their most famous hits. The cameras that were filming for the large screens were focused on the main stage for quite sometime as the band did their 'warm-up number,' which just made it look like you were viewing a flea circus.

The crowd waited pensively for their 'Venus' to emerge from the large clam-shaped stage.

Everyone was biting their lips for a glimpse at Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. When the camera finally focused in on the pale bodies playing the instruments, the band transitioned into the titular tour track 'Turn It On Again.' They were met with deafening applause.

After that, they might as well have been canonized. Collins read from a piece of paper as he stumbled through some elementary Italian, which made everyone laugh harder at that than what was actually being said. Also, when it was time, a huge ticking clock signaled the start of, 'No Son of Mine,' and Collins forgot how to say 'let's go' in Italian.

The screens at the front of the stage immediately captured an R.C.B. triptych, dressed all in white and synchronously walking together like an image of the holy trinity.

Collins began the concert with just a microphone is his hand, but before long he was doing the Don Henley behind the drum set. When the cameras pulled in for a close-up on his face, he looked like the man in the moon ' pale, rotund and smiling. After his 20-minute drum solo, the audience was ready to settle back into some more recognizable jams like, 'Hold On My Heart,' 'Jesus, He Knows Me' and 'Tonight Tonight Tonight.'

Like video game music, most prog-rock compositions, if not easy on the ears, yet somewhat frequentative with their noodling guitars and shifting time signatures, are quite interesting independently. When Genesis delved into extended jam number two, I just drifted off and thought about the theme from 'Castlevania' and whenever the crazy graphic of the running man exploded behind them, I remembered how hard Ice Man was to beat.

The evening dragged on. I hadn't heard the real hits yet like 'Invisible Touch' so I knew there were going to be encores, which I disliked knowing. It gave me time to think about encore-ocracy. Why can't people trust a band to play their set? It's not like this is a democracy and even if I wanted to vote what is the opposite of clapping?

I hiked up the hill for one last quick look and then I left to the spectral echoing of 'I Can't Dance,' The only thing about me is the way that I walk…home.
It wasn't a total waste though. It was time well spent drinking and people-watching and I didn't have regrets about not seeing the band in a more intimate atmosphere, which is usually what I regret about large concerts. If anything the distance between us was good.

© AZNightBuzz, by Dan Shapiro

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