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Washington The Genesis catalog is a tricky beast

Once the video era arrived, so did a slicker, mainstream Genesis that crafted catchy songs ideal for beer commercials.

How to meld the two for the band's reunion tour? Throw in a little of everything and realize you can't please everyone.

For its first tour in 15 years, the most successful version of Genesis -- Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks -- has woven a set list that is admirably schizophrenic.

The era-hopping was immediately evident Sunday night at a sold-out Verizon Center in D.C. The band ricocheted from the 1980 threesome "Behind the Lines," "Duke's End" and "Turn it On Again" to the robust weight of 1991's "No Son of Mine" to open the 2½-hour show.

Though the sprightly Collins was quick out of the gate to entertain -- taking digital pictures of the audience, asking them, "Apart from us, are there any old people here tonight?", crouching and clapping like a baseball umpire as Rutherford or Banks soloed -- it took several songs before the band seemed comfortable and not merely playing with technical perfection and cool efficiency.

For most in the crowd of about 18,000, age determined which segments of the concert signaled a bathroom break.

For the MTV generation, it was at the first sight of Rutherford's special double neck guitar/bass combo, used during "In The Cage" and "The Cinema Show," a winding knockout punch of off-kilter time changes and wonky keyboards from Banks.

For the old-timers, it was anytime a song containing the word "heart" was played.

Collins might not be the prettiest singer -- though he didn't strain much on those heart-melting ballads -- but whether his occasional hoarseness was a product of touring and age (the band is halfway through a 20-city tour and he's 56) or a deliberate effort to give the songs resonance, it worked. The eerie "Mama" and his dramatic growls during the chorus of "No Son of Mine" lingered in memory long after the show was over.

While the reedy Rutherford and stoic Banks -- joined by the terrific Chester Thompson (drums) and Daryl Stuermer (guitar) -- never broke a sweat, their musical mastery wasn't any less engaging.

Still, Collins earned the MVP award for pulling double duty and making sure the audience felt sufficiently entertained for paying a top ticket price of $230.

He frequently slipped behind the drums to play in tandem with Thompson, sometimes singing simultaneously ("Follow You Follow Me"), sometimes participating in a lengthy instrumental break ("Firth of Fifth") and sometimes acting the class clown, as he did during "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)," pulling out a tambourine to bat it against his bald head, his elbows and the tips of his toes.

Chances are you won't see this many middle-aged white guys air drumming until the next Who tour.

Credit to the band as well for not short-changing the audience after what was explained as a "minor power issue" delayed the start of the concert for nearly an hour.

Collins and Thompson thumped through a thrilling drum duel (though too-small oval video screens flanking the stage made the action impossible to watch) before Genesis buzzed through lightweight crowd-pleasers "Tonight Tonight Tonight" and "Invisible Touch," bringing the show well into the 11 p.m. hour.

With such a diverse repertoire, it would have been criminal to cut anything out -- except maybe that encore of "I Can't Dance."

© Times Dispath, by Melissa Ruggieri

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