When Genesis first announced that they would be reuniting for a world tour in 2007 — just like everyone from the Police to Van Halen that year — I'll admit that I was pretty skeptical upon learning it would be the Phil Collins led version of the band. You know, the guys responsible for all those bad MTV videos for songs like "I Can't Dance" and "Invisible Touch" in the eighties.
This was especially disappointing considering that earlier reports (which turned out to be more like rumors) had floated a reunion of the more progressive seventies model, that also included original members Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett.
Disappointed? Hell, crushed was more like it.
That said, this 3 DVD set — recorded during a huge free stadium concert in Rome, at the end of the Turn it On Again tour — is pretty damned amazing. Yes, it features all those eighties pop hits like "Turn It On Again" and "Land Of Confusion".
The good news here is that Genesis divides the set-list up much more evenly than you'd expect — devoting equal time to songs from their more musically adventurous years like "Ripples" and "The Carpet Crawlers".
In fact, the three remaining original members of the band — Collins, keyboardist Tony Banks, and guitarist Mike Rutherford — embrace rather than run from their progressive-rock roots here in a way that I haven't seen since back on their Seconds Out tour in 1977. Joined by their longtime sidemen, drummer Chester Thompson and guitarist Daryl Stuermer (who apparently finally earned their full band member stripes on this tour), the fact that they look and sound magnificent here doesn't hurt either.
The fact is, this concert is so good in places it damn near brought tears to this old prog-dog's eyes. Genesis have always been great musicians, but here they sound more inspired than they have in years. On the old Wind & Wuthering chestnut "Afterglow" for example, while Banks lays back a bit on the mellotron strings (at least compared to the old days), Collins on the other hand sings his heart out.
The band, for its part, collectively play their asses off here — with highlights ranging from a rocking version of the guilty pleasure hit "Land Of Confusion," to the always amazing duel drumming of Collins and Thompson on "Los Endos."
On a medley beginning with the Gabriel-era "In The Cage" (from the rock opera The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway), the band sounds great charging through another Gabriel-era gem "Cinema Show." The medley then ends with "Duke's Travels," from Duke, an album which served as a bridge between the band's seventies prog-rock and the more commercial pop direction of the eighties.
Always known for dazzling lighting effects during their shows, Genesis also out-do themselves in that department. The stage here is absolutely massive, and the lighting effects are simply out of this world on songs like "Domino" and the aforementioned "In The Cage," where a computerized running man seems to come right at you before exploding into a million pieces. It's an amazing 3D sort of effect.
Nowhere are the visuals more effective though than on another Gabriel-era medley that begins with "Firth Of Fifth." Daryl Stuermer handles what used to be a showcase for Steve Hackett's guitar effectively enough here, though it doesn't quite match the subtle nuances of the original guitarist.
From there comes another segueway to the song "I Know What I Like In Your Wardrobe." During "Wardrobe," the massive screen runs a slide-show history of the band, including several shots of Gabriel and Hackett. This is a great touch, and yet another indication that the eighties pop hit-makers seem ready at long last to make peace with their prog-rock past.
While the first two discs capture this great concert, the third disc is an eye-opening documentary on just how the Turn It On Again reunion tour came together. Come Rain Or Shine takes the viewer into actual meetings between the band, manager Tony Smith, and various promoters and tech guys, where everything from logistics to staging are discussed down to the most minute detail. It's fascinating stuff.
My only real complaint here is the band's decision to sell When In Rome 2007 exclusively through mega-retailer WalMart. I won't rehash my opinions about that here. But for those interested I did recently share my feelings on How Exclusivity Deals Are Nailing The Coffin Shut On Music Retail elsewhere on BC.
In the meantime, for those who can't find a nearby WalMart, but do have cable, VH1 Classic has been showing a shorter version of this concert. If you can catch that, I'd recommend it. Just be prepared to hold your nose while you then search out a WalMart.
Because you'll be needing this DVD once you see it on TV. Trust me.
© blogcritics, by Glenn Boyd