I've been waiting 15 years for the concert. In 1993, during their last (real) tour, my Mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I said "Genesis tickets". That was all I wanted. Keep in mind, I was 13 years old at the time -- everybody else my age was listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice and Chains, and any other band from Seattle that featured a distorted guitar. My Mom's reply was "Oh, I'm not getting you Genesis tickets. You won't even like Genesis in two years." Well, I proved her wrong. Very, very wrong. However, I still love ya Mom, and I'll never forget the Blue Jays game that you took me to that year instead (Pat Tabler had a homerun).
Therefore, 15 years later, there was no way I was going to miss this Genesis concert. The show was originally scheduled for Budapest on June 20th, but for some strange reason, to my great fortune (and the ill fortune of many many others who already had their hotels and flights to Budapest booked), Genesis changed the show to Prague. Perfect.
To be honest, the concert really snuck up on me. Bob had been visiting, and I had been pretty busy and excited by my new job -- I couldn't believe it when I was able to say to Niky, "tomorrow's the concert!"
Before I begin my synopsis/analysis for all of those who care, I'll produce the setlist:
Setlist ("/" indicates portions of songs that were played as medleys; "..." indicates where the songs were played in continuity, but at least one of the songs was also in its entirety)
Behind The Lines / Duke's End
Turn It On Again
No Son Of Mine
Land Of Confusion
In The Cage / The Cinema Show / Duke's Travels...
Hold On My Heart
Home By The Sea...
...Second Home By The Sea
Follow You Follow Me
Firth Of Fifth / I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe)
Throwing It All Away
Tonight Tonight Tonight...
I Can't Dance
The Carpet Crawlers
Where to begin? The day was beautiful, and the evening fantastic. Niky and I had our tickets for the "Front of Stage" area. As you'll see from the photos, this means we were very close to the stage. Big mistake. For some unknown reason, Genesis decided to elevate the stage, therefore Niky and I (and hundreds of our closest friends) were left with the sorest necks and lower backs from looking up for two hours and 45 minutes. Also, being so close, we missed out on the spectacular light show that Genesis never fails to deliver.
Now to the setlist. If I had to describe it in one word, I'm afraid to say it's a disappointing word: safe. The official statement from the band was that they were really in this for the fans and fun, not for money. However, I just can't imagine that either Phil, Mike, or Tony sat in the room on the first day of rehearsals and said, "okay guys, I REALLY want to play Invisible Touch on this tour! The fans really want to hear this one again!" That's just wrong on all levels. This tour was a great chance for Genesis to play a lot of the old tunes again (and they did), but I think that Land of Confusion, Hold on my Heart, Throwing it All Away, Tonight Tonight Tonight, and Invisible Touch could have been put to bed for this tour. I don't even mind the inclusion of I Can't Dance; lots of people make fun of it, but I don't mind it -- it's a fun song, and a great satire of those old blue jeans commercials that used to be on TV.
Even the medleys were safe. Genesis are master musicians one and all, and I was really crossing my fingers for some new medley mixtures. Nothing doing. They recycled all of their old medleys: Behind the Lines/Duke's End from the Duke tour; Firth of Fifth from the We Can't Dance tour; and Drum Duet/Los Endos from the Invisible Touch tour. In the Cage/Cinema Show/Duke's Travels/Afterglow is a classic medley as well, from the Abacab tour, except that in 1984 they played a section of the Colony of Slippermen instead of Duke's Travels (to better effect in my opinion).
However, there were some great high points. I wanted to be totally surprised by everything, so I disciplinedly hadn't checked any news or setlist rumours/reports regarding this tour, though I've been playing super catch up ever since. Behind the Lines to open was totally unexpected, and a great energizer, though I was a bit disappointed that they didn't include the vocal part as well and play it in its whole. I Know What I Like is Genesis' oldest hit (back to 1974 and the Peter Gabriel years), so it's been a bit overplayed over the years; however, this version had great life in it (with Phil Collins renovating his comedic tamourine routine a bit), and the screen behind the stage flashed over some great quality photos of the band members (including Gabriel and Steve Hackett) in their younger years....nice touch! Home By the Sea and Second Home by the Sea didn't fail to impress me live. Follow You, Follow Me is by far one of my least favourite Genesis songs ever, but this was nicely done too, with Collins playing singer and drummer at the same time -- no easy feat. Ripples, Los Endos, and Carpet Crawlers were the absolute highlights for me -- the Genesis men in all of their former glory! During the Drum Duet between Chester Thompson and Phil Collins, when the rest of the band came out with instruments, I knew Los Endos would be next. WOW! Collins really threw his aging shoulders behind this one, and the song was a clear highlight...as it always is in any Genesis show. Carpet Crawlers was a great way to end the night; a nod back to 1975's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway: Peter Gabriel's final album before he left Genesis.
Musically, despite the safe and mostly predictable setlist, the show gets a B+. It has to be said, but Phil Collins is now in his mid- to late-50's: he can't hit the high notes any more, and the songs had to be tuned down a key or two to be played. No Son of Mine sounded sooooo slow because of its detuning. Also, let's not forget that he's half deaf in one ear. Additionally, they must not make synths like they used to: Tony Banks's keyboard sounded supremely weird at times. It could have been the setup guy though: I think I caught Tony and Mike Rutherford looking at each other with a funny look as if to say, "what the hell is that sound coming out of my/your keyboard?"
Performance-wise, the show gets an A. Phil is a superior stageman: charming, and funny, and always attempting the local dialect. The Czechs went crazy with cheers when he popped out a few "Díky"s ("Thanks") and the final "Dobrou noc!" ("Good night!"). For the first few songs, the band seemed as if they were just going through motions, but they settled in nicely and relaxed. Mike Rutherford in particular looks like he's having a ton of fun on this tour.
Sound quality was incredible. A+. Usually at rock concerts I have a ringing in my ear afterward, and I have trouble hearing particular instruments or vocals during the show. This show was so well mixed I could pick out all of the proper instruments at the right time. No ringing after at all. Top notch sound crew. Well done. Great guitar sounds on Daryl's and Mike's guitars too.
Lights: A++. Nothing more to say really. Even the disappointment of having to listen to Invisible Touch was heightened by the great light display, full with synchronized fireworks at the end!
Crowd: Wonderful. A+. Imagine going to the front of the stage and not having people pushing to get past you all the time. Imagine not even being nudged once! Imagine that!? (Special shoutout to the security, first aid crew, and overall concert organization for the frequent distribution of ice cold water to the standing room crowd -- muchos gracias!).
Overall effect, the show gets an A, of course! Hey, these guys could've gotten up on the stage and farted into the mic for an hour and I probably would've been happy. Fifteen years of waiting?...it was gonna take a lot to disappoint me!
Special F goes to the Czech railway transportation system for having the last train to Hradec Kralove leave at 10:22pm (the concert ended at 10:45pm).