I got tickets for the current Genesis tour mostly from a sense of nostalgia, having seen the band four times in the 1970s, when they were kings of the then-very-trendy genre known as “progressive rock.” I still consider their 1974 “Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” the single greatest album ever made.
But that was 47 years ago.
Front-man Phil Collins is a bit frail these days, and the band hasn’t toured since 2007; so I never expected the sort of hair-raising, barn-burning, 150% crowd-pleasing performance they put on in Buffalo on Nov. 27.
I use the 150 figure advisedly, as that is approximately how many millions of records this group has sold since their quiet little acoustic debut way back in 1967. Despite numerous personnel changes over the decades, the essential core of the group remains: Collins on vocals, Tony Banks on keys and Mike Rutherford on guitar and bass.
Collins, for years the group’s percussionist, moved to the mic when lead singer Peter Gabriel left in 1975—though Phil still drummed in the studio, and during instrumental sections onstage. But he suffered a spinal injury some years ago, so the singer stays seated during this tour, with percussion handled by his own 20-year-old son, Nic. The current line-up is rounded out by two new back-up vocalists, plus long-time guitarist Daryl Stuermer, who was celebrating his 69th birthday that evening.
Besides personnel, the burning question for me involved tune selection.
Progressive rock—a genre pioneered by such idiosyncratic bands as Yes, Rush and Emerson Lake & Palmer—tends to favor lengthy songs with frequent shifts in tone, tempo and time signature; the Genesis catalog includes many of those, especially from the early days with Gabriel and one-time guitarist Steve Hackett.
And then in the 1980s, Genesis suddenly started cranking out a long series of top-40 hits—titles such as “Turn It On Again,” “That’s All,” “Land of Confusion” and the chart-topping “Invisible Touch.”
Fortunately for fans of all ages, the so-called “Last Domino?” tour includes generous doses from both the prog-rock days and the later era of screaming worldwide fame.
The setlist—which remains pretty much the same every night—includes four pieces from the band’s dense and complex 1973 record “Selling England by the Pound”; yet it also covers all of the hits listed above, along with “Follow You Follow Me,” “Throwing It All Away” and “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight.”
And then there’s “Domino” and “Home by the Sea,” both 11-minute selections that smoothly mix pop and prog in extended, shifting suites.
Best of all, the band still sounds fantastic.
Power pop like “Behind the Lines” and “Duchess” come roaring off the stage in a rich, roaring flood, while other hits had the near-sellout crowd standing, shouting, dancing and singing along in tuneful exultation. For an old Genesis fan like me, the high point came with the jostling finale of “Cinema Show”—in a tricky 7/8 time signature—which segued into the rip-roaring 1976 anthem “Afterglow.”
Yet this knock-out number was followed by a low-key trio—almost an intermission, with the five main members gathering at center stage for brand-new acoustic versions of three tunes, including the title track from “Lamb.” Thereafter rocking through eight more numbers, the boys capped their set with a vigorous rendition of “Invisible Touch.”
So unlike most bands, Genesis did not save their biggest hits for the encore, but instead reappeared for “I Can’t Dance” and another snippet from “Selling England,” concluding with the soft and slithery “Carpet Crawlers,” once again from “Lamb Lies Down.”
Even here, the crowd sang along through chorus after chorus, encouraged by Collins, who—like the band—remains a consummate entertainer despite increasing age and songs that have been played literally thousands of times.
Tickets are still available for Genesis shows in Philadelphia (12/2-3), New York City (12/5-6) and Pittsburgh (12/13); for fans who can’t make those, setlists and video clips are readily available online.
Meanwhile, a subtle question mark at the end of the name for this tour—“The Last Domino?”—leaves open the possibility of more shows in the future.
Let’s hope this “Domino” isn’t really their last.