At the end of the almost two and a half hour show on Friday in the O2 Arena in London, one had almost forgotten that Phil Collins could only master such a concert while sitting on a chair. When he slowly walked off the stage in the semi-darkness, leaning on his walking stick and still waving to the audience, that was surprisingly the most touching moment. „This is the last stop on our tour, after that we’ll probably have to look for new jobs,“ said Collins. The band had already had a brilliant start with „Behind the Lines / Duke’s End“, the rock riff-heavy „Turn It On Again“ and the song „Mama“ accompanied by lava-red images.
Of course, one had expected that the trio would have saved something special for the last stop of the farewell tour in their hometown. Maybe a guest appearance by Peter Gabriel? (By the way: Peter Gabriel was in the audience at the last show on Saturday!) Or at least something less spectacular? But the English are just too British for that, they have too much understatement. And it speaks for Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony „never one facial expression too many“ Banks that there was no wistfulness in any phase of the great concert. On the contrary. Self-mockery and humor are in Collins‘ DNA – you can read about that in his entertaining autobiography. (more pics and Videos see here)
„Need I say that emotions are something we don’t share?“
Once maybe it got a little melancholic for all the fans when in the background with „Throwing It All Away“ pictures of record covers, VHS cassette spines and tape labels from the more than 50-year history of the band flickered over the huge LED wall. And Collins sang the telling line, „Need I say that emotions are something we don’t share?“
Hardly any other band has accompanied me in my life as intensively as Genesis. Sometime in the early 1970’s I discovered this band that had just the right answer for young people like me who just didn’t get into Danyel Gérard’s ‚Butterfly‘ or Middle Of The Road’s ‚Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum‘. Of course there was John Lennon, T. Rex, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath – but Genesis opened a new door in rock. „The Musical Box“ and „Watcher of the Skies“ were revelations and offered enough mystery and incredible complexity in a single song that young people like me just stood gaping in the booth at the record store to try them out. And then we carried the newly acquired record home like a forbidden treasure. From 1975 to 1978 I saw Genesis every year – with Peter Gabriel on the „Lamb Lies Down on Broadway“ tour. I was devastated when Peter left the band and couldn’t imagine Genesis without him. Then came Phil Collins.
„A perfect body with a perfect face“
There is hardly a song from the early Genesis phase that I don’t associate with very personal memories. Genesis wrote something like the soundtrack of my (young) life. That more or less stopped with the commercial pop-rock songs of late Genesis. Admittedly, they weren’t quite my cup of tea. Nevertheless, I’ve always stayed true to Genesis – including the solo program of the individual members.
As the last tour for the time being, there is hardly a song from the early Genesis phase that I don’t associate with very personal memories. Genesis wrote something like the soundtrack of my (young) life. That more or less stopped with the commercial pop-rock songs of late Genesis. Admittedly, they weren’t quite my cup of tea. Nevertheless, I’ve always stayed true to Genesis – including the solo program of the individual members.
When the last tour was in 2007, I was of course there (in Düsseldorf). Again, the show totally grabbed me. Phil’s shows and drum duets with touring drummer Chester Thompson remain legendary. Phil is a born entertainer. And now he has proved it again. I can’t say why the 2007 tour touched me more emotionally. It was all a lot more of a farewell to me than The Last Domino? The atmosphere in London was just too boisterous for that, and Phil Collins packed the program with a lot of humour. I mean, sitting down singing „I Can’t Dance“ and pointing at yourself with a grin on lines like „You never know who’s looking on/A perfect body with a perfect face“ is just plain hilarious. Mike Rutherford introduces him like this: “He started out as a drummer, then became a singer. Let’s see what comes next: Phil Collins.“
Nicholas Collins received frenetic applause
A summary of the second of three sold-out shows in London: Was it the best Genesis concert I’ve experienced? Certainly not. But it was once again a fantastic experience. Genesis have proven to be among the greatest live acts in rock. By the way, the sound in the O2 Arena was fantastic. And the young drummer Nicholas Collins gave an impressive performance. He rightly received frenetic applause. In any case, his father’s power was there. In my memory, Collins Senior had a little more finesse in the fill-ins. Phil Collins was clearly one of the best drummers rock (and fusion rock) had. Chester Thompson was a really equal musician. Still, Nicholas has a flair for dramatic accents, which is important to Genesis‘ music. I noticed that again recently with Steve Hackett.
If this triple-postponed series of shows in London really is Genesis‘ last, then the troupe have certainly made a strong statement – in their 55-year history they have undergone an incredible musical evolution – from theatrical art-rock with Peter Gabriel as lead singer to expansive progressive rock to the stadium-filling hit giants with Phil Collins as drummer, singer and entertainer, who was more agile on stage than almost any other rock star.
Fantastic stage show
Physically frail and dependent on a chair for the show, his voice remained strong and characteristic in the middle range, with the clear gruffness in the high notes supported by the two background singers Daniel Pearce and Patrick Smyth. Nevertheless, Phil Collins was present, his performance also had something that defied the body. After all: „In I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)“ he gave us another little performance with the tambourine, which he hit on his head, elbow and leg in time – and then rubbed his sore forehead smirking at the end . Guitarist Daryl Stuermer is and remains a fantastic musician, his solo on „Firth of Fifth“ was just terrific.
There was also a fantastic stage show: floating, repeatedly tilting spotlight ensembles in the arrangement of dominoes, neat fog machines and bright white spotlights, great pictures on the LED screen, which sometimes showed the artists, then again and again effects matching the songs and video sequences. „Land of Confusion“, once created in allusion to former US President Ronald Reagan, has been reinterpreted as the current quintessence of the pandemic – with columns of business people wearing mouth and nose masks, flying TVs and rain from toilet paper rolls (greetings to Germany! ) included.
They say there’s always magic in the air
The audience rose from their seats from the first note and stayed put until the end. They celebrated „Home by the Sea“ with great scary pictures, „The Cinema Show“, of which only the instrumental part was performed, with excerpts from „Riding The Scree“ (from Lamb Lies Down On Broadway) and „In That Quiet Earth ( from „Wind & Wuthering“), which then led into the dramatic „Afterglow“. During the heavy drumming of „Second Home by the Sea“ Collins turned to his son and pointed proudly at him. A touching moment.
The surprise was the acoustic part, with „That’s All,“ the wistful version of „The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,“ and the soft acoustic guitar-carried execution of „Follow You Follow Me,“ which had the audience flexing their cellphone lights. “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” sounded like the farewell soundtrack: “ The all-night watchmen have had their fun. (…)/It’s the same old ending – time to go./ (…) It seems they cannot leave their dream,” it says. And at the end: „They say there’s always magic in the air.“
“Duchess” was really strong. To the song, small colorful lights popped up on the screen like fireflies, rising and bursting into swirls of color as if in a psychedelic frenzy.
The encore was „I Can’t Dance“, the intro and first verse of „Dancing With the Moonlit Knight“ and a very strong take of „The Carpet Crawlers“. The evening also showed that this band has influenced more musicians than many think. The dark, sparse instrumentation of „Mama“ certainly shaped Massive Attack, Coldplay, Radiohead, Muse or The Flower Kings are certainly Genesis-socialized. Genesis may never have had that exclusive cool status of bands like King Crimson, Pink Floyd or Rush, but they may have been more defining for many.
So that was it, the last stop. No revelation, but memorable in the lastingness of the experience. It makes that heartache that this band so easily walks out of your life a little more bearable. One hope remains: that there will be one last live album.