Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Genesis Reunites To Prove Why They Shouldn't

Okay, I've been going steady for the past few weeks without skipping a day and then yesterday it all went to shit. I had to skip a day. It's not that I had nothing to write. Actually I had plenty that I could write, but I just absolutely did not feel like writing anything. I spent all of yesterday from about 11 PM Sunday night through about 5 AM this morning in a dreadfully horrible mood that made me lash out by beating the living hell out of being awake. So after getting more sleep than I should have gotten, I am back, not quite happy and excited, but at least less melancholy.

Last fall, Genesis announced that they were going to be reuniting for a 40th anniversary world tour and a world of Genesis fans went into a veritible uproar of excitement. I have to admit that even my interests were piqued a little bit. Then I discovered that it was going to be the Eighties trio of Genesis, consisting of Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford, and I was decidedly less interested. Yay, the line-up of Genesis that inexplicably received the most attention while sucking the hardest. Then I found out they had no intentions of releasing any new material, and I was like, oh fuck this shit.

Many of my longtime readers will attest that I entertain a bit of nostalgic indulgence for Eighties Genesis, but otherwise I'll readily admit that it's crap compared to the musical virtuosity of their Seventies material. The Seventies were a time when even Phil Collins could sing, (as hard to imagine as that might be), and they still possessed a guitar player that could actually play the guitar. I don't know what happened to Mike Rutherford over the years; it's like he even forgot how to play the bass when you compare the bass lines in a song like "Land of Confusion" to that of "The Knife." Even Tony Banks, who suddenly became burdened with not only playing his keyboard parts, but picking up the slack for Rutherford's lack of determination to properly play anything that has strings on it, shifted from playful, tasteful keyboard arrangements to shrieking, abrasive monstrosities like practically the entirety of the ABACAB album.

Acknowledging that there was no hope of Phil Collins ever returning to his Gabriel-esque vocal stylings of Wind and Wurthering and A Trick Of The Tail, I was hoping that a 40th anniversary Genesis reunion and world tour might bring Peter Gabriel back into the fold. Maybe even guitarist Steve Hackett, as doubtful as that might be. Not only would it be joyous to hear Peter Gabriel visit his back catalog of Genesis songs like "The Knife," "Back in NYC," "The Return of the Giant Hogweed," or "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight," but I would love to hear a skilled singer cover Phil Collins' Genesis songs. Picture in your head Peter Gabriel's voice. Now that you can hear it, imagine how it would sound taking over some of the more dramatic parts of songs like "Mama," "Home by the Sea," or "Domino." Alas, my hopes of hearing a competent singer taking over those songs remain unfulfilled as Peter Gabriel, never one to look back, declined the offer to reunite with the group. Just as well, because as much as I am salivating to hear him sing circles around Phil Collins on Eighties Genesis songs, I'd hate to see his talents wasted singing circles around Phil Collins on Eighties Genesis songs.

I have an almost fanatical desire to hear cover songs, though. I love to hear what another vocalist would do with songs sung by one completely different in style and tonality. For instance, I love to hear almost anyone cover Ozzy Osbourne songs because, although he does possess one of the most distinctive voices in rock and roll history, he also possesses one of the most shitty voices in rock and roll history. So almost anyone who chooses to cover Ozzy this side of Bjork is welcome to try in my books. Ronnie James Dio, Tony Martin (of Black Sabbath fame, not the other Tony Martin, but if he wants to try his hand at "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," why the hell not?), the guy from Solitude Aeturnus, Jeff Scott Soto, FINE BY ME. By much the same token, I'd kind of like to hear Ozzy try to cover some Dio Sabbath songs like "Heaven and Hell," just because I think it would be funny.

Anyway, given my propensity to hearing different variations of iconic songs, I was hoping Genesis would throw a song or two from their critically acclaimed but ultimately unsuccessful ...Calling All Stations... album like "The Dividing Line," "One Man's Fool," or the title track. Ray Wilson is a competent singer in his own right, but Phil Collins has always been known for the explosive emotion he puts into his singing, and I'd love to hear that level of intensity go into some of the better selections from the Ray Wilson outing. Unfortunately, much like most of the Genesis catalog prior to 1980, the band has pretty much disavowed that album and we'll likely never again hear the songs performed live outside of a Ray Wilson concert.

What we're left with for this current world tour is not the "extensive review of the band's entire back catalog" that so many critics have cited, but more of an extensive review of the band's entire back catalog from 1991 through 1980. They might include one or two songs from A Trick of the Tail and a Peter Gabriel song in the middle of a medley, but otherwise they're performing the exact same tour they did in 1992, complete with the "drum duel." The only difference now is that, if you thought Phil Collins couldn't sing before, you've never heard him not sing like he doesn't sing now!

Out of curiosity, I poked around online to see what their setlist might consist of for this past tour, just to see if there was anything new or interesting to hear the band try to perform, any fan-favorite classics they pulled from the shelves and blew the dust from to excite and entice their longtime fans. Unfortunately, no. Their setlists seemed to all have one thing in common, despite minor variations — each setlist I saw consisted of the same songs, generally between 1980 and 1991. They seemed to put a heavy emphasis on the Duke album, which I can personally not fucking stand. I think it's their second worst, closely following ...And Then There Were Three...

On a hunch, just to see if they were at least doing anything new or exciting with their tired, old setlist, I downloaded a couple of concerts from various times and locations around Europe in 2007. "Disappointed" does not even begin to describe my reaction to what I heard. The rest of the band is entirely competent. The only musical flaws I found was that Tony Banks decided to use a straight piano setting on "Turn It On Again" making the whole song sound flat and boring, which is sad because it's the only exciting song on Duke, which is also sad. However, Phil Collins was just ruining the experience for me. Whatever of his voice he managed to keep intact through the Nineties is gone now, leaving a flat, emotionless husk of the passionate singer he used to be. He can't raise his voice to a screaming cacophony for the dramatic parts of "Mama," "Home by the Sea," or "No Son of Mine" anymore. His flat, nasal monotone might as well be talking out the lyrics of the songs as opposed to singing them; it would be hard to tell the difference.

Listening to Phil Collins try to sing even the most bland and banal of Genesis' most unispirational back catalog was disappointing to the extent that it almost made me want to cry. It was sad. It was dismal. It was abysmal. It actually made me long to put on my live bootleg of the band's 1998 tour with Ray Wilson just so I could at least hear a competent singer who sounds ever so slightly like Peter Gabriel cover Genesis' big hits, which Ray Wilson did far more satisfactorily than this insult to music that these current shows with Phil Collins turned out to be.

If their intention was to show the world that Genesis is not dead yet, then they failed miserably. As far as I'm concerned, they should have let themselves fade quietly over the River Styx with ...Calling All Stations..., leaving the fans on what many of them consider to be a high note, than reunite to burn out crashing down to earth in the spiraling wreckage of their most bloated, senseless period, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that the band is dead beyond any hope of resuscitation.

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