Back in 1976 a friend brought a double LP concept album called The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway into school, and over a couple of lunchtimes we sat in the near-darkness of the drama studio entranced. Up to that point, I’d never been much of a music fan and had never heard of Genesis. I’d just finished reading Lord of the Rings and the other-worldly nature of progressive rock was perfect for my mood. In early 1977 another schoolmate acquired four tickets for the Wind and Wuthering tour at Leicester’s De Montford Hall and we boarded a National Express for what was my first trip away from home without adult chaperones.
It has been a long journey in the company of these musicians. I caught the Duke tour at Hammersmith Odeon with my flatmates in 1980 and braved the mud of the WOMAD benefit gig at Milton Keynes in ’82. The magic there was the re-uniting of Peter Gabriel with the band and the appearance of Steve Hackett for the final number. When I saw the Turn it on Again set at Twickenham stadium in 2007 I expected it to be the last time I’d see them play live, yet 14 years later along came The Last Domino?
Twice bumped by covid, it felt as if the concert would never come. Especially as on that humid night at the Manchester Arena the lighting generator broke. Someone popped out to the all-nite generator store and got a new one, but it was over an hour late when the concert started. ‘And all the people roared, you’re the one we’ve waited for…’
Genesis concerts were never about guys with guitars strutting their stuff, so Phil Collins sitting in a chair whilst his son did impressive work on the drums came as no great shock. Complex lighting and huge graphics added to the atmosphere – diabolic blood red and flames for Mama, and a backdrop for Land of Confusion that made a nod to covid. It has been a deliberate pattern of the band to create a rollercoaster of high and loud dipping to mellow and thoughtful. For the middle portion of the concert, Mike Rutherford came and took a seat beside Phil, and Tony Banks came to join them with a little keyboard and the trio played a series of numbers as if performing in some cosy club. It produced a very different, late night, hazy version of The Lamb which makes me hope they issue a tour video.
For me the climax was the 11-minute Domino, preceded by the customary audience participation where 20,000 people demonstrated the Domino Theory with Mexican waves co-ordinated by Phil. We sang our hearts out to I Know What I Like and sod social distancing. After two plus hours, the sense of finality was clear in the tone of the show. Throwing it All Away was accompanied by graphics of the group’s album covers, studio sessions, concerts and former band members in their glory days. Mid-encore Phil sang the opening verse of Dancing With the Moonlit Night, ‘paper late…old man dies’. This shifted seamlessly into Carpet Crawlers from way back in 1974, long my favourite song; melodic and atmospheric as it tells of an enticing place beyond. Thanks for being the soundtrack of my youth, chaps, and for the 40 years since.