13 October 2018

Review: The Musical Box – Genesis Extravaganza. B’ham Symphony Hall 6th Oct 2018

Tribute bands, love ‘em or hate ‘em they’re here to stay…

Cashing in on another band’s success or filling a gap left by a now defunct band, there’s no denying the fact that tribute bands are VERY popular especially when you consider the ticket prices for tonight’s gig were on a par with the previous night’s gig where the original guitarist from Genesis revisited classic music from the band’s most productive era complete with an orchestra fer chris-sakes (Coincidence? I’ll leave that for you to decide) – An extremely expensive couple of days for die-hard Genesis fans nonetheless !!

Is it any wonder why a band chooses this path over the hard slog of starting from fresh to get your name out there ?? Preaching to the converted, comes to mind and in some respects, pursuing the “tribute route” it can give a band a step up when introducing original material – RPWL and The Watch come to mind.

I have to admit, I have caught a number of tribute bands over the years, but the majority of the time they tend to play smaller, more compact & bijou venues, tonight’s gig took things to a whole new level, up there with Brit Floyd or The Australian Pink Floyd  – with merch prices to match !!

A French-Canadian outfit, The Musical Box have been around since 1993 and is the only band to receive full support and recognition from the original line-up.They employ brilliant lighting that echoed back to the glory days of Genesis, even the huge screen at the back of the stage used original slides and animation used by Genesis back in the day, can’t knock ’em for trying to recreate the feel and look !!

Part way thru’ a lengthy tour which takes them into April next year (you certainly can’t knock the band for their commitment and work ethic !!), this was the first time I’ve seen the band and to be honest, I was both interested and curious, having been a Genesis fan since the early 70’s. Kicking off at 8.00pm they launched straight away into an instrumental medley which took in elements of “In That Quiet Earth”, “Robbery, Assault And Battery”, “One For The Vine”, “Mad Man Moon”, “All In A Mouse’s Night” and “Entangled”, a great way to kick things off. Of course, recreating the MUSIC of a band, once you’ve done the research and put in the rehearsals, is one thing, but the vocalist, replacing the vocals, is another thing and with both Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins playing a major part in the overall sound, I was extremely interested to see how the band’s front man, Dennis Gagne, took on such a formidable role, especially having heard and witnessed the incredible Nad Sylvan at last night’s gig (surely the go-to guy if they ever reformed the band and needed a worthy front-man !!)

…we soon found out as the band then launched into “Blood On The Rooftops” with a note perfect acoustic intro from François Gagnon. With NO audience interaction during the first half of the evening (two sets, no support), I have to admit I was less than bowled over with the conviction and presentation, whether it was down to a poor mix, lack of projection or what, but I do feel the vocals were not as up front in the mix as they should have been and at least Nad SOUNDS like PG and PC, I was not totally enamoured, but MUSICALLY, especially the keys guy Ian Benhamou, who TOTALLY nailed it as far as I’m concerned, the band were superb. Close your eyes, it was Tony Banks and as keyboards play a very distinct part of the Genesis sound, I was way more than happy with his involvement throughout the evening, superb. Another instrumental “Los Endos” and then the entire “first disc” of the immortal “Lamb Lies Down…” – I was in my element, just a shame the vocals didn’t do it for me, I tried to stay positive and looked forward to a hopefully more encouraging second half.

After a short interval, where I purchased Richard McPhail’s book “My Book Of Genesis” from the man himself (complete with selfie and signed copy !!), I returned to my seat and interestingly, they opened with a number from the band’s very first album “From Genesis To Revelation” – “A Place To Call My Own” featuring  Dennis sat on the steps in the middle of the stage and Ian on keys, very poignant.

Having had the first half of “Lamb Lies Down…” before the interval, I was curious to see if we were gonna get the second half, alas it was not to be, even-so a very interesting setlist !! Some tracks that I’d never heard live (by the original band) before: “Time Table”, “Seven Stones” (with some glorious ‘tron), “After The Ordeal”, “Looking For Someone” and “Aisle Of Plenty” which came in after “Cinema Show” exactly as it does on the original album “Selling England by The Pound”.

Now this is interesting, in the second half, the man speaks !! Even though the back projections and animation were very appropriate and extremely well done during both halves of the set, we actually had some vocal intros to the tracks and at one point a rather surreal, but pointless story (well I thought it was, trying too hard to be Peter Gabriel if you ask me) at the start of the second encore track “The Musical Box”.

Only donning the fox’s head and red dress for the encore, I felt somewhat disappointed as I was expecting a full on costume extravaganza that would put Gabriel to shame, but other than a leather jacket during “Lamb” and the aforementioned fox head and red dress, THAT WAS IT, so many missed opportunities !!

Now, whether it’s because I was still reeling from the previous night’s tour de force from the extremely wonderful Steve Hackett and I was maybe was expecting too much, but c’mon guys, people have paid bloody good money for these seats. A bit of effort would have been nice and although there’s no denying the music is 100% spot-on, a band can rise or fall based on the performance of its front-man, both visually and vocally – 1 out of 2 would have been nice and even though I thought the second half was a marked improvement over the first half, I don’t know, overall it felt a little “flat”, a bit “tired”. Even so, the audience went ape-shit at the end of the night, before the inevitable encore – “Dance On A Volcano“ and (as previously stated) “The Musical Box”, so maybe it’s just me….. Not a sell-out but still very well attended and what a venue, the acoustics were, as you’d expect, awesome and certainly no need for ear plugs. Having seen/heard G2enesis, Regenesis, The Watch and Seconds Out, there are more than a fair share of tribute bands to this amazing and timeless music and even though the lead vocals were “ok” (his flute was superb !!), it’s just a shame tonight’s performance did not leave me shouting for more, maybe stick to instrumentals next time….

Music and stage set – 

Vocals – 3 out of 5

Many thanks to Nino Zappia for the pics, nice one…..