For one final time, we catch Genesis in Manchester – it’s The Last Domino tour.
Genesis, AO Arena Manchester, 25th September 2021
Here endeth forty years of Genesis watching. Memories of Blackpool ABC, Forest National in Brussels, Hamburg, Six Of The Best at Milton Keynes, The NEC (with Charles and Di), Roundhay Park, The Apollo, Old Trafford and beyond. Howard, sitting next to me, goes back even further. To 1973 in fact when Genesis was a completely different beast. Around us are sat thousands of others who will all have their own stories and are here for whatever reason.
The build-up has been particularly high profile, particularly amongst the fan community and those who simply like to have a say. The concerns over Phil’s frailty are the main topics. He’s clearly not a well man. Anyone who’s read his autobiography will know the trials he’s been through to get to this point. His reasons for doing this have been kept to himself. Some say he’s been the one to instigate the tour and you can understand his thoughts that he wants to
Tony Banks himself has gone on record as to how Genesis was a spent force back in 1998 when the Ray Wilson experiment fell spectacularly flat and the departure of another key member (a regular occurrence in the band’s history – Phillips, Gabriel, Hackett and this time Collins) was one blow from they couldn’t recover. A Banks/Rutherford Genesis core was too limited. Of course, we had them turning it on (again) one last/one more time back in 2007 when the signs were that it would be a final farewell.
I’d heard rumours back at the end of 2019 that the trio was going to have another go, but given the state of Phil’s health, would have put major money on it not happening. Lucky I’m not a gambling man.
The first dates from Birmingham are under the belt. The reviews are in from both the major broadsheets and the fan forums. Opinion seems generally positive and there’s something of a wave of emotion as any misgivings seem to have been shelved in favour of a sympathetic view of what is clearly an emotive topic.
The fans are here, they’ve paid their hard-earned and perhaps more than anything they want to say goodbye, stand in large queues for their drinks ten minutes before showtimeand make sure they get a selfie in front of the massive stage so they can add the final Genesis tour to the tick list. Oh, and dance along to the hits. There will be many, like the intrepid ATB duo, who will have many years under their belts and just have to be there and will recognise the nod to the first proper Genesis album in the Stagnation singalong part at the end of I Know What I Like. And yes, we’re finally here after all the preamble of postponed dates and the constant online fan banter over one thing or another. The setlist, the ticket prices, the state of Phil’s health and his voice. Latest from the camp via the feature in the November issue of MOJO, is that The Last Domino (question mark) has become The Last Domino (full stop). This was definitely going to be it. When they come offstage in Boston on 16th December, the line will finally be drawn. Allegedly…
Tonight’s show has only a ten minute delay in the advertised start time. Manager, Tony Smith, walks past us a couple of times maybe making sure that all is going to plan after the previous night’s hiccups. We wouldn’t have to endure the uncertainty of ‘generatorgate’ from the night before that caused dealys and distress. At least one fan I know having to bunk off very early to get his last train home to Liverpool.
As the lights dim to leave the stage bathed in deep blue, the crowd rise to give a warm and rowdy ovation as they walk on and take their places before erupting into the blinding white displaying the might of the lighting rig as they announced their arrival with the instrumental Duke arrangement. A spine tingling moments, the goosebumps were standing to attention. The moment when any doubt was blown away.
No major surprises in a set tweaked from 2007 which in itself was tweaked from 1992. The tempos and the keys have been adjusted so they’re fit for purpose, the results sometimes questionable, but there’s no doubt at all over the fact that with ‘boy wonder’ at the drums, they’re an instrumental powerhouse. A couple of occasions, Banks slips up with the speed of the keyboard runs, possibly explaining his seriously intense demeanour. A few moments stand out where we witnessed the might of the Banks – Collins (jnr)-Rutherford prowess. Instrumental section on Firth Of Fifth and The Cinema Show are down your throat reminders that the same trio brought us both Apocalypse in 9/8 and Invisible Touch.
There’ no doubt that Phil is very frail, but doing what he wants (and needs) to do. The spark might not be as sharp and bright, but the embers are still glowing which is evident in his between song patter. He’s supported by a pair of backing singers where he’s straining, the notes no longer within reach or too intense. A common part of his solo band but a first for Genesis and not uncommon as Ian Anderson relies on a similar crutch. Phil’s is also physical and it’s quite a shock to see his restricted movement although his eyes are keen and he air drums along, the muscle memory still strong. He even had a go at his famous I Know What I Like tambourine dance and the tried and trusted audience participation moments.
The tease of a three song sit down selection mide set might have been an alternative option for a smaller, theater based tour. Hearing the songs in a different setting and where they’d be much kinder to Phil’s voice. Certainly a Banks/Collins version of the stripped back Afterglow (as on the Genesis Songbook feature) would have been preferable to the lumbering tempo of the version they’d worked up. Hearing The lamb Lies Down On Broadway given a similar coating raised the ‘what if?’ question. But this show was about going out with a bang. The latter day longform pieces – Home By The Sea, and Domino in particular saw the visuals come into their own and like Phil you can even cope with the Tony’s lyric about the nylon sheets and blankets.
The surprise inclusion of Duchess was given a heavier arrangement with Nic injecting some Bonham power into the number and while the lighter side of the material showcased by Throwing It All Away had the visual distraction of a lovely vintage as the video screens played out a slideshow of cassette spines and images from the history of the band. Someone must have been feeling benevolent as even Steve Hackett got some screentime.
And those visuals – whether it be moving lighting rigs and video screens like tonight or Peter Gabriel wearing his wife’s dress and a fox’s head – that make a Genesis show, were simply outstanding. However, despite the visual might and musical power, perhaps the most telling moment of a lengthy show saw Tony, Mike and Phil alone performing Fading LIghts. Totally entrancing given the context of the song and the occasion. The only complaint is that it should have been performed in full as the final song with the full instrumental might and the return to the final verse. Surel that would have been the most emotional goodbye and left the areenas awash like the squonk, in a pool of tears,
When Phil, Tony and Mike stood and too their leave, it felt like they were heading for the undying lands. The story that we wished was never-ending has reached the final page. I’m glad were were there.
A few souvenir phone pics from our prime spot: