As the light dimmed in Birmingham, England’s Utilita Arena went on Monday night and Genesis took the stage to start their long awaited The last domino? reunion trip, it was hard not to feel just a little horror.
It was 14 years ago they had played a single song together in public, and at that time Phil Collins had significant health setbacks that made him fragile and unable to play drums or even stand for extended periods. The show was the first of their three Birmingham concerts to launch the band’s tour.
Collins sat passively in a chair in front of the stage while the band, which now includes his 20-year-old son Nicholas on drums, launched the show with the instrumental “Duke’s End” from 1980. But then they switched to “Turn It on Again “, and all doubts about Collins’ ability to lead the band melted away when the first verse was over. He may not have the vocal range he had in 1987 or even in 2007, but he can still project with real power and conviction (no easy feat from a sitting position for any vocalist), and his charisma is undiminished.
“Duke’s End” / “Turn It on Again” double shot was the start of a delicate balancing act that continued throughout the evening, trying to satisfy fans of their pop hits and the smaller (but far more vocal) segment that prefers their more complex prog melodies. It’s hard as “Invisible Touch” and “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” sound almost like the work of two completely different bands, but they actually found a way to make it work. The end result was one of the most satisfying reunion concerts of a band in recent memory.
None of this would have worked if Nicholas Collins had not developed the ability to play his father’s roles with remarkable precision. He’s exactly the same age as Collins was when he joined the band, and the mix of DNA and many years of work in his solo band has paid off in incredible ways. There were moments when Phil went to the drum tube to watch him play an instrumental passage from up close, and his fatherly pride was ready for everyone in the arena.
Nicholas Collins is the backbone of this new incarnation of Genesis, which also includes founding members Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, and longtime tour guitarist Daryl Stuermer. In a Genesis first, backup vocalists (Daniel Pearce and Patrick Smyth) were added to the mix to help Collins with some of the higher notes, even though they only performed on select songs and were quite discreet.
The tour was originally scheduled to begin in November 2020, but the pandemic forced the band to first delay it until April 2021 and finally until this month. “It’s been a long time,” Collins said early in the night. “We know that it has been a difficult couple of years for everyone here and those at home. But we finally reached and we are going to have fun tonight. ”
This fun included anticipated radio hits – such as “Land of Confusion”, “Invisible Touch”, “No Son of Mine”, “Throwing It All Away” and “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” – along with years of concert clips “Home By the Sea” and “Domino.” But there were also some very unexpected changes Duke deeply cut “Duchess” (unplayed since 1981) and an acoustic mini-set (a Genesis first) that included “That’s All”, “Follow You Follow Me” and a radically reworked “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”, which removed keyboard intro and some even external prog. It was “The Lamb” for coffee shops and the only real mistake of the night.
Per many years of tradition, songs from the Peter Gabriel era were largely referred to as instrumental medallions, and only the truly faithful in the audience were likely to be able to distinguish between “The Cinema Show”, “In That Quiet Earth” and “Firth of Fifth” sprinkled throughout the set. But they played a full version of “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)”, complete with a short-lived version of Collins’ old tambourine dance routine.
Genesis has pushed the boundaries of scenography since their earliest days with Peter Gabriel, and this was a particularly impressive setup with a moving lighting rig that looked like giant dominoes and a screen that showed new animations to many of the songs, including a horde of anger, masked protesters during “Land of Confusion”.
The encore opened with an inevitable “I Can’t Dance”, and in the night’s most jarring transition, they followed it with the opening verse from 1973’s “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight”. It was the first time Collins sang a note of the song since the Jimmy Carter administration, and it flowed directly into a single rendition of “The Carpet Crawlers” from The Lamb is on Broadway.
It would have been the emotional highlight of most Genesis shows, but it actually came much earlier in the set when they dug out “Fading Lights” for the first time since 1992. The amazingly blurry song was wrapped up We can not dance and was essentially Collins saying goodbye to his Genesis bandmates and their fans.
“Another time it could have been so different,” Collins sang. “Oh, if we could just do it all over again / But now it’s just another fading memory / out of focus, even though the contour is still back.”
He was only 40 years old when he wrote these words, and they had a very different emotional weight when he delivered them in his current physical state at the age of 70, only with Banks and Rutherford on stage for the opening verse.
Collins has said he does not intend to play with Genesis again after this tour. And unless miracles happen and Peter Gabriel returns at a later date, that means the group is done once this tour is complete. But few fans could have expected one last tour in this magnificent and it’s just getting started.
Genesis ‘The Last Domino?’ September 20, 2021 Birmingham, England, Setlist
“The Duke’s End”
“Turn it on again”
“Land of Confusion”
“Home by the sea”
“Second home by the sea”
“The Cinema Show” (instrumental portion)
“That is all”
“The lamb is on Broadway”
“Follow you, follow me”
“No my son”
“Fifth of Fifth” (instrumental portion)
“I know what I like (in your wardrobe)”
“Throws it all away”
“Tonight, tonight, tonight”
“I can not dance”
“Dancing With the Moonlit Knight” (first verse)