(December 16, 2021). There’s a pulse remaining in the English ‘70s progressive rock/‘80s pop supergroup Genesis, but it’s one that won’t be detected for long as the band’s legendary touring career is likely nearing its end.
The reunited trio of core members bassist Mike Rutherford, keyboardist Tony Banks and singer/former drummer Phil Collins has been cris-crossing North America for the past month on its “The Last Domino?” tour and made a stop this week (Monday, December 13) at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena where I was fortunate enough to see them play.
There, the three English gents performed 23 tracks that spanned their nearly six-decade-long career, from their more progressive-rock beginnings in the late 1960s and early ‘70s to their pop hit-making days beginning with 1978’s “Follow You, Follow Me.”
Recognizing the subtle but well-intended, prog-to-pop metamorphosis that turned Genesis from non-hitmakers into one of the best-selling rock bands of all time, Collins, who gave all of the monologue between songs, quipped about the group’s career-spanning set list: “Some (songs) you’ll like. Some you’ll love. Some you’ll hate. Shit happens.”
Indeed, shit does happen…like rockers aging. And if we’re lucky enough, we get to witness it. Rutherford and Banks are both 71; Collins will be the same in January. As that happens, it becomes less important that they’re able to jump around on stage or scream at the top of their lungs. Instead, we get to marvel at ironies like the fact that a disabled Collins no longer plays the drums for the band; it’s a role his son Nic, 20, has adopted.
Nic Collins wasn’t even born when his famous dad recorded all these songs, or when Phil charted more hits during the 1980s (combining his Genesis and solo hits as well as his duets) than any other artist that decade, including Michael Jackson, Madonna and Lionel Richie.
So watching Nic play so ably on the kit behind his dad’s band was easily one of the night’s biggest highlights. He’s clearly studied all the material and has every drum fill and riff down-pat, which is especially noteworthy considering these weren’t all just four-minute pop ditties (for example, the band played the epic medley of “Home By The Sea” and “Second Home By The Sea” from 1983’s classic self-titled Genesis album for 12 minutes!).
Aside from the three principal members and Nic, Genesis was joined on stage by backup singers Daniel Pierce and Patrick Smyth, plus longtime guitarist Daryl Stuermer, whom Phil introduced as knowing the songs “better than we do.” Stuermer’s presence was especially poignant considering he’s performed with both Collins and Genesis since 1978, lending credibility to Phil’s assertion.
Yet even in an era where septuagenarian rockers are well into their fifth decades of touring and are routinely proving that 70 can be the new 40, when the three Genesis members announced their reunion tour in 2020 in the wake of Phil Collins’ just-completed “Not Dead Yet” trek the previous year, people wondered aloud whether they’d be able to pull it off.
Collins, who has suffered from drop foot syndrome among other ailments, had performed the “Not Dead Yet” tour while confined to a chair on stage. He required a walking cane just to make his entrance. The same was true for this tour, including the Pittsburgh stop.
The members’ ages and Collins’ own health issues aside, the global COVID-19 pandemic made the successful completion of the North American leg of this tour (which ends in Boston Thursday night, Dec. 16) even more questionable. Indeed, COVID had resulted in the cancellation of several earlier dates, and a stop at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center two nights earlier was canceled due to “unforeseen circumstances,” making the trek to Pittsburgh from the DC/VA area for this night somewhat risky for yours truly.
That they pulled it off was a minor miracle and a blessing.
Genesis is one of the bands I cut my “album rock” teeth on back in the early 1980s. Their 1983 Genesis album—as already mentioned—was a classic and a staple on album-rock stations, including Richmond’s XL-102, to which I grew up being an avid listener. Hearing them play songs like the eerily dark “Mama,” plus the “Home By The Sea” medley and the poppy “That’s All” (the band’s first top-ten pop hit)—all from that album—was worth the price of admission.
Of course, there were many other classics, including four of their five top-5 singles from follow-up album, Invisible Touch, including the No. 1 title track. The song I anticipated most was the album’s stellar third single, “Land Of Confusion,” which, as expected, was accompanied by amazing video graphics on the screen behind the band.
The overall setlist (below) largely mimicked that of the dates they’d played in both the European and North American legs of the tour, with minor tweaks that saw the omission of two personal favorites, 1980’s “Misunderstanding,” which had replaced “Duchess” (from the same album, Duke) in the Chicago set a month earlier, and “No Reply At All” from Genesis’ 1981 album Abacab (that title track was also excluded from the set).
Included were earlier songs from their Peter Gabriel (as lead singer) days including several tracks from the 1973 Selling England By The Pound album, like “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight,” “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” “The Cinema Show” and “Firth of Fifth.” (Gabriel famously knocked his former band out of No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1986 when his “Sledgehammer” displaced Genesis’ “Invisible Touch” from the top.)
The most recent Genesis hits played by the band included tracks from their 1991 We Can’t Dance album, which provided a couple more moments of irony (for those of us who trip out on such things). For instance, who could miss the irony of hearing Phil Collins belt out “No Son Of Mine” while his son Nic played drums behind him? Or, perhaps more sadly, who didn’t think of Phil’s real life physical constraints while singing the lyrics to “I Can’t Dance,” with lines like “I can’t dance, I can’t walk, the only thing about me is the way I talk…”?
Of course, as Genesis has explained in the past, that song has little to do with the act of dancing and was written as a satire about guys in jeans commercials (everyone knew that, right?). Besides, I got a chance to see fans hilariously attempting to mimic the famous “I Can’t Dance” walk (from the song’s video) as they exited the arena.
These are the things that a 50-something-year-old like yours truly appreciates when seeing one of his favorite bands perform for the first and likely last time ever. Having seen Phil solo in concert three years earlier, I doubt anyone was expecting that those outrageous highs he hit in the studio 40 years ago would still be there live. It was more likely that each song would be played in lower keys than the originals. As Phil might say, shit happens.
Tony Banks told USA Today in November that this would likely be Genesis’ last tour, noting “we’re not like The Rolling Stones.”
Indeed they are not. But if this truly was their last domino and my last chance to see Genesis live, I’m glad I took it.
The memories alone were worth the price of admission.
Genesis’ Setlist for PPG Paints Arena, December 13, 2021:
- Behind the Lines/Duke’s End
- Turn It On Again
- Land of Confusion
- Home By The Sea
- Second Home By The Sea
- Fading Lights
- The Cinema Show
- That’s All
- The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
- Follow You Follow Me
- No Son Of Mine
- Firth Of Fifth
- I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
- Throwing It All Away
- Tonight, Tonight, Tonight
- Invisible Touch
- I Can’t Dance (encore)
- Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (encore)
- The Carpet Crawlers (encore)
DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
You can also register for free (below) to receive notifications of future articles.