A painstaking recreation of one of rock’s most storied tours is coming to the O2 Apollo next month.
The Musical Box formed in Quebec in 1993, and the Canadians have spent the last 19 years trying to recapture the live magic of early 70s-era Genesis as closely as possible.
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the 1974 double-album cited by many fans as their masterpiece and the last Genesis LP to feature original lead singer Peter Gabriel, will be performed in full during their extensive European tour, reaching Manchester on March 15.
Having bought exclusive rights to the show and using original costumes, slides and master-tapes from nearly 40 years ago, The Musical Box have been rapturously received, getting the thumbs-up from fans and former Genesis stars alike.
Sebastien Lamothe, founding member and musical director of The Musical Box, explains why they spent decades trying to perfect the legendary live displays of the original band.
“First of all, it’s not like we picked them out of a box,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned most of the people in the project were really touched by Genesis, and not just the musicians, but the technicians, archivists and everyone involved.”
He added: “There was definitely a myth around the Peter Gabriel shows and we were too young for them, so we try to restage it faithfully for people like us who missed it first time around.”
Sebastien compared the idea of the shows to the efforts of classical experts who recreate Bach compositions using period instruments and orchestras.
“We’re not merely a tribute band – our main goal is authenticity,” he said.
Taking their name from the first track of 1972’s Nursery Cryme album, the group eschews the more commercial output of Genesis for the ‘classic’ works from the heyday of prog rock.
On discovering these early classics, Sebastien said: “I was a young musician, and like all young musicians I was interested in expanding my tastes. We came across this band and all the creativity was incredible.”
However, while many music fans will be familiar with the mid-80s pop/rock juggernaut fronted by singing drummer Phil Collins, the early versions of the band led by the mercurial Gabriel were markedly different.
The band was out-and-out progressive rock, featuring the complex chord changes, enigmatic lyrics and elaborate stage shows synonymous with the genre. Songs such as the 23-minute epic ‘Supper’s Ready’ and ‘Firth of Fifth’, with its classic finger-tapping solo from renowned guitarist Steve Hackett, have become classics among aficionados.
“Not everybody is aware of all the songs,” said Sebastien. “To this day some people aren’t familiar with the material and come to the shows more out of curiosity.”
The Musical Box went direct to source to secure the rights to stage this ambitious spectacle, and the tour features a host of instruments, sound systems and slides used in the original shows.
Proud of using so much authentic material, Sebastien spoke highly of the backing from Genesis veterans for the show.
“We’ve had a lot of support from Peter and the other members, and it’s extremely flattering that they’ve backed us publicly We’ve been putting in so much work and effort to do this in such a respectful way, and it means a lot.”
As the tour gets set to hit Britain next month, the reverence for the birthplace of prog rock was clear, with Sebastien singling out Manchester as an eagerly-awaited date.
“Manchester’s always been one of the essential stops for us,” he said.
“We’ve always had some kind of special relationship with the fans here – the UK is like going back to the source or Mecca for us, and there’s this massive connection. I’m really looking forward to it.”