Fittingly for a night associated with ancient history, a re-enactment of one of progressive rock’s most storied tours rolled into Manchester.
But though the Ides of March became legendary after Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC, this was no murder of classic work.
Canadian quintet The Musical Box have been touring the shows from the heyday of early Genesis for the best part of two decades, and the years of experience were clear from the outset.
The painstaking reproduction process has resulted in an extensive repertoire, and with the original band unlikely to ever reform such chances to see expert renditions of purest prog are lapped up eagerly.
Handling a dense concept album – centred on the fantastical New York journeys of young Puerto Rican man Rael and featuring the complex arrangements synonymous with the genre – is no mean feat, but even the die-hard disciples in the audience were satisfied with the artful display.
Over 1,000 slides used by Genesis around the world complemented the highly-skilled performances, a level of accuracy far and above your standard tour recreation. Indeed, the authenticity of the restaging even extended to a false start – the original tour from 1974 was fraught with technical issues, and gremlins caused a short delay before the band could begin.
It was worth the wait though, as the band attacked the complex story with gusto. From the opening power of the title track to the closing strains of the epic ‘It’, the two-hour show was an exhilarating exhibition of musicianship. The majestic ‘Carpet Crawlers’ was a particular highlight, as one of prog rock’s signature songs was flawlessly performed.
The resemblance to the original band was uncanny – Sébastien Lamothe and Michel Cloutier reproduced the solid bass and keyboard platform of Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, while François Gagnon echoed Steve Hackett’s understated guitar virtuosity and Marc Laflamme was almost a clone of Phil Collins on both drums and vocals.
It was not only the musicianship that was impressive – frontman Denis Gagné coped well with the dramatic elements of the performance, following the lead from Peter Gabriel’s theatrical lead role and numerous costume changes. With spoken word sections interspersed to maintain the narrative in addition to the acting on show, it often felt more like watching psychedelic theatre than a mere rock gig.
Rounding off with an encore of fan favourites ‘The Musical Box’ and ‘Watcher of the Skies’ – complete with costumes harking back to the Seventies shows – gave a fitting end to a remarkable, unique and a frequently baffling yet brilliant experience.
This mind-blowing tour is historic viewing in more ways than one.