Genesis review: Phil Collins' spirit is unbroken

Phil Collins’ spirit is unbroken: Played almost unplugged, with everyone sitting down, Genesis make the Utilita Arena feel like a campfire

Genesis

Utilita Arena                                                                         Touring until October 13

Rating:

With energy prices rocketing and talk of a three-day week, the early 1970s are making a comeback. And so are the archetypal band of that era, Genesis.

In Birmingham they get a standing ovation just for coming on stage. Their reunion, after 14 years, has faced a few obstacles. The lead singer, Phil Collins, retired ten years ago, although that didn’t stop him going on a solo tour in 2017, cheerfully entitled Not Dead Yet. 

Now 70, walking with a stick and singing sitting down, he leaves the drums to his son Nic, who is 20.

The lead singer, Phil Collins (above) retired ten years ago, although that didn’t stop him going on a solo tour in 2017, cheerfully entitled Not Dead Yet

The lead singer, Phil Collins (above) retired ten years ago, although that didn’t stop him going on a solo tour in 2017, cheerfully entitled Not Dead Yet

This tour, billed as The Last Domino?, has been delayed twice by lockdown. That gave Collins and Genesis’s two ever-presents, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, extra time to rehearse. 

The show is slick, hi-tech and so organised that the setlist is printed on a tour T-shirt.

Genesis were once famous, or notorious, for their outlandish costumes. Now they dress neutrally – navy jackets, kept on all night – and leave the flamboyance to the big screen above them, which mixes close-ups with fizzing animation. 

The show is a feast for the eyes.

For the ears, it’s more of a set menu. Of the 21 tracks Genesis played last time round, 19 reappear here. Their setlists always have the same problem: what to do about their first incarnation. 

Up to 1976 their music was whimsical, long-winded, almost comically pretentious. From 1978, when they shocked their fans by having a Top 10 hit, it was snappy and down-to-earth. They went from rock to pop, like The Beatles in reverse.

Less embarrassed now by their younger selves, they dig out four songs from Selling England By The Pound (1973), plus the long-lost title track of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974). 

Distance lends enchantment, even when you haven’t the proggiest what they’re going on about. The musicianship is flawless, with Rutherford’s guitar melting into Banks’s synths, and Nic Collins confirming that drumming is hereditary.

Phil’s voice is thin, with two backing singers helping out, but his spirit is unbroken and his quips raise a laugh. The highlight is Follow You Follow Me, the simplest, warmest thing Genesis ever wrote. 

Played almost unplugged, with everyone sitting down, it makes an arena feel like a campfire. 

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