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VH1 Rock (Dis)Honors Genesis?

by May 25, 2007
Phil Collins

Phil Collins

I remember a time not too long ago when progressive rock ruled the industry and rock music had real substance to it. Over the years, it was swiftly replaced by a more “radio friendly” sound which I considered to be mostly bubble gum. Bands like Genesis rarely got air time on the radio because of their progressive nature of their music and the fact that most of their songs were 10+ minutes long. Genesis really started to hit it big with their first hit single “Follow You Follow Me” from their And Then There Were Three CD (their first album as a trio – minus Gabriel and Hackett). Over the next decade they evolved their sound into a more “radio friendly” format with, in my opinion, their last truly great album being Duke in the early 80s. Don’t get me wrong, their albums to follow such as Abacab, Genesis, Invisible Touch, and We Can’t Dance had some great “radio” style tunes with a few glimmers of the awesome instrumental ballads on their longer songs (IE. Home by the Sea, Fading Lights) that made them legendary in the 70s, but it wasn’t quite the Genesis quality sound so many of their diehard fans adored.

Still, I had hope. I am usually a “glass half full” type of guy. Their recent announcement of reformation of the band to do live tours throughout Europe and USA piqued my interest. Their interview where Tony Banks (keyboardist) decried Genesis wasn’t being remembered for their more complex style music and that they wanted to remind people that there was more to them then their “radio friendly” songs. And finally, their release of virtually their entire catalog into multi channel SACD (reviews forthcoming) added fuel to fire that this band was serious about their music once again.

During my recent interview with Genesis Guitarist Daryl Stuermer (their permanent part time member), we discussed the up and coming VH1 Rock Honors show which was scheduled to feature Genesis among other rock greats such as ZZ Top, Heart and Ozzy Osborne. I was literally counting down the days for this event to be aired in HD. May 24th finally came. I had my HD PVR set to record, my theater system all fired up in PLIIx Music Mode, my display calibrated so I could delineate the hairs in Phil Collins nostrils, and was ready to go. I even had my 6 year old daughter with me, as believe it or not, she is quite a big Genesis and Phil Collins fan.

The VH1 Rock Honors show opened with a tribute to ZZ Top “Sharp Dressed Man” performed by Nickleback. In my opinion, they did ZZ Top better than ZZ Top did. Great performance! Next up Gretchen Wilson and Alice in Chains did a tribute performance of “Barracude”. Gretchen’s performance was fabulous, her singing sounding frighteningly like the real deal and she looked stunning doing it. Wow I was really getting charged now. Two great performances done with authenticity and realism; both by the tribute bands and the real bands.

I was enthralled to see Robin Willams do the introduction for Genesis. He proclaimed to be a die hard fan on the band and had true conviction in his voice. The highlight of the show was when he tastefully talked about how Genesis went from Peter Gabriel dressing up as vegetables to having their drummer take the roll of lead singer superstar sensationalist.

To step back for a moment, I poked around YouTube.com a few days ago to see if anyone bootlegged the performance of Genesis. Though the quality was horrendous, it was cool to see Genesis played two of their good commercial songs “Turn it on Again” and “No Son of Mine” while also playing one of their better progressive style songs “Los Endos” with the infamous drum duet between Chester Thompson and Phil Collins. I was really eager to see this but in the back of my mind, I feared VH1 would cut this entire song out. Sure enough my fears became reality. More on this later.

In the tradition of the last two band performances, the tribute band opened for Genesis. I was hoping the band Musical Box – an incredible tribute band to Gabriel era Genesis, would open for them, but I realized that was a remote possibility, especially since the current lineup of Genesis have always seemed to distance themselves from that time period as evident by Mike Rutherford’s statement in their VH1 interview about Genesis is writing better music now as a 3 piece band then they were as a 5 piece band. I was a bit taken by this, but not as winded as I was by the so called “tribute band” performance of Genesis pop song “That’s All”.

The name of the band performing “That’s All” was Keane – supposedly a British rock wonder group – though after hearing their performance I couldn’t help to wonder how anyone could listen to them. The lack of masculinity of the band made the most recent Superman movie feel heroic. Who would have thought 30 years ago when Genesis released their legendary "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" album that they would later have a boy band do a tribute to them?  Don't believe me that the performance was that bad?  See for yourself on YouTube - Keane "That's All". I felt like this was the beginning of the end, but I still had a glimmer of hope as I knew that the real Genesis band was going to perform “Los Endos” on VH1 in front of millions of people. Or so I though….

Genesis opened with “Turn it on Again”. From the moment the song started, something didn’t sound quite right. My 6 year old daughter immediately caught that they changed the key to conform to Phil’s aging voice. Ok, so I could live with that. It’s understandable. Peoples voices change over the years so it’s better to adapt the music rather than trying to have them sing out of their range. But what I couldn’t digest was why Phil Collins looked like he was hopped up on Vicodin and why he was so hard to hear. He portrayed little emotion and heart in his performance and brief interview. Perhaps they just had to get in the grove or perhaps it was bad miking or perhaps I am too critical of a band and artist I have so much admiration and respect for?  As aside, I felt the multi channel mixes of all the performances of this show stressed the instruments more than vocals, so Phil definitely couldn't take all the blame.

Let’s see what they do with their next song, I said to myself. Next up, “No Son of Mine”. Within the first 20 seconds of the performance, I though to myself, this is “No Band of Mine”. I didn’t know what I was watching but I did know that this wasn’t the Genesis I loved and cherished since childhood. I felt like Superman stepping into Bizzaro’s realm for the first time. Somebody please transport me back to my universe quickly as this has become far too painful to endure.

At this point, I pretty much lost most of my confidence in their ability to perform tonight, though I did acknowledge the fine performance Chester was giving on drums, Tony on keyboards, Mike and Daryl on guitar and bass, respectively. They can’t botch “Los Endos” as it’s mostly an instrumental song. So I waited for “No Band of Mine” to end. I waited and waited, falling asleep, loosing consciousness, and finally regaining my train of thought as my wife slapped my face in efforts to wake me to hear the VH1 host say Ozzy Osborne was next. Wait a minute! Where is “Los Endos”? We still have another 10 minutes for Genesis to redeem themselves, don’t we?

Nope, not tonight. Their performance was done. As far as the rest of the TV viewing public was concerned, that was all she wrote. I searched the VH1 website for this lost video and didn’t find it until I clicked on VH1 Exclusive Performances aside from the main show even link.

Phil DrumsAdmittedly I didn’t find this link until after I wrote this editorial. Suffice it to say, I was quite pleased with Genesis performance of their classic “Los Endos” and Phil did a great job on the sticks along with Chester. The song seemed slightly slower tempo than past performances, but I think it was purposely done to change things up a bit. In any event, it was obvious they could still play.

The show went on with a fine Ozzy Osborne tribute performance from Queens of the Stone Age rocking out to “Paranoid” and Ozzy Osborne giving a heartfelt performance of “I Don’t Wanna Stop” and “Crazy Train”.

Time to Regroup - It's Not all that Bad Afterall

Seeing “Los Endos” , I remain fairly confident that Genesis will set the stage on fire with their summer tours and hopefully Phil Collins can get off the Vicodin to recharge his usual charismatic performances he is so well known for. Don’t get me wrong, I still love ya Phil and I am rooting for you and the band. Make us proud.

After the show concluded, I popped in my Genesis 5.1 SACD of “Trick of the Tail” convincing myself that most of the VH1 Rock Honor tribute to Genesis was a bad dream, especially that not so “keane” performance of “That’s All”.

I am still a bit steamed that VH1 cut Genesis finest performance of the night, and the powers that be chose Keane as the tribute band, and that Phil’s mic seemed to be a dB or 2 too low, but I will get over it. Spending about 10 minutes rocking out in my theater room usually transports me to my happy place. Perhaps I should have done that before writing this article? Hmm food for thought next time I see Genesis perform.

To keep things in perspective, I figured it appropriate to pay homage to one of the best rock bands of all time by sharing with you videos when they were at their finest, from all of their eras.

Peter Gabriel Era – The Musical Box

Genesis – Firth of Fifth

Genesis – In the Cage

Genesis – One for the Vine

Genesis - Behind the Lines

About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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