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Click here to read about The Musical box in Phil Collins words
"IT is here, IT is now"
It is here, It is now
by Paolo Scattarreggia
The Musical Box
The Musical Box are:
Denis Gagné – Lead Vocal, Flute, Percussions
Martin Levac – Drums, Percussions, Vocals
François Gagnon – Electric guitar, 6 and 12 strings acoustic guitar, electric Sitar
Sébastien Lamothe – Bass, Acoustic and Electric Guitar, Bass pedals, Back vocals
Eric Savard – Keyboards, Organ, 12 strings acoustic Guitar, Back vocals
Musical Direction: Sébastien Lamothe
Artistic Direction: Serge Morissette
This is what it’s written on the play-bill that advertises the four concerts that the Canadian band The Musical Box held at the Montreal Spectrum between October 11th and 14th, starting a twenty-dates Tour to perform the whole The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway concert with the official approval of Genesis.
Many months have been spent preparing for this debut, and for those who know The Musical Box this is not coming as a surprise… their former performances, particularly their representation of the Selling England Tour, have always been characterized by extremely detailed reconstructions that allowed them to recreate with incredible precision the original Genesis performances. Faithful reproduction of the music, exceptional recostruction of costumes and stages, amazing impersonification of Peter Gabriel by the group’s singer Denis Gagné, both when singing as well as entertaining the audience with the famous “stories” in-between songs… but while for the Selling England Tour the group took advantage of various original video sources, especially the Montreal concerts filmed in April ’74, for The Lamb Tour it was not possible to access any complete film of the original concerts, and this made everybody very curious about the outcome of the project.
This curiosity started last June 3rd and 4th, when the project was officially presented (in that occasion, in order to raise funds for the production of The Lamb, The Musical Box performed the Selling England Tour for the last time), and the word that such an event was going to take place started to circulate… this sparkled a great interest and wait amongst fans, especially those who never had the chance to see a Lamb concert live, concerts that represented the apex of the scenographical and theatrical evolution of the music of Genesis, who chose to communicate the message of such a complex “concept album” through the creation of a truly multimedia show, carried out at least twenty years before anybody would even talk about multimedia representations.
People start to line up in front of the Spectrum around 3pm… at 7pm the doors open, and around 9:30pm the lights finally go down… the emotion is raising, the audience is ready to start for the first time a fantastic trip in the undergroung world of Rael, and some fear they might be let down by such extraordinary expectations … here we go… the show begins…
The first impression is amazing… short hair, face make-up, black leather jacket, jeans and a white T-shirt… there is not even the time to focus the eyes to understand if Denis is really Peter Gabriel or if he only looks incredibly like him, that the first words echo in the microphone: “Good evening… bonsoir… we have written a big lump of story and music and we’d like to play it for you tonight…” the voice and the pronounciation are amazing… it really seems to be listening to Peter introducing The Lamb as we learned it through the various bootlegs or the Shrine Auditorium concert in Los Angeles included in the Archives… the last words, welcomed by the audience with a rumble, are: “This is the story of Rael”…
Since that moment the magic begins: the first slides appear on the three screens positioned high on stage behind the band… it’s the Manhattan island skyline in New York… few seconds more and the unmistakeble first piano notes of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway start to fill the air… the result is amazing… I am in the first row under the stage, as I decided to follow closely all the stage details during this first night… my attention is immediately caught by the turning over of the slides that Genesis provided to the band for these concerts… knowing that these are the originals used during the the 1974/75 Tour gives me chills, and I keep following those images… at the same time I am studying every look, every gesture, every expression on the face of Denis-Peter. The result is just incredible! Every move is planned, but it is natural at the meantime, every expression, every body movement makes us think of having a young Peter Gabriel in front of us… also the other musicians are placed on stage exactly as the original band members used to, and the clothes are the same used at the time by Mike, Phil and the others… this time we don’t have to close our eyes to travel in the past… we don’t need to use the imagination… it’s in front of our eyes… IT IS HERE, IT IS NOW!
Many details to memorize, many unforgettable moments, many answers to questions that we asked ourselves for years… after The Lamb the music flows into Fly on a Windshield, during which, after having sung the words at the beginning of the track, Denis-Peter leaves the stage and the spotlights to the other musicians, coming back up just in time to grab the mike and give us the emotion to hear the words: “Echoes of the Broadway Everglades”… the slides now show the faces of many movie stars, there’s the Ku Klux Klan, here’s Groucho Marx… and there are little unforgettable moments to savour, like when singing “smiling at the majorettes smoking Winston cigarettes” Denis, but we almost feel we have to call him Peter by now, makes the gesture of smoking and puffing the smoke out of his mouth …
The first “coup de theatre” comes when at the beginning of Cuckoo Cocoon a blue spot light looks for something at the low corner of the stage, where Rael is laying down shirtless, singing in the heat of his cocoon, and playing the flute while in that position! Next, an emotional In The Cage follows, with Rael still without his T-shirt on singing while passing the microphone-stick behind his back, as we saw it in those very few unforgettable seconds of the Shrine show shown in the video Genesis – A History… another great moment was the robot-like walk along the stage during the refrain of The Grand Parade, and the movement that Peter made pretending to pull some coins out of his pocket while singing “and as the notes and coins, are taken out, I’m taken in, to the factory floor” at the beginning of the track.
It’s the time for the second spoken interlude, with the amusing story of Rael’s first “romantic adventure”, and then the music starts again with Back in NYC, a track that when performed live takes on an incredible strenght, during which Rael, singing “When you take up my bottle, filled up with gasoline, you can tell by the night fires where Rael has been, has been” throws a bottle full of gasoline against a big rock located in the middle of the stage under the screens, creating the first explosion, with flames going up, of the night! Here we discover that the pictures often seen where Peter and Mike (impersonified by the excellent Sébastien Lamothe) sing together refer to the lines “no time for romantic escapes, when your fluffy heart is ready for rape”... this is followed by a very emotional Hairless Heart, with the slides showing a hand in a black leather glove holding a razor that slide after slide shaves a white furred heart (“fluffy heart”) on a red background, creating a very strong visual effect. It’s time now for a brilliant Counting Out Time, during which we realize that Denis-Peter gets close to the drummer Guillaume Courteau–Phil Collins for the first and only time during the concert, singing standing next to him for a few seconds. Now the magic of Carpet Crawlers fills the air, sung amongst dimmed lights and followed by the audience with great emotions. When a spiral case appears on the screens, it’s time for an extraordinary The Chamber of 32 Doors, which showing slides of “the Priest and the Magician”, the Father and the Mother (“my Father to the left of me, my Mother to the right”), wraps up the first half of the concert in a truly touching way.
The third and last spoken interlude is the longest and funniest, telling the story of the Lamia, the Slipperman and the infamous Doktor Dyper. Every night Denis-Peter makes fun of the other components of the band, with a different one chosen every night as a model to explain how disgusting the Slipperman looks!
The music comes back with Lilywhite Lilith (introduced by Guillaume-Phil going: “one, two, three, four”), and then is the time for a moment that for me will stay as one of the most extraordinary and unfogettable of the concert: The Waiting Room. I always considered this track as an interesting one, most of all because this was the only moment Genesis indulged in some degree of musical improvisation on stage (a concept quite foreign to such a perfectionist band), but I never placed it on the top of my absolute preferences. Well, once performed live The Waiting Room really turns into The Evil Jam (that’s how the band named this track in its live version), taking on an incredible charme and strenght at the same time, with its growing rhythm, which second after second, leads us to the amazing “finale’ during which the stage spotlights are turned towards the audience, creating a breathtaking visual effect, representing the encounter between Rael and the blinding light that takes place in the story during this track, an effect that I can fully appreciate from my position high in the gallery facing the stage during the last night’s concert. Moreover, during the final part of the track, a moving shadow appears behind the white screens … it’s a creature (of course given life to by Denis-Peter) of weird shape, with its long hands and nails that move frantically conveying a disturbing feeling… apparently this visual effect has been added to the show after the appearance of a 15 minutes private video taken from one of the three original Lamb concerts held in Liverpool in April ’75, which the band received only a few days before their debut at the Spectrum. An absolute new piece of information, and what a great visual effect! The audience is screaming and applauding, caught between emotion and amazement. But there is just the time to let the emotions sink, that the piano plays the intro of Anyway (Eric Savard-Tony Banks puts together an impeccable performance). This time Rael is laying down with his black leather jacket on in the left low corner of the stage, from where he sings about how he feels death approaching him (Rael brings the hand to his ear when he sings “Anyway, they say she comes on a pale horse, but I’m sure I hear a train”). Then our hero sits down to sing the next song, celebrating the arrival of the Supernatural Anaesthetist, at the end of which a short musical bridge allows the time for some preparatory movements on the dark stage…
And here comes one of the most beautiful moments of the concert… at the first few notes of The Lamia, a great canvass cylinder, lit by a dim purple light, appears, giving life to the bodies of the Lamia … at the words “Rael stands astonished, doubting his sight”, the cylinder is lightened up by a blue-green light and starts to turn (as seen in the famous pictures taken by Armando Gallo). Inside the cylinder we can see the shape of Denis-Peter’s body, creating the movement by rotating the cylinder with one of his hands, while holding the microphone with the other one. This movement stops at the end of the refrain, to start again later during the song, till when, on the piano notes that preceed the end of the track, the cylinder starts to lower down and Rael appears in a white fluorescent costume with his arms high up… a few more seconds and he starts singing: “Looking behind me, the water turns icy blue, the lights are dimmed and once again the stage is set for you”… at this point Rael stumbles towards the back of the stage, puts his hands on hid head to show his desperation, and disappeares while the beautiful conclusive guitar solo takes over… truly amazing!
Silent Sorrow serves the needed purpose of catching our breath, just in time to get ready for the arrival of the Slipperman… we have to say that here the reproduction of the costume is truly perfect! The Slipperman comes out of the red cocoon in which it’s trapped, and shows off in all his “splendor”! Denis is amazing in his ability to replicate the movements and the funny walk of Peter as shown in those few fragments of old private 8mm taken from the original concerts that we had the chance to see. We realize how difficult must be singing while moving around in that outfit, which makes us less hard in judging Peter’s choice to re-record at least that part of the Shrine concert on the Archives. The Slipperman walks up and down the stage and when it gets close to the guitarist Christian Hebert-Steve Hackett, the latter takes off a tube from the grotesque costume, deflating the gigantic testicles of the Slipperman, representing this way the cut of the “windscreenwiper” made by Doktor Dyper. We carry on through the sounds and the emotions that characterize the following tracks, Ravine, The Light Dies Down On Broadway, at the end of which is the only brief moment of the concert when Peter plays the oboe, and Riding The Scree. We now arrive to the beautiful and melancholic melody of In The Rapids, sung by Denis-Peter holding his jacket beyond his shoulder with one hand, which anticipates the “explosion” of the music, as soon as the words “Something’s changed, that’s not your face, it’s mine! It’s mine!” are sung, into IT, the grand “finale” of the concert, with flames riding high on stage and a very suggestive image of two Rael at the opposite sides of the stage, the real one on the left and the dummy on the right. While on the three screens the letters “it” are projected, Denis carries on another great performance leading us to the end of an extraordinary travel that till today we only dreamed to be able to make.
We are all exhausted and happy, to the point that we don’t realize that the show is not over… the band (with the exception of Denis, who disappeared from the stage as soon as the music finished) stands up to receive the long applauses of the audience, waiting for an all black dressed figure to join them a few minutes later… it’s the moment of The Musical Box, traditional first encore of the Lamb Tour. The spoken introduction is perfect, and the performance is impeccable, with the final climax when the Old Man closes the track singing “Now Now Now Now” with his mask lightened up by a yellow light, while the rest of the band performs in a complete dark stage. When the Old Man crashes on the ground, all of the audience jumps up at once to clap and scream their approval!
At this point the band leaves the stage waiving at the audience, which keeps clapping and shouting for about ten minutes without a pause! We look around, and we happen to think that Peter, Mike or Tony should be here and experience these moments; maybe they would realize what their music still today means for so many people … but something is moving on stage… it’s the band returning for the second encore, but without Denis-Peter… a few more seconds and behind the white screens an unmistakable black shadow appears… it’s the Watcher of the Skies, with its famous Batwings… the performance is simply perfect, every move is planned and every note flows as if those instruments were played by Tony, Mike, Steve, Phil e Peter… the reconstruction of the costume is as faithful to the original as it can get, after all The Musical Box are perfectly experienced for what concerned these final encores, performed through the years with more and more precision every night. This time we really are at the end, emotionally drained, but willing to keep listening to this music, to this band, for hours more…
Thank you Canadian friends…
thanks for having given us the opportunity to experience four extraordinary
concerts, four unforgettable nights. Every night the music and the stage
organization has been improving (for example the explosions started to work
perfectly from the third concert), to the point of carrying out a virtually
flawless performance during the last night, at the end of which we couldn’t
help thinking of the last concert of The Lamb that Genesis held in
France, in St. Etienne, when Peter played The Last Post with his
oboe… but this is not really the end, it is actually the beginning of an
adventure, a Tour that we hope will be performed, with the required blessing
of “Genesis and Peter Gabriel” (as curiously, or revealingly, indicated on
the concert play-bill), not just in Canada, but also in Europe. And which
country would wait for The Lamb with more excitement and emotion than