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Anatomy Of A Setlist

The songs of the Turn It On Again Tour 2007

Time and again Genesis have said a couple of words about just how they have arrived at the setlist they performed without changes at all European concerts. They aimed to strike a balance by pleasing the pop audience with the hits while also delighting both band and hardcore fans by playing some old classics. I have not asked Tony, Mike and Phil about it, but I have thought a bit about the dramaturgy of the shows… subjective evaluations and opinions about how they really did it included. Dividing the audience into prog fans and pop fans means obviously painting a black and white picture. Since your mileage may vary you are very welcome to object and/or comment!

Behind The Lines / Duke’s End and Turn It On Again

A triumphant instrumental beginning with flourishing chords and heavy-duty double drumming. Full of self-confidence Genesis make a statement with this strong beginning: We are back. We take the stage again, and we do it with a musical exclamation mark. Powerful sound right from the first note lets the audience (at least that in the field) know that they will get their money’s worth in sound quality. By opening with an instrumental and having Phil behind the drums they also make it clear which way this show will turn: Lots of old songs, many instrumentals, a lot of Phil behind the drumkit. And a hazard, too: Many of today’s fans are not too familiar with the band’s back catalogue so they do not know BTL/DE at all. The adepts are pleasantly surprised: BTL had been a frequent topic of speculation for a show opener but fans did not feel certain that it would make the set list.
The beginning is extended into a “mini-Duke suite” that states the motto of this tour with the corresponding song. We get the hit machine running again – Turn It On Again, Genesis. They also free the song from the exile of the eternal encore. In previous tours they had rid the number of the folly of a medley of songs from the 60’s. Now they place the song near the beginning of the set again. It brings the show up to speed, loosens the mood and together with the opening song extends the bow to the album Duke.

No Son Of Mine und Land Of Confusion

The next two songs cater for those members of the audience who have come to hear the big hits. No Son Of Mine is a song a lot of prog fans are quite happy with. Many describe it as Genesis’ best single release, and the emotional intensity with which Phil sings this song makes shivers run down one’s spine. Land Of Confusion is an old acquaintance as a live song – it is a song many thirty- to fourty-somethings really groove on – memories from their youth when they would watch MTV are freshened up by the three Spitting Image puppets at the beginning…
Both songs were near the beginning of the set of the 1992 tour, and it is a good place for them. They are midtempo numbers, everybody knows the lyrics – at least the chorus – and the pop audience feel safe because “I know what I have come here for tonight”.

In The Cage / The Cinema Show / Duke’s Travels / Afterglow

This safe knowledge vanishes into thin air during the next eighteen minutes, at least if you have never heard of the following songs before. The band fulfils Tony’s promise that they were going to play many long tracks to showcase a side to Genesis that was overshadowed by the radio hits. A tough ordeal for those who do not know the material. Changing rhythms, extensive solos and instrumentals by the whole band and lyrics you cannot comprehend even if you understand the words unless you know the background, too. Duke’s Travels is a new element in the well-known ITC medley. It springs a nice surprise for those who know the classical ITC-Cinema Show-Slippermen medley from previous tours. Tony probably rediscovered his love for Duke while he was busy with the SACD/5.1 mixes. Perhaps this is the reason why they used instrumentals from this album in several places during the show.
Playing the ITC medley has become self-referential across the years: Just like Peter did it in 1974/5 Phil sings the lines that begin “Outside the cage I see my brother John” from an elevated position while the smoke machine runs at full power. This tour’s version has moved away from the early 80’s version and grown much closer to the original Lamb version as far as speed, flair and the vocals are concerned. The version on Three Sides Live was much faster and rougher from the first chords; this time the intensity grows slowly and much more effectively until it culminates in the fast “out of this pain” passage.
The staging of Afterglow quotes previous arrangements: Massive wafts of mist and the usage of lights behind and just below the stage create a spheric effect that we know from back when or at least from Armando Gallo’s photos. This self-referentiality is not at all a bad thing: It lets the “old” Genesis fans know why they have come here tonight. Big shivers down your spine.

Hold On My Heart

Though many fans of the 70’s Genesis will frown, this is the song that wins back the pop audience. It is also a resting point after a tour de force. In freely sung end even those who despise it may feel a bit milder towards the song. It is a time to catch your breath before the next longtrack, …

Home By The Sea / Second Home By The Sea

… which manages to please both fans of complex music and fans of pop Genesis at the same time. Tony Banks’ most catchy synthie riff is an 80’s classic that is still in everybody’s ears. Second Home By The Sea makes it clear, though, that the long version is the definitive form. Lots of oomph, lots of bass, for the second time after In The Cage a massive wall of sound builds. The second half in particular is not easy listening.

Follow You Follow Me

The first real surprise. It has been a great many tours since the song was played in this version (’92 saw a snippet of it in the Old Medley, ’98 had a brief acoustic version). Again the statement of “Phil the singing drummer” is underlined as he sings into his headset while he plays the drums. It is also a friendly nod towards their own beginnings as a hit band that is the more conciliatory for most since Tony’s brief synth solo adds a little touch of prog to this simple yet enchanting song. The images on the backdrop play with the characters from previous album covers – just like the design for the Platinum Collection and the tour poster. They bring back memories of The Musical Box, but most of all of We Can’t Dance, Duke and A Trick Of The Tail, the three albums most heavily featured here. The visual presentation of the song takes up the motto of the ’98 tour that fits the TIOA tour very well either: Genesis Through The Ages…

Firth Of Fifth / I Know What I Like

More drums! Phil remains behind his drum kit and the band presents an instrumental show-piece from the Genesis catalogue. Tony and Daryl’s solos are delightful, mellotron sounds and the bass-pedal rebuild the wall of sound so that the whole stadium begins to quake. Was there ever another stadium show in which I have felt a Moog bass pedal so strongly physically? IKWIL follows with the same transition as in the ’92 Old Medley, but it is – relief! – played in full. The nostalgic slideshow and the obligatory uttering of the ‘lawnmower’ sentences at the beginning and the end of the song are a discreet bow to Peter’s qualities as a showman in his time with Genesis. The tambourine tarantella is another instance of Genesis quoting themselves, but it no less fun for that. Phil’s playing with the crowd – it still is a (self-)ironic satire on rock star poses.


The lighting and the video presentation really spread the mood of this eerie song (it would be getting dark during this song on most shows) as well as Phil whose vocal performance peaks here at one of the dramatic climaxes of the evening – pathos, cries for help and a manic, threatening mood. Again, the friends of both pop and prog are happy: They all enjoy the dirty laugh and the massive drum sound. This song is neither pop nor prog. The lighting and the video bits pick up on the theme of the promo video for the song (remember the red lights?), but they do not just copy it but update it to the visual status of 2007.


The second big surprise in the set and a brave choice at this point in the set – it is not really stadium rock, is it? A tender, pastoral mood spreads and everybody wallows in nostalgia. So do Genesis as they play the whole instrumental part and a closing section that grows longer the longer they have been on tour. A rediscovered pearl and probably the song the “hit audience” know least of. Its balladesque character makes it attractive to anyone who wants to open up to it. The end could go on and on. If Phil has stated his ambivalent feelings towards the early Genesis eras before he must have put them aside because he is really into the song. A longing spreads when Phil keeps singing “sail away, away … they never come back”…

Throwing It All Away

Time to give the hit audience their dues – the mood swing is a bit strong, though. There could have been a better place for this song. Genesis play a big offering from the Invisible Touch album near the end of the main set. Incidentally, Invisible Touch has more songs on this set than for example We Can’t Dance.


The audience participation time that began during TIAA now reaches a peak with the illustration of the domino principle. It also triggers general merriness. A single hit is followed by a sophisticated longtrack full of different moods – it is an emotional rollercoaster ride. Phil’s performance as well as the light show bring out the brooding atmosphere of the lyrics – but necks crane when he cannot be seen on stage during the “blood on the windows”. Genesis show once more how important complex longer pieces are to them and how great and full of variation they are able to perform them live. Domino, as HTBS, is not necessarily a household name. With time, Genesis have turned from an album band into a single band. This is a moment when Tony Banks’ statement that this tour was like “preaching to a converted audience” is not really valid. For many, a track like Domino is another lesson on the subject of “this, too, is Genesis”.

Drum Duet / Los Endos

The drum duet is a Genesis classic. When they played it on the ’92 tour it felt lost and artificial because it was not attached to a song. This time they had the great idea of beginning the drum duet on two bar stools which excited everyone – a simple yet clever idea. The duet slowly builds which not only leads to the discovery of the whole drum kit but also carefully prepares the way for the giant explosion that is the beginning of Los Endos. A powerful presentation of the capabilities of each musician and at the same time a true band effort. This song proves that, next to Duke, A Trick Of The Tail is the second album that dominates the renovation of the set list for the tour – probably again because of the work on the remasters and the box set … With Los Endos they also do the clever trick of waking memories of the songs that are quoted in this piece, Squonk and Dance On A Volcano most of all. Los Endos is a live classic that has come alive again, shining as brightly as the white light at the end of the piece.

Tonight Tonight Tonight / Invisible Touch

Strange to play another songs. In earlier years they left the stage after Los Endos, but this time they decided not to. So they open the old IT chest of tricks and play the 1992 double-pack. Pity they do not play TTT in full, but time is running out. Invisible Touch and its happy-party-mood raise the roof of the stadium and leave the audience wanting more even before the band leave the stage after the fireworks. Some may consider it superfluous, but it crowns this fulminant stage show. Check the watch: Wow, it’s been 2 and a half hours already!

I Can’t Dance

The encore block is short, but perhaps it is better that way. It might be difficult to sustain the mood much longer. It would have to be Genesis’ most unusual hit now, and another opportunity for Phil to take the mickey at himself and please the fans of this era. It is the song almost everybody sings along to, but with mixed feelings: What was quirky and funny in 1992 seems strangely dated in 2007 – is it a period piece after all…?

The Carpet Crawlers

… Well, you cannot say that about the timeless final song. The encores are split fifty-fifty, half pop era, half prog(Gabriel) era; everybody finds something pleasing here. The song is introduced in an uncharacteristically emotional way, it is “a song that is true to Genesis, which is very special to us.” A tiny digression, just a small break played by Chester on the toms, points at the ’99 version. It is a wonderfully calm and atmospheric finale that sends everybody home happy and content.

The tension grows and lessens in various places, but the frequency in which the intensity grows becomes ever shorter. There is just a brief HOMH between the ITC medley and HBTS, FoF brings in the next complex part just after FYFM. Towards the end the dramatic and emotional climaxes follow ever faster: Mama, Ripples, Domino, Los Endos, IT with the fireworks. The end is calmer again. Neither I Can’t Dance nor CC are songs that really get you going, even if you like them they are nothing do dance or clap along to. Bottom line: The setlist Genesis performed unchanged on their European tour is a perfect textbook example for the dramaturgy of a rock concert. The fact that they do not have to advertise a new album permitted the band to come up with such a well-balanced set list. One notes that there is quite a focus on melancholy and dramatic songs that, as Mike has often said, are an integral part of Genesis. If this was the final Genesis tour the band have said farewell to their fans with a carefully chosen cross-section of their oeuvre.

But as all three of them keep saying, “Never say never” and “We’ll see.”

by Jan Hecker-Stampehl
translated by Martin Klinkhardt


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