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Birmingham Genesis Last Domino Tour report

Genesis - Final Chapter, First Verse

The Last Domino? Tour - first show in Birmingham (20th September 2021)


Flashback

October 13, 2007, Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles. It's the last night of the Turn It On Again Tour. A tour that seemed unlikely just a few years earlier. Phil Collins was retired and had stepped away from Genesis over ten years ago anyway. The project with Ray Wilson didn't seem worthy of an extension, at least from the point of view of Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. So it was very quiet around Genesis for almost ten years. And then out of the blue they were back, in the line-up that played most of the Genesis concerts. Looking back, it was a return really just for one summer and fall. But with a show that had something for all fan groups. I, too, was there that fall evening in the Hollywood Hills. Phil said in his closing speech that nothing further was planned. So I flew home with unforgettable memories of a great tour in my luggage and the consciousness to have seen the possibly very last Genesis concert ever. That this would change became more and more improbable as the time went on without any significant activities of the band. The realization of Phil Collins' state of health did the rest. That was probably it.


Back to present

More than a decade after that historic evening, Phil Collins has jumped from the brink of death and, despite all fears, is once again on the road on a solo tour. Towards the end of the two-and-a-half-year (Still) Not Dead Yet tour, hope is actually germinating. This tour went amazingly well. And in fact, even before it ended, rumors circulated that Genesis also wanted to give it another go. The first fan dreams of this had been nurtured by Mike and Phil themselves at some of the tour's summer concerts when the two played Follow You, Follow Me together. And indeed, a few months later it became known that the band was in New York for rehearsals. And suddenly everything happened very fast.

After the supposedly last Genesis concert, I was keen to see the first of the renewed comeback tour as well. This would close the circle. So I booked a concert trip to Dublin. And after all the anticipation, the Corona pandemic came with its lockdowns. The concerts were postponed and Dublin was suddenly no longer the start of the tour. Then another rescheduling became necessary and indeed the two concerts in the Irish capital slipped back to the beginning of the tour schedule. Phew! My plan seemed possible again. But Ireland was and is Europe-wide the country with probably the most cautious COVID loosening strategy. What became more and more apparent then became a certainty: the Dublin concerts were postponed indefinitely, Belfast followed shortly after. So the tour would (presumably?) start in Birmingham on September 20, 2021. It took some time to research the general conditions for a trip to the "high-risk" UK. The preparations were much more time-consuming than for previous trips to the island. But finally it was decided: I would travel to Birmingham for the tour opener. Just this one show. Due to the pandemic, as short a stay as possible.

Genesis live 2021


Day of the show

And finally: the wait is over. I had not only waited for more than two years since the announcement of the tour with all the date shifts and the associated uncertainties, but actually much longer: almost fourteen years to be exact. And then it's really here: the concert day, September 20, 2021.

The alarm clock rings unusually early. I have an hour's drive ahead of me to the airport for the morning flight to Birmingham. But the early arrival there allows me to use the time before the concert for sightseeing (the second largest city in Great Britain is well worth a trip!) and for getting in the mood for the evening concert. Thanks to good preparations, the arrival and departure went smoothly. We have long since become accustomed to wearing face masks. But it also takes some getting used to that after arriving in England practically no masks are worn except in public transport.

The weather on this late summer day is warm and sunny. Typical Genesis - there would be perfect conditions for an open-air and the band plays in the hall. But this has a weighty advantage: I will be able to enjoy the light show from the first minute. Thanks to a documentary about the 2020 tour rehearsals that was aired just a few weeks before the start of the tour, a comprehensive first impression of the show has been created. And given the songs shown in it, the setlist has slowly taken shape as well. After there had been hardly any rumors or hints about the song selection during all the rehearsals, events had almost come to a head shortly before the tour. The whole thing culminates for me in the fact that I really discover a T-shirt in the evening in front of the arena at a merchandise stand, on which the set list is printed on the back. How does one come up with such an idea? Especially since the concert will show that just not exactly this sequence is played. But about that later.

My anticipation becomes more and more real already at noon by the fact that a man dressed in jeans and a dark sweatshirt with light gray hair and sunglasses suddenly comes towards me in the city center: Tony Banks without a doubt! So they are really there. The doubts caused by the pandemic that this day will really come after all have left their mark. Not infrequently I have stressed over the past two years that I will only believe it when I sit in the hall on concert day and the lights go out.

The venue is not the National Exhibition Center (NEC) directly at the airport, where Genesis played their only European concerts of the Mama Tour in 1984 and even released a video montage of them. Birmingham has not seen any Genesis concerts with Phil Collins as lead singer since then. On the Calling All Stations Tour, the band last played the NEC with Ray Wilson on February 25 and 26, 1998. So it is somewhat surprising that the venue for the three opening concerts of The Last Domino? Tour, the National Indoor Arena, which opened in 1991 and has been called the Utilita Arena since 2020. This arena has room for around 13,000 spectators with full seating and is located in the immediate vicinity of the city center, directly on one of the many canals that characterize Birmingham's cityscape. So before the concert, hundreds of fans sit in the pubs on the banks of the canals and enjoy the sun. A beautiful atmosphere.

At the entrance to the arena, a vaccination certificate is requested, but this is only checked superficially. I later learn from other fans that this was partly not checked at all at other entrances. Inside, after more than one and a half years of pandemic, it takes some getting used to at first that almost nobody except tour crew and stewards wears a mask. Before the show I see some other fans again, who have come not only from England, but like me from Germany or even France and the USA. We haven't seen each other for a long time and yet somehow nothing has changed. It seems a lot like "before", before Corona, despite Corona.


Showtime!

On my electronic ticket it explicitly says "start 8.00 prompt". Nevertheless, only with some delay at about 20.10 the hall light goes out and as already in 2007 the instrumental piece Dead Already from the American Beauty soundtrack is heard. The hall apparently has a strict closing time at 22.30. The slight delay was probably due to delays at the entrance.

GenesisAround 8:15 p.m. the main actors of the evening enter the stage in discreet blue light and predominant darkness. Thanks to the new background singers Patrick Smyth and Daniel Pearce there are with a total of seven musicians more people than ever before at a Genesis concert (apart from the "Invisible String Section" in 1986 in Australia or the singing roadies on the Mama Tour 1983/84 during Illegal Alien or the performance at the Silver Clef Award Show in Knebworth 1990)!

Before the band even starts playing, almost no one in the audience is left on the edge of their seats. This advance applause is a pleasant welcome and recognition for the band, which has not always had it easy in their home country. When the show starts with a bang in the form of Duke's Intro, the cheers know no bounds. The stage is bathed in bright white light, which is very reminiscent of the cover photo of Seconds Out. The opening piece, which already had been played as such in 2007, consists unchanged of parts of Behind The Lines and Duke's End.

The transition into Turn It On Again is like in 2007 - only in a slightly modified form. It takes some getting used to that Phil was condemned to inactivity until the beginning of this song and had to watch the others from his chair. You may call it stubbornness or cleverness according to the motto "never change a winning team" that the band likes to keep things that once worked well. But that is exactly the case. Wishes for a variation of the show opener are quite permissible. But the audience reaction simply proves the band right. By the way, Daryl takes a seat on a stool for this piece, which is rather unusual for him.

The following track Mama already proves that Phil still dares to play challenging songs despite progressive limitations concerning his agility and voice. Of course, Phil vocally clearly does not come close to the performances of earlier tours, but also thanks to the backup singers the song still works. The two singers help Phil out in an unobtrusive way when things get difficult for him vocally, always staying in the background. Especially the stage production and light show prove early on what they are made of. The song atmosphere is underlined better than ever with light, animations and videos - of course predominantly in red tones. In addition, LED bars descend between the five dominoes hanging above the stage.

Then Phil addresses the audience for the first time. "It's been a long time coming", are his first words. You can notice the relief that the tour can finally start not only among the audience, but also on stage. Land Of Confusion is announced by Phil as a song that was written with a completely different background, but in view of the pandemic has gained a whole new topicality. And exactly that is underlined typically British tongue-in-cheek with the background video. Empty London streets with televisions featuring the Spitting Image characters of Phil, Mike and Tony falling from the sky. A rain of toilet paper rolls. Masked melon bearers who look like each other, marching not only all over the city, but also out into the countryside via highways and even up the walls of buildings. The video ends with Piccadilly Circus, on whose world-famous billboard is the image of an atomic mushroom cloud as in the music video for the song.

The usual audience participation time must not be missing before Home By The Sea. Phil's announcement still seems a bit bumpy, but there must be room for improvement on the premiere night. The background videos here are more than ever not only creepy, but partly seem like excerpts from horror movies. And then Second Home By The Sea is the first longer instrumental of the evening. I had wondered what Phil would do in such moments when he used to sit behind the drums. Answer: he leaves the stage to his son Nic, goes to the back and sits on the platform of the background singers. And the twenty-year-old proves at the latest now how mature he already is for his age. His development since the beginning of the Not Dead Yet Tour is noticeable. Several times during the concert it is clearly audible how he breathes new life into some songs with his powerful drumming in a very fitting way. But he remains in the background on the drums throughout the evening like his father in his early days with Genesis. And indeed, he makes you forget a bit about a veteran like Chester Thompson, who was and is musically beyond any doubt.

Second Home By The Sea

The light show and especially the five dominoes above the stage with their sixteen VariLites each show their potential once again this evening. The individual elements, which until then had been hanging in a line above the stage, first form an arc and sink down in a diagonal during Second Home By The Sea. A small but fine reminiscence of the Invisible Touch Tour, where the complete lighting system was lowered to just above the heads of the band to simulate the "taking off" of the stadium.

Up to this point, only songs were played that were already included in the setlist in 2007. But now follows a song that quite a lot fans have wished for and which is also for me one of the absolute favorite songs of Genesis: Fading Lights. The song shines with very strong lyrics and was played live for the last time on November 17, 1992, almost 29 years ago, in Wolverhampton, which is only 30 km away from Birmingham. It is one of the few pieces of which nothing has been seen or heard in teasers and rehearsal documentaries so far. The rumors that the piece would be there, however, became more and more solidified in the run-up. It's nice that Mike (already "armed" with Doubleneck), Tony and Phil perform the song as a trio only. You can tell that Phil is reaching his limits without the support of the background singers. Shortly before the tour it was clear that this "long song" would take the prominent place of In The Cage in the traditional Cage medley. An interesting and at the same time fresh idea, but it raised the question of how far Fading Lights would be played out, or at what point the piece would segue into The Cinema Show. The solution is at the same time a first weak point I have to find fault with the show. That after the quiet first verses of Fading Lights, exactly at the point where the instrumental part usually begins, the instrumental part of The Cinema Show starts completely abruptly. That resembles a resounding slap in the face. After the show, it was heard that the band has been playing this transition in rehearsals for a long time and really likes it. Whether a solution with Fading Lights instrumental part would have been possible at least in a short excerpt, I don't know. As it is, it's a very sudden cold shower. But Genesis may seem to want to do just that. The Cinema Show itself rocks as much as ever. Nic Collins is supported here percussionistically by Daniel Pearce and Phil stays sitting in front this time to look closely at his son's drumsticks from there. With Mike you notice during the whole concert that he has planned something for this tour. He seems very well prepared, fit and full of energy and joy of playing. No comparison to his rather restrained stage presence in 2007. Before Afterglow, as last time in 1987, a few bars of In That Quiet Earth are briefly interspersed. Afterglow itself is accompanied by a modern light show, which is based on the traditional illumination during this piece. At the latest when the vertical elements of the video wall are opened up like slats and from their back VariLites illuminate the stage from behind like in the past, there is a real wow moment. There the lighting seems a bit like on the We Can't Dance Tour. But Afterglow has never been so good in terms of lighting.

Other than printed on the above-mentioned tour T-shirt, it doesn't continue with Hold On My Heart and Jesus He Knows Me afterwards. After Fading Lights and Afterglow, the first-mentioned song would have been a bit too much lasting silence and invitation to get some beer. Jesus He Knows Me was, so I could hear from crew circles, probably a bit too fast for Phil in the end. They had a full production lined up for the piece, but in the end that's just one of the concessions that have to be made to Phil's health and ability to perform, unfortunately. Instead they continue with an acoustic part. The light on stage is clearly reduced and a small reconstruction takes place. The band moves close together. For Nic a small drum kit is rolled to the front and for Tony an electric piano is placed on the unfamiliar left side of the stage (from the audience's point of view). Phil immediately picks up on this for a joke, saying that Mike was always on his right (from his point of view) and Tony was positioned on his left and that for "50 plus years" (quote Phil). So he fears with a wink that this could all go horribly wrong.

Nicholas CollinsDaryl Stuermer had revealed in an interview a few weeks before the start of the tour not only that there would be an acoustic set in the middle of the concert, but also that That's All would be one of the pieces in it. The song was last played on tour at Wembley in July 1987, more than 34 years ago. After that, it found consideration in special one-off performances from 1988 to 1990 and was played very briefly in the 1992 Old Medley. It was rehearsed for the Calling All Stations Tour and even played at the warm-up concert at Bray Studios in late January 1998, but was replaced elsewhere for the actual tour start in Budapest. Although the song is definitely a bit faster, Phil handles it well, even without backing vocalists.

Mike RutherfordWhen the band starts with the next song, I'm probably not the only one in the hall who wonders what they are playing. Only when Phil starts to sing it is clear that it is a completely new and very reduced version of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Again, Phil does well with the arrangement vocally. The song is truncated, but I like this bold, very different version. It proves what would be possible if Genesis would re-record old songs even without new material in the studio. There is still some creativity left in the older gentlemen, even if they probably cause very mixed reactions with it. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway returns to the Birmingham set for the first time since the conclusion of the Calling All Stations tour in Helsinki in April 1998; Phil hasn't sung it, at least in part, since 1992's Old Medley.

For the following Follow You, Follow Me the background singers join the band. The arrangement is even more reduced than in 2007 and brings back memories of what might have been the starting signal for The Last Domino? Tour: Mike's guest appearances on this song on Phil's Still Not Dead Yet Tour more than 2 years ago.

DuchessA drum machine then perhaps heralds the highlight of the evening: Duchess! And somehow a remarkable circle closes here. Almost forty years ago, one day before Christmas Eve 1981 to be exact, the Abacab tour came to an end in the Birmingham International Arena (later NEC) just a few kilometers from today's venue. That was the last time Duchess played live to this day. There is by far no Genesis song that had to wait so long for its live return! And the current performance lives up to this piece, which is very popular among many fans. The music is accompanied by slowly building psychedelic graphics on the video wall. A completely coherent and very strong performance of a song that probably most never dreamed of ever seeing live again. A bit like Ripples compared to 2007. It's a fan-favorite song that many average concertgoers don't know and go to get beer or take away at the nearly two-minute intro alone. Still, the band pulls off the tune without any cuts worth mentioning. Respect! Interestingly enough, the fact that the song was on the band's list was clear earlier than with any other piece. In a photo from rehearsals in New York in early 2020, the song title was small but still clearly legible on a screen behind Tony Banks. Fortunately, nearly two years of crossing fingers helped this gem actually make it into the live shows. And besides, the new version is fresh and slightly different from the original in a very understated way. It's worth going to the concert for this piece alone! For me, as with Fading Lights, this is a little dream come true.

During the obligatory band introduction there is the next goosebump moment. After Phil has introduced the band, Mike briefly takes the floor and introduces Phil to the audience. And there is no holding back anymore. Standing ovations and never-ending cheers seem to actually move Phil. He lets the enthusiasm wash over him, seems almost embarrassed when he waves off for a moment, and he probably needs this moment to collect himself for a moment. When the ticking of a clock starts, it's clear that it continues with the hit No Son Of Mine. Here you notice that Phil gratefully accepts the help of Daniel Pearce and Patrick Smyth in the more powerful passages. But they don't steal the show from him this time either.

The force with which Nic Collins pounds his drums at the start of the instrumental section of Firth Of Fifth is remarkable, and it's one of those tracks where he seems liberated. He is let off the leash and drives the band along with Mike Rutherford. He leaves the lead guitar to Daryl Stuermer as usual, but this probably has nothing to do with the almost embarrassingly badly performed Firth Of Fifth solo by Mike on his last Mechanics tour. The distribution of tasks has simply been like this for decades.

I Know what I Like

As in 2007, the classic I Know What I Like follows. Phil seems very confident here, both vocally and in terms of lyrics. And when the time has come for the famous tambourine dance, Phil surprises everyone by not doing without it. Sitting or not. Ok, he doesn't kick the tambourine anymore, but hitting it against hands, head and elbows is still possible. A great moment that thrills the audience as much as ever.

Then it's there, the highlight of the show conjured up by the band with the tour title: Domino, or more precisely The Last Domino, the second part of this long song from 1986. But before it starts, the Domino principle must of course be explained. The fact that probably everyone in the audience already knows this phenomenon inside out doesn't matter at all. It has been part of every Genesis concert for 35 years and of course it can't be missing this year either. And the band really doesn't let itself down. After a relatively traditionally played first part (In The Glow Of The Night), things really take off. The keyboard sounds seem more modern and fresh and especially Mike goes completely off as the song progresses. He stands wide-legged on the stage and rocks what the stuff holds. I wouldn't have been surprised if he would have smashed his guitar in the end. The dominoes above the stage actually look like dominoes due to grid-like LED light bands and this is underlined by dominoes that look the same, which are faded in on the video wall. It's a nice effect. The videos during the song, as with other songs (see above), are kept rather somber compared to previous tours. Whether this is coincidence or a certain intention is pursued with it remains unclear.

Throwing It All Away is song number two of a series of no less than four Invisible Touch pieces in a row in the set. In the background on the video wall, the backs of CD cases and VHS tapes (for the younger ones: ask parents or grandparents what these are) are shown, on which, judging by the labeling, various Genesis live recordings can be found. A nice idea that visually brings up nostalgia for the first time this evening. With this song, one would have expected that rather less. It now heralds the home stretch of the show, which is dominated by the usual "party songs".

Throwing It All Away

Tonight, Tonight, Tonight is shortened as it has been since 1992, but is accompanied by atmospheric images of rows of houses at night. The track segues into Invisible Touch as has become customary. This hit has been set for years not only on Genesis concerts, even on solo concerts of Phil it has a fixed place in the set since 2005. But it is also one of the classic mood songs at Genesis concerts. Dancing people in the aisles and rows of seats prove that, even if many fans would see the space in the set used more wisely by other material. The show ends without fireworks and also otherwise gets by entirely without pyrotechnics or other wild gimmicks. Fortunately, Genesis rather go back to their roots here, but without renouncing the most modern technology. The main part of the show is visually rounded off by lighting that distantly reminds of that of the opening track Duke's Intro. Discreetly greeting the band leaves the stage after the song. So that can't be it yet.

And right, after a few moments of silence, the unmistakable electronic percussion sounds of I Can't Dance kick in. The piece is presented in the familiar form, but without any "walk". A very welcome decision. Beforehand, I wondered on the one hand if the song would be played at all (I could live without it) and if so, how they would handle that very walk. And now it's clear, the walk is done by Mike, Tony and Phil only as colorful silhouettes on the video wall. Phil logically stays seated, but also Mike, Daryl and the background singers don't make an effort to trudge across the stage in awkward movements. The one or other spectator takes over this as a substitute.

Before it comes to the actual closing song, Genesis have a little treat in their quiver. For the first time since Rock im Park 1998 the first lines of Dancing With The Moonlit Knight up to "Selling England by the Pound" is played. For Phil this is again a challenge, but he masters it serviceably despite obvious effort. This almost nostalgic song snippet transitions seamlessly into Carpet Crawlers. Thus, the show comes full circle and it becomes apparent that Genesis trusts the corset of the 2007 tour. As an emotional finale to the show, the song works excellently. Phil does without a speech before it. And so a remarkable performance comes to an end with a bow of the whole band followed by another one of the three main actors Mike, Phil and Tony after more than two and a quarter hours.

Genesis take a bow

Often one notices what was good or bad, but not what is missing. And that is a drum duet at this concert for the first time since 1976. Since Chester Thompson joined the band as a touring drummer in 1977, this has been a staple of every show. But this time is also the first time since the Lamb tour (with the exception of the Calling All Stations tour, which also didn't feature Chester) that there is only one drummer on stage. There may not be any particular ulterior motive at all in foregoing even a drum solo. Possibly it's just about the length of the show or not putting Nic unduly in the spotlight at such a young age. It could also be that it was undesirable to let Phil stand idly by during another instrumental part, which he played a decisive role in shaping. I actually did not miss this show part.


What remains?

I would like to try to answer this question in conclusion. What remains:

- The impression that the band is in great shape. And I have "only" seen the tour opener. The overall performance should probably get a bit better in the next shows.

- the view of photos and videos documenting a breathtaking stage production. Genesis managed on this tour to transport the classic Genesis show with all its superlatives into modern times. And through it all, they remain true to themselves. Nothing seems out of place or artificial.

- The good feeling to have been part of an audience that at any time carried the band and understandably in special form Phil Collins on their hands. When 13,000 people applaud and cheer like that before, during and after the show, it can't have been that bad.

- a certain surprise that Mike Rutherford has almost become something of a bandleader on the home stretch of the band. He always was in the studio. But on stage, I've never felt his presence as strongly as I do currently.

- To Tony Banks to admit that he (possibly also due to the collaboration with Dave Kerzner) has a not insignificant share in the fresh sound of the old songs.

- renewed astonishment about potential and abilities of Nic Collins. No, he is not a clone of his father. But he is able to put on a show in a band where drums have always played a weighty role, even without decades-old regular drummers Phil Collins and Chester Thompson, without coming across as negative or weak in any way. On the contrary, his demanding drumming definitely drives the band.

- Great respect to Phil Collins for accepting this great challenge. In the meantime, due to the lack of drumming, he can only be measured on two points: Entertainer and singer. The former is in his blood and he obviously hasn't forgotten it. And that alone shows: he had fun this evening and needs the stage. His singing performance has to be acknowledged, even if the show would probably have been impossible in this form without the "catch net background singer". Those who measure him today by performances of earlier tours are simply doing him an injustice. Age, frailty and the sitting position take their toll. There would be only two alternatives: he is there and sings, or not. And then Genesis would probably already be history. It is not just anyone who sings, but the world star Phil Collins, who, as on his Not Dead Yet Tour, is not too shy to openly show the world his inadequacies. Take it or leave it.

- Gratitude, a piece of melancholy and perhaps a tear in the buttonhole that it could have been. Whether the tour will continue in 2022 is not yet clear. Therefore, this evening in Birmingham may or may not have been my farewell to Genesis. But just the possibility of it being so triggers something in me. My memories of Genesis, who I was only allowed to see live in 1998 and with Phil Collins for the first time in 2007, are thoroughly positive and will accompany me for the rest of my life. I owe the band unforgettable concert evenings, great experiences on my travels (which would never have happened without these tours) and fan friendships for life. I will still tell my grandchildren about this.


Author: Ulrich Klemt

Translation: Christian Gerhardts
Photos: Ulrich Klemt (20.09.), Volker Warncke, Chris Simmons (21.09.)


Further Links:

The Last Domino? Tour in our Forum - discuss the shows with other fans
The Last Domino? Tour - all dates

Videos from the shows are available on our YouTube Channel


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