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Calling All Stations Tour header

Genesis - Calling All Stations Tour 1998

European tour report

First, the background. The first live performances Genesis played without Phil Collins to promote their new album took place in Berlin and Cape Canaveral on August 26 and 28. They played four acoustic songs, No Son Of Mine, Not About Us, Lover’s Leap and Turn It On Again.

Genesis had planned to kick off their tour in North America between early November and mid-December 1997. Slow ticket sales and technical problems caused this leg of the tour to be postponed indefinitely. The first show of the tour therefore took place on January 29, 1998 in Budapest.

They appeared twice before that, though. On 15/11/1997 they played a brief electric set in Copenhagen before a small audience for the Danish radio. The set they played for Radio RTL in Paris, France, on 13/12/1997 was almost 80 minutes long and consisted of No Son Of Mine, Congo, Land Of Confusion, Small Talk, Mama, Not About Us (acoustic), Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (shortened, acoustic), Follow You Follow Me (acoustic), Lovers' Leap (acoustic), Calling All Stations, Invisible Touch, Shipwrecked, Alien Afternoon and Turn It On Again.

Right before the tour began the full show was presented to a select audience of journalists and fan club members from all over Europe. This warm-up gig took place at Bray film studios near Maidenhead, UK, on 23/01/1998 where Genesis had been rehearsing the previous three weeks with the full stage. The press performance consisted of a set that was also changed at the regular shows, albeit with the occasional change or dropped song:

No Son Of Mine
Land Of Confusion
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Calling All Stations
Hold On My Heart
That's All
There Must Be Some Other Way
Carpet Crawlers
Firth Of Fifth (instrumental part)
Home By The Sea / Second Home By The Sea
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (shortened, acoustic)
Follow You Follow Me (acoustic)
Lovers' Leap (acoustic)
The Dividing Line
Invisible Touch
Turn It On Again

Throwing It All Away
I Can't Dance 

Two songs stood out: That’s All, and a song that did not meet with much approval in the audience, Hold On My Heart. Genesis had a very discriminating audience and they did not have too much experience with this line-up, so the mood in front of and on the stage was good, but frequently a bit restrained. After the gig the band mixed with fans and the press, giving interviews and signing autograms.
The tour began on January 29. Genesis first went to Easter Europe. They played Budapest, Katowice and Prague before the tour came to Germany, Italy, France and finally to England.

So how did these first shows go? The first thing audiences noticed was the stage. It was set up at the end of the venue (instead of a centre stage like Collins and Gabriel had on their tours shortly before). Those who knew the video from the UK Congo CD single also knew the sophisticated stage concept (more on that in our CAS tour stage special) and wondered where the “promised” twelve new big screens had come to. Genesis had, in fact, only brought the three Jumbotron screens from the previous tour with them. These were mounted immovably behind the stage. Apart from that it all looked as announced, with a Perspex stage floor and mountings on a structure of aluminum pipes.

Since there have been few changes to the set list let us examine a typical show and look at changes and special things later.

The shows would begin more or less on time with No Son Of Mine. Genesis continue the tradition of opening with a hit from the album before the current. Many fans may have had grave doubts as they went to the shows, but with this opener Genesis won (back) most of the audience in 1998. Though there were no less than three new musicians on stage they were placed the way we are used to seeing them: The live guitarist on the far left (as seen from the audience), then Mike, then the singer, Tony on the far right and the drummer in the second row.

Land Of Confusion followed and was, like No Son Of Mine, hardly any different from the 1992 live version.

After this unsurprising beginning they played the first highlight: Tony played a kind of peculiar intro that turned into The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Ray sang very well, and you could see Anthony Drennan on guitar for the first time while Mike plucked the bass. The song was played completely – for the first time since 1982.

The big screens that had been hid behind curtains so far were now revealed. Calling All Stations was the first song from the new album, and the band did not only prove that they can play it as well as on the album, but also that this song is infinitely better if it has a full ending instead of a fade-out.

The same goes for Alien Afternoon. Mike and Anthony both played the guitar here (as on Calling All Stations and the song after Alien Afternooon), but only in the second half. Tony’s backing vocals during the chorus were notable.

Ray then said that the band had done a survey to find out the most wanted songs from the audience. He explained that the song to follow was the next-to-most wanted song after No Son Of Mine – and so we time-travelled back to 1974. Ray sat down on a bar stool for Carpet Crawlers; the set would have been poorer without this song.

Then we fast-forward 23 years to a song from the new album. There Must Be Some Other Way was, according to Ray, the first line he came up with spontaneously when he auditioned with Genesis.

Domino was the next song. Like almost every song from the Collins era it was performed “as usual”. The video clips were identical, and Ray, too, was lifted up in front of the centre sceen for the “blood on the windows” bit. The song (and others) was a bit harder than on previous tours. Domino was one of the highlights of the show.

As an introduction to Shipwrecked Ray held a small radio close to the microphone, tried out different stations in his quest for good music which, of course, led to the song intro.

What followed was a peculiar Firth Of Fifth. The verses were left out. A drum intro similar to I Know What I Like led into the instrumental part only. This was Anthony Drennan’s first time in the spot light, but his guitar solo was not quite the real thing. Like Daryl he did not play Hackett’s original version, though he stayed close to it in the beginning and towards the end. Mike played the bass on this and the following song.

The extended Congo featured a drum into and jungle illustrations on the screens. As with several songs from the new album the live version was even better than the original.

Ray then tried to follow in Phil’s footsteps as a story-teller. He introduced the audience to the imaginary girl-friends of the band (actually, the four movable light columns on stage) which turned into an introduction to Home By The Sea / Second Home By The Sea. The ’98 live version was nothing new yet still impressive. Parts of the video animation were new, though.

Roadies brought a couple of microphone stands and four bar stools to the front of the stage, and the unplugged part of the night began where Anthony, Mike and Tony played the acoustic guitars, Nir played some percussion and Ray sang. They played the beginning of Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (with a very convincing Drennan), a camp fire version of Follow You Follow Me and Lovers’ Leap, the first part of Supper’s Ready. Various people who shouted for the whole Supper’s Ready to be played after “Hasn’t it?” need not be commented upon. One thing became clear during the show: Supper’s Ready and Firth Of Fifth, that is what Mike and Tony used to be, but are not anymore. It is as if they were covering themselves, like looking back at a previous life.

Another example for a good version of a song that was tailor-made for Phil Collins was Ray’s performance of Mama. Phil himself could not have laughed any dirtier than Ray in the diffuse green light. Mike, Tony and Ray were alone onstage for the first half of the song. Nir and Anthony joined them only for the second half

Not only is The Dividing Line a popular song from the album, it is also one of the strongest songs in the set. Anthony and Mike played a long “guitar duel” at the beginning. Nir Z provided a fantastic extensive drum solo that now and then suggested slight problems with keeping time, but it more than proved that he is a very capable drummer.

Towards the end of the show the set switched to songs that do not live up to the course of the concert. All of a sudden they start to play it safe and perform songs that do not fit this line-up anymore. Invisible Touch is simply too Collins for Ray to give the song a new shape. And so he sang exactly like Phil without the slightest attempt at variation.

The end of the regular set was Turn It On Again which has been played on every single tour since 1980. Frankly, enough is enough.

The encores are no special treat either. What we have said about Invisible Touch also applies to Throwing It All Away – though one saw and heard Ray it sounded and looked like Phil. What’s more, everybody in the audience would probably have wished for other encores than these two songs.

I Can’t Dance as the final song can only be seen as the band’s attempt at proving they can pull their own legs. It does not change a bit that Ray tries to give it a new visual spin by picking a dancing partner from the audience and taking some “dancing lessons” on stage. Towards the end he would introduce a new instrument to the Genesis pool by playing a few bars on the harp.

Thus the shows ended and left behind them mixed feelings. On the one hand the show has many highlights and moments that had not been part of a Genesis show in a long time. On the other hand they frequently went back to using tried and trusted tricks and songs. Without Chester, Daryl and first of all Phil the band lost much of its special appeal for the fans, and that is a shame. If they manage to let go of the past and get into Genesis as a newcomer band they should be able to overcome the woefulness. Ray Wilson does a great job, though he needs to get away from the things that are typical Collins. Nir Z played very lively. Anthony Drennan remained a bit too unremarkable but proved that he is capable of playing both the guitar and the bass very well. Tony, Mike and their entourage are standing at the beginning of a new era, and they all still need some time to become a team.

Now a couple of words about what was special about particular concerts.

Genesis played Hold On My Heart for a last time at the first gig in Budapest. The song was dropped from the set afterwards.

The other shows went as described above. Mama was not played in Zurich, though, which indicated that there would be changes in the set. In Rome they left out Alien Afternoon and There Must Be Some Other Way, and in Milan they also dropped Throwing It All Away. After that the band found their way back to a regular set. From Birmingham onwards they would play these songs at all shows: No Son Of Mine, Land Of Confusion, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Calling All Stations, Carpet Crawl, There Must Be Some Other Way (or Alien Afternoon instead), Domino, Firth Of Fifth (instrumental), Congo, Home By The Sea / Second Home By The Sea, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (shortened, acoustic), Follow You Follow Me (acoustic), Lovers' Leap (acoustic), Not About Us (acoustic), Mama, The Dividing Line, Invisible Touch, Turn It On Again. Encores: Throwing It All Away, I Can't Dance.

It is remarkable that they dropped Shipwrecked and added Not About Us in the acoustic block, probably because Not About Us succeeded Shipwrecked as the current single.

Some of the shows took place without the big screens (e.g. Budapest and Vienna).

In Berlin the drum rhythm failed briefly, and when Ray went backstage to be lifted up in front of the screens for Domino he forgot his microphone at the front of the stage – a roadie got it for him just in time. 


Their performances at the two big German Whitsun open airs, the Rock Am Ring (at the Nürburgring) and Rock Im Park (Nuremberg) marked the end of this tour that took place in Europe only. North America and other parts of the world went away empty-handed.

What could be said about the shows from the final leg of the tour that has not been said yet? Not much. Neither the stage setup nor the set list changed, but the band seemed to have evolved into a team more than they were in February. The atmosphere in the band was visibly more relaxed, and the routine required for a perfect show had been established. The newcomers in particular, Anthony, Nir and Ray had developed much more self-confidence.

A small highlight and an absolute low point marked this tour finale. The Munich gig took place on Tony Banks’s 48th birthday. Many fans had probably come to the Olympiahalle especially for this reason, to celebrate with Tony and catch the stoic keyboarder make at least some gesture towards the audience during the predictable “Happy birthday”. The audience began singing for the first time when Ray introduced Tony’s “imaginary girl-friend” (before Home By The Sea). But Tony and especially Ray did not really react to that. This peculiar behaviour was explained when the band came to the front for the acoustic set: Nir brought a gigantic birthday cake (courtesy of the tour promoter, Rieger) to the front which he handed to Tony while Ray and the audience sang him a “Happy Birthday”. Flowers and cuddly toys flew towards Tony who allowed himself nothing more besides a broad grin before the show continued. Apparently there were some celebrations later on backstage. Amongst the people who wanted to congratulate Tony in person were Brian May and the Mechanics drummer Gary Wallis.

The Bielefeld show on March 31 had been added as a bonus date, so that many fans who could not get tickets for other gigs or simply wanted to see Genesis again used the opportunity. The Seidenstickerhalle filled up quickly and everybody expected a great show. But it grew later and later, and some time after the gig was supposed to have begun two gentlemen, one from the local promoter and one from Peter Rieger – came on stage and explained the show could not take place because Ray had lost his voice. The show would be postponed to May. The audience voiced their disappointment, some expressed anger, but by and by they all left the venue. What nobody knew at the time because it would be announced only the next day was the fact that the replacement show would not take place at all because it would have been too costly to bring all the equipment to Bielefeld for one gig a couple of weeks after the end of the tour. Everybody got a refund, of course, but what compensation is that for a missed show? When angry fans complained in letters the record company issued an official press statement. Ray himself felt embarrassed about this, too, because he talked about this in a letter to our Fanclub shortly afterwards.

The last opportunity to catch Genesis with their Calling All Stations programme was on Whitsun at the open air festivals in Germany. Genesis were co-headliners (after Bob Dylan) both a Rock Am Ring (May 30) and Rock im Park (May 31) as the final acts of the respective day. The big screens were back, but the set was shorter than at the regular shows. At Rock Am Ring Genesis played Calling All Stations, Land Of Confusion, No Son Of Mine, Domino, Congo, Home By The Sea / Second Home By The Sea, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (shortened, acoustic), Follow You Follow Me (acoustic), Not About Us (acoustic), Mama, The Dividing Line, Invisible Touch, Turn It On Again, Throwing It All Away and I Can't Dance. The Rock Im Park set the following day, was similar, as Genesis played Land Of Confusion, Calling All Stations, No Son Of Mine, Domino, Congo, Home By The Sea / Second Home By The Sea, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (shortened, acoustic), Follow You Follow Me (acoustic), Lovers' Leap (acoustic), Mama, The Dividing Line, Invisible Touch, Turn It On Again, Throwing It All Away and I Can't Dance. Though it was raining cats and dogs for part of the show the audience was in excellent spirits.

Genesis have proved with this tour that there is a “life after Collins” as far as live shows are concerned. The band’s philosophy that each tour was to be an evolutionary step beyond the previous tour had to be abandoned for the time being. For the first time since many years Genesis down-sized as far as stage design, show and lighting are concerned. They did not top the record audiences of the We Can’t Dance tour. The North American tour that was postponed and later cancelled tells its own tale. Still, Genesis were not a worse live act in 1998 than in 1992. One has to bear in mind that this is virtually a different band. New musicians determined the musical direction even more than in the studio. It is astonishing that the music still sounds as ever.

Let us hope that this new Genesis generation remains around for a long time and does not degenerate into a session band with Tony, Mike and Ray bringing ever-changing musicians into the studio and onto the stage. If Genesis could also manage to shorten the interval between two albums and/or tours everybody would be absolutely happy. Be that as it may, there will certainly be another Genesis tour…

by Helmut Janisch and Bernd Vormwald
translated by Martin Klinkhardt


Genesis - Calling All Stations tour - guest reviews