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Come Rain Or Shine

A tour documentary by Anthony Mathile

When you open the When In Rome DVD set you will notice that next to DVDs with the concert there is another DVD in a separate card sleeve. Come Rain Or Shine is billed as the “documentary 2007”. This is not a 30 minute quick’n’dirty piece of junk, but a very thoroughly composed documentary. The camera accompanies Genesis through all periods of tour preparation, from the first rehearsals in New York to the moment in autumn 2007 when the final bars of The Carpet Crawlers fade away. And Genesis permit themselves another little pun: Not only have they picked proverbs as titles for the DVD set, but both proverbs fit the content!
The style may seem familiar, because the director is none other than Anthony Mathile who also directed Phil Collins’ tour documentary The Long Goodnight. It is characteristic for both film that the people in the film seem quite at ease. When a camera team accompanies you almost everywhere for half a year, you probably get used to them, which gives the illusion that the viewer is in the middle of the action.

An excellent front credit leads us into the film which begins with Phil’s arrival for the rehearsals in New York. These very first minutes show the strengths of the documentary: Phil, Mike and Tony are very relaxed, very at ease, and the viewer is taken straight into the events. The three are preparing the tour, which means: Which songs shall be played? And how are they played? In which key?
It is a touching moment when the trio meet Ahmet Ertegun, the late founder of Atlantic Records, and it leads nicely on to the promotional work they do. They bear it with patience when they get asked the same questions over and over again, and they do not lose their temper even when a journalist asks Phil, who sits in his tracksuit between jackett-clad Mike and Tony, who will adapt their clothing styles to whose.
Every now and again interview snippets are inserted. They show the band and Tony Smith musing about how they see the reunion, how their relationships with each other have changed and so on.
The tour planning machinery begins to move: The band and their agent discuss how many shows they want to play in how many places; there are bits from the press conference, and we are right there when Mark Fisher and Patrick Woodroffe introduce their first sketches for the stage. We are also with them when Tony’s vertigo wipes their favourite idea right off the table (despite X-rated suggestions for dealing with it).
As the rehearsals progress tempers turn bad when a song simply does not seem to come together. Tony: “Now you gotta do it for real.” Phil: “Scary!” Daryl leniently remarks that there are musicians who like to rehearse and others who do not. Mike philosophizes about how they had nostalgic notions about the reunion and now realized it was hard work.
Developing the stage and choosing animations for the LED wall must have been a welcome diversion for them. Mike and Tony look very impressed when they first see the complete stage at Expo hall 5 in Brussels – well, which concert-goer did not share that feeling? At this point in the documentary Domino, its lyrics and the visuals for it move into the foreground. With just two weeks to go before the first show they still experiment with the show. One of the ideas is putting Phil on a lift behind the stage so that he appears on the top rim of the LED wall for the second part of Domino. It is quickly dismissed in the laughter of messieurs Smith and Banks, the latter Tony aptly putting it: “Well, if you were Gilmour playing a guitar solo it would be okay.”

CoverAgain and again the choice of effects is reduced to one central question: Is it Genesis? All band members agree that working on Chapter & Verse made them think about who the band is, how they perceive themselves and their band mates and if and how things have changed through time.
Then comes the big moment of a famous, if somewhat unlikely instrument: The leather covered bar stool from Phil’s hotel room makes its entry. Phil and Chester drum their first sketches for the drum duet on it – and the next day Phil floats the idea to kick off the drum duet on bar stools. Consequently, Phil’s drum roadie is sent off to buy a suitable bar stools. What must the furniture salesman have thought when two guys appeared with a camera team in tow and started to merrily drum away on the bar stools?
Another part of the show is still in a state of emergency – one week before the show. The video sequences for the LED wall have to be triggered absolutely on cue, and nobody really feels responsible. The crew needs a button-pusher, and this button-pusher has to memorize that sequence of videos and their cues. Major problems like these really raise tensions in the crew, and nothing reveals this better than the labels on three special buttons on the video trigger console: “oh shit”, “oh FUCK!!!” and “abort all”.  It is only one day before the Helsinki premiere when the videos seem to come together, but Tony Smith remains worried. When the set list reaches Domino in Helsinki, Patrick Woodroffe tries to buoy up the button-pusher – and it really works out.

The tour could now run its course but for Part Two: The Rain.

It begins with impressions from Hamburg, Germany, where it is raining cats and dogs and continues with images from the deluge in Berne, Switzerland. A first ray of light occurs in Chorzw/Katowice, Poland. The road crew immediately set to work using blow-driers to dry the plugs and then protect them from the rain using insulating tape and silicone. The light crew’s status report sound desolate and then the bad news hits: A thunderstorm is approaching. Emergency plans are developed: If there is lightning, the lighting towers and the stage have to be cleared immediately. When Phil tentatively asks what they are supposed to do if lightning strikes close to the venue Tony Smith has a grim answer: “Then you leave the stage … if you still can.” In the end they played the whole show, though, and you need not look further than the DVD cover to see how impressively nature complemented Genesis’ lightshow. The Polish fans were certainly grateful the show was not cancelled. To see the enthusiasm and fervour with which young and old fans alike sing along to Carpet Crawlers at the end is really moving, and it brings back memories to the reviewer’s mind from the show when he stood in the crowd and sang along himself. A couple of images from Circus Maximus in Rome, Italy, from the constant travelling and the recreation breaks in between put the finishing touch on a remarkable documentary.

A brief look at the technical side:  The video quality is outstanding throughout. The sound options are quite simply because there is only stereo. Since this is a documentary surround sound is not exactly required, though. Subtitles are offered in German, Spanish, French, Italian and Dutch. Unfortunately they are not always correct. The German subtitles suggest that Mike and his wife are talking about the weather, for example. Some translations are pure nonsense, and one notices simply by reading them. When Tony says “I need a sort of starting point…” the German subtitles have something like “I knew a sort of start of every song. Otherwise I will go mad”. The subtitles are really a missed opportunity, but they are the only downer on this DVD.

Come Rain Or Shine is a great documentary about the preparations for the Turn It On Again tour. It offers an exciting view behind the scenes – and at a time before these scenes had been built or indeed designed. The viewer is always in the midst of it, whether the band are joking with each other or a frustrated Phil throws the microphone into a corner. We are there to witness the less important things (those ten drops) and the major problems like the timing of the video cues; we are also there for the funny moments and the big decisions. That is what makes Come Rain Or Shine so appealing and entertaining. Indeed, When In Rome is really worth getting because of this DVD alone. 

by Martin Klinkhardt

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