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Telling Stories: Ray Wilson's unplugged first gig in Germany

It has not been very long since we watched Genesis shows and saw a man on stage who could hardly believe he was singing for this rock legend. „If I go down with Genesis my career is over“, Ray Wilson explained to British magazine Select at that time. The rest is history. The album Millionairhead he recorded with his band Cut was a flop. Calling All Stations was not popular in the U.S., and so Tony and Mike decided to call it a day. Ray began to suffer from depression, he really stood in the ruins of his career.

It took some time before he got up on his own feet again. He disbanded Cut in favour of a solo album which was to be called Uncut. He even put some songs on his homepage, but these vanished along with the project uncut, and Ray announced that he would be going on tour. It is hardly surprising that he kicked off his Storytellers tour in Edinburgh, as it was a home game. 13 sold-out shows helped mend his self-confidence. People enjoyed what he did. Armed only with a guitar, his brother and Amanda Lyon he played songs from all over his career and then some. He also released a CD on his website. But he had not played in Germany since the days of Cut in 1999.

Until this summer. Ray announced that he would play at the city festival in Duisburg. The festival has a long tradition, but it is not necessarily the best audience for an unplugged Ray Wilson gig. The audience usually like to sing along to bland German pop songs, and regional stars that are over the hill appear there. Only rarely does some good rock music find its way there.

On June 15, 2002 Ray Wilson was headliner of the free show. At ten in the evening he took the stage. The weather was fine, comfortably warm without the rain the forecasts had mentioned. Ray saw an audience of around 2,000 and grinned. Then he surprised them by opening with Biko – not a  big party song, but easily recognized. The audience would frequently have reason to admire classics this night. This way Ray played himself into their favour. The songs sound loose because of the acoustic performance. Ray's voice and humour were in top form that night. The second song, Follow You Follow Me won over the rest of the audience before he went on a journey through the history of music, playing songs by David Bowie, Bob Dylan, lots of Genesis, Stiltskin, of course, and even Pink Floyd. His version of Springsteen's Born To Run was gripping; the performance of the Genesis classic Ripples was as overwhelming as it was surprising – Ray announced it as his favourite song of the best Genesis album. Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here had the desired effect on the audience, as did the brave acoustic versions of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Mama and There Must Be Some Other Way. It felt unbelievable what Ray manages to get out of the song with two guitars. The regular set was about 80 minutes long, then Ray played encores for almost an hour. The audience did not want to let him go and Ray had a great time. He had warmed up very well for his only solo show at Kaue, Gelsenkirchen, the next day.


June 16, 2002, Kaue, Gelsenkirchen, a quarter past 6. The place is empty, a couple of fans have withdrawn to the bar. Since we have a date for an interview we go looking for the promoter. „He could be in better spirits“, Wolfgang of Impuls Promotion tells us, „He somehow does not really feel like it and his voice is not so good today.“ Ray recorded a radio special before the show so the interview would take place only after the show. Some 250 fans took their seats in the tasteful environment of the Kaue to watch the show from the floor and the gallery. Ray took the stage right on time and began with Follow You Follow Me. After a bum note he broke off that song and played Lover's Leap. Combine that with what the promoter had said and you would get worried. It would, however, soon turn out to be a memorable show at the Kaue.


Ray just called out the next song to Amanda and Steve spontaneously. No fixed setlist, they just went out and played. They continued with a number of Genesis classics including a flawless repeat of Follow You Follow Me. He had played most of the songs the night before in Duisburg but in a different order. After a terrific Ripples he proceeded to play some new songs. Gouranga seemed a bit undecided when we first heard it, but Change, the new album's title song, is really catchy. Change is, as it were, the positive sequel to Ghost, a song he played shortly before Change.

Now Ray opened the treasure chest of classics. Forever Young and Blowing In The Wind by Bob Dylan, Ziggy Stardust and Space Oddity by David Bowie and finally Born To Run by Bruce The Boss Springsteen. Stiltskin were not left out, either. Then there was a mixed bag of encores including Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. The Genesis fans, who were the majority of the audience, are treated to Mama, There Must Be Some Other Way and a grandiose Fading Lights. Right at the end they played a new song that did not have a name yet. 


In between songs Ray would tell humourous stories. He talked of his first session with Genesis working on Calling All Stations when Mike sang a song to him and he had to laugh at that. The story is well-known. A couple of years ago this was supposed to have happened as Mike sang the title song, now the event was linked to Shipwrecked. Before Change he also mentioned the hard times he went through: "I lost my house, my girl, my car ... my flat ... now I live in a caravan (laughs)"with Fish.“ Stories like these won the audience over. There were thoughtful moments, too, but overall it was a merry show.

In autumn 2002 Ray will come to Germany for a longer tour. The Kaue concert was more than just an advertisement for a Ray Wilson live show.

After the show Ray gave us an interview in which he mentioned interesting details about his past, present and future.

by Christian Gerhardts
translated by Martin Klinkhardt
photo by Christian Gudrian


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