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The Musical Box - Stuttgart 2007

Selling England by The Pound live at the Liederhalle Stuttgart (January 20, 2007)

...caught the TMB / Genesis bug

flowerIf you had asked me (born in 1972) two years ago when the band had already been playing everywhere for years – if you had asked me about a cover band called The Musical Box then, I would not have had a clue. I would have had to pass, too, if you had asked me to list records or songs from the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis. Supper’s Ready was about the only piece I could have mentioned. At that time I had Genesis records from a wholly different area in my collection – Genesis, Invisible Touch and We Can’t Dance. My brother-in-law, who had seen the Black Show in Gersthofen recommended I watch the Lamb Lies Down show in Germering. Since I did not want to go there utterly unprepared I bought the album and discovered that the music is addictive. Not really accessible at first, but it grew more and more intense and interesting. I was completely overwhelmed by the show. Some time later January 20th was mentioned for a performance of the Selling England show in Stuttgart. By that time I had caught the TMB/Genesis bug but did not know the Foxtrot and Selling England records yet. I have found out just how big a mistake that was. Completely different music than the later Lamb Lies Down album. Longer songs, different arrangement, fascinating! One thing was certain : I had to get some tickets ASAP. We actually bought them in late autumn – from that moment onwards there was no other music on my mp3-player anymore. I also did some very serious research in the internet.
Then the day had finally come. We took the afternoon train to Stuttgart. Luckily it was a Saturday, so we had enough time to check in at the hotel and have a snack. We had located the venue and the appropriate hall immediately after our arrival in order to avoid a panic search for the right place. It was a very relaxed day. The show was to begin at 8pm and we took our places some fifteen minutes before. The Liederhalle is much larger than the Stadthalle Germering; seating is very suitable for a concert of this kind. The average age of the audience must have been some 40-odd years. They all had the same gleaming in their eyes and their excitement at the things to come was almost palpable. The t-shirts some were wearing made it evident that there were not only new fans of the group. Some of them made small-talk, others waited calmly for the beginning.
The show kicked off with Watcher Of The Skies. Perfection was the guiding principle from the beginning through the introductions and jokes to the bright white finale of Supper’s Ready. Every song met frenetic applause; some quietly enjoyed the songs while others had brought their air drumkit and ‘drummed along’ with the songs.
The end of the show fit in with the rest. After obligatory request from the audience and the brief introduction The Knife was played. Despite all hopes to the contrary we knew that the show was definitely over.
The lights came on and the audience went outside to check out the merchandising stall; some nicked a concert poster for other shows, and everybody was happy yet sad that there would be no repeat anymore.
To sum up the quality of the event: It was almost perfect (as always), the fountain of fire appeared almost in time for “Hey Babe…”, the ‘sky full of stars’ worked very well in the Liederhalle. Only the sound droned a little bit at the beginning, but my impression was that I soon got used to it. The sound in Stuttgart compared favorably to that of Germering where the volume was higher.
Rumour has it that the show will go on in autumn. I would appreciate to have a shorter way home then, perhaps somewhere in the vicinity of Munich.

by Stefan Stang

translated by Martin Kinkhardt


flowerOne term that usually pops up in reviews of TMB shows is the “journey into the past / the 70s”. What you see and hear in this show is as gripping today as it was thirty years ago and as it will be in 2040. Now for our evening in Stuttgart, our first (and luckily not last) ‘white’ Selling show:
The wife, my in-law and me have taken our seats and watch the scene around us: Fans, most of them gentlemen in their best ages. They all behave like little boys looking on Christmas morning. Some families are there, too; they have brought their (teenaged) children and lambast them with stories from their own youth when music was hand-made and stage effects were not yet computer-controlled. The white hour-glass shapes are very different, almost sober, not as full of secrets as the black curtains of the Black show we saw in Augsburg in 2004.
Far too soon, before we could fully appreciate the fact that we are going to see this concert, the show kicks off at 8 p.m. with the first chords of Watcher Of The Skies. The opening song is the first highlight of the show. Shivers run down my spine when “Peter Gabriel” turns his back to the audience in the finale, lifts the cloak, lowers it again and then jumps all over the stage with his tambourine hiding his face. Highlight follows highlight, and it is hard to take in all the acoustic and visual impressions.
My favourite song from the Selling LP and therefore a personal highlight is The Battle Of Epping Forest. The minimalistic stocking mask fascinates me. The moment when the slides with the stockinged head are shown, one from the front, one from the side, turns into a eerie experience.
Then the piece the whole fan congregation was most excitedly looking forward to: Supper’s Ready grows step by step into the ultimate nonplusultra; the parts are too varied and complex to fully appreciate the opus grande without any further ado. The most remarkable bits: a sloppy, sliding walk accompanying “Hello babe…” that’s really something; “Peter Gabriel” sings “I know a farmer…”, puts on the crown of thorns, sings “I know a fireman…” and your stomach heaves… after the introduction to Willow Farm, “A flower?” he hilariously kicks out in time to the Vaudeville-like sounds; the instrumental part of Apocalypse in front of the projected flames works its way to the showdown until the 666 box and the black cloack step out from behind the hour-glass shapes and shakes its head in the strobe lights – a truly magic moment; the big bang and the shedding of the cleak – “Hey babe…” in the white catsuit now – the show has come full circle.
The obligatory encore is, of course, The Knife. One could die and go to heaven during “some of you are going to die…” Once more the strobe lights go on and everything moves in a kind of edgy slowmotion once more. The eyes threaten to give up their service.
Then it is over. Ecstatic applause. The lights go on. What rests? The big VOID – but also the memory of a unique experience and the knowledge that the Selling England show WAS, IS and WILL forever be definitive.

by Thomas Krone

translated by Martin Klinkhardt

Moist eyes and goosebumps

flowerGenesis fans who did not have the advantage of seeing the Foxtrot, Selling England and Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tours in the early 1970s could only find their solace in reveries, photos and concert snippets from the internet. The Canadian Genesis clone project The Musical Box makes the dreams of Gabriel-era fans come true beyond all comparison. It is something of an understatement to call this group of excellent musicians and avid Genesis fans a cover band. Using instruments that were carefully restored, built after vintage originals and occasionally even borrowed from museums they manage to reconstruct the sound of Genesis in the studio – plus they rebuild every single detail of the visual effects and the choreography on stage. To accomplish that they had to consult not only (former) members of Genesis but also the rare video and audio footage. The illusion, however, is almost perfect. Denis Gagné mimes the young Genesis vocalist, aided by the fact that he looks like Gabriel and has the same timbre of his voice. What does it matter that the musicians around Gagné do not look like exact copies of the originals?

This night they are going to reconstruct the white show from the Selling… tour 1973/74. White is the colour that dominates the stage, Gabriel’s black catsuit excepted. It is the colour of the musicians’ clothes, Phil Collins’ (Martin Levac’s) drumkit and the hourglass-shaped things that mark the rear edge of the stage and also serve as screens for the original slides from the 70s. The typical intro for Watcher Of The Skies gives many a fan wet eyes and shivers down their spines. The band performs with lots of routine and perfection. The album is showcased in its representative longtracks interspersed with Gabriel bizarre announcements and costumed choreography. The sound in the first couple of rows is outstanding. Gabriel’s voice keeps up well with the hellfire of Collins’ dominant and dynamic drumming and Tony’s (David Myers’) exuberant organ sounds without the music losing Steve Hackett’s (Francois Gagnon’s) atmospheric guitar playing and Mike Rutherford’s (Sebastien Lamothe’s) solid work on the rhythm guitar.
The band and its vocalist, who is dressed as Britannia, present the opening song of the album, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, and The Cinema Show afterwards. Many people break out their air drumkit during the instrumental section of the latter song. I Know What I Like, a top 20 hit at the time, offers some time to sing along or just catch one’s breath. While Genesis themselves often denied it to their audiences, Banks presents it with confidence: The piano intro to the cult song Firth Of Fifth is just one example of the band’s virtuosity. With music theater presented in such a grand manner we may overlook the fact that Hackett occasionally misses a note during the goosebump solo. He is definitely more annoyed about that than the audience.
Then there is the Genesis classic that the band adopted as their name. Everything that was known from documentaries, interviews &c. melts into a consistent image: the calm verses accompanied by the flute, the dynamic instrumental section and the legendary performance by the Old Man who collapses after the thundering climax of the song. The set list offers another relaxing piece. Collins would step up to the microphone to sing the acoustic More Fool Me. Unfortunately, The Musical Box failed to procure the necessary guitar. Therefore the brief guitar instrumental Horizons is played, a piece that would be a highlight of Hackett’s solo concerts even many years later.
The Battle Of Epping Forest is the only dry spell of the concert. The complexity of the arrangement seems to exhaust the band even though many fans have got their heads around it. The sound seems to waver a bit. By the time Supper’s Ready begins the energy levels are at their max again, there’s nothing missing there. The audience are treated to the full epic with costumes like the Flower (for Willow Farm) and Magog (Apocalypse in 9/8), before Gabriel, clad in silver, introduces the end of the show after a loud bang. The Musical Box prove more generous than their idols even to the end. The band reappears on stage and Gabriel briefly introduces the encore. The Knife. This classic piece was not played too often back then. A journey through time ends after that.

by Tony Reinsperger

translated by Martin Klinkhardt

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