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The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway near perfection.

The Musical Box perform in Milwaukee, Wi (29/10/2011)

The last studio album that Genesis recorded as a band was 1997's Calling All Stations. Simply put, it has been fourteen years since we had any original material recorded by one of rock's most successful bands. The rumour mill keeps churning up gossip about possible reunions but we should be realistic about it; chances are that we have seen everything we will ever see from Genesis.

During their illustrious career the band put out quite the catalogue of songs which should cement their place in modern music history. Among their albums there was a gem of a concept album titled The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. To many fans, (including myself), the Lamb was the most creative effort by the band. A double album that told a surrealistically strange story of a young half-Puerto Rican hoodlum from New York City.

Originally, the album was released with mixed reviews. In the UK the album did much better than in the U.S. but then again, Genesis was not really that well known at the time by American fans. Regardless of charts positioning, Genesis embarked on a tour of the album that played through 102 shows. The show presented the entire piece in the most theatrical fashion that Peter Gabriel could muster. The stage also featured three big screens behind the band that would play a myriad of slides throughout the show. It was quite an elaborate production worthy of the complex music that composed it.

Thirty-seven years have passed since Genesis went on tour supporting "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway". For the vast majority of today's Genesis fans, the Lamb tour is just a past-history event that was only captured through some film clips, sound recordings or various photographs and tales by the band members and crew. That is, until tribute bands began to figure out that there was an audience still wanting to see shows such as The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. One, and perhaps the best of the Genesis tribute bands is a Canadian outfit called "The Musical Box" (aptly named after the Genesis song). They perform the show with an amazing detail. They are in fact, so good that they are the only "licenced" band by Genesis and Peter Gabriel. In preparing for the show, the band visited Genesis facilities in Surrey and got a copy of the original slides, stage blue prints and lighting rig schematics in order to recreate the scene as closely as possible. In 2005 during one of their performances, The Musical Box were joined on stage by Phil Collins who took up the drums during the encore.


Like many people out there, I didn't know at first what to think about tribute bands. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Bands like Genesis do not exist anymore. The only way to appreciate the music played live is to watch another band play it. Sure, there are DVDs and videos but they only captured certain performances with certain set list. There are no videos of a full Genesis performance of the Lamb out there. Nor there will ever be one since they simply don't exist.

That leaves many fans (like myself) wondering how I would have been to witness one of those shows. Better yet, wondering how it would have been to witness one of those shows during one of its best nights. Enter The Musical box. The band has learned the instrumentation of the show to the very last detail. I actually doubt that Genesis themselves worked as hard to get the consistency on stage that these guys have achieved. I'm not saying that they are better than Genesis. I'm saying that they took Genesis' performance and learned it to a degree of detail that allows them to play it consistently night after night. In fact, by now, The Musical Box has play the Lamb show more than Genesis ever did.

So here we are, seating centre-stage on the second row of the balcony on a rather intimate venue. The lights go out and we hear a familiar voice talking about a story about "our hero" who gets sucked underground in Manhattan island. The voice, very similar to Peter Gabriel's ends the introduction with: "This is the Story of Rael". What follows is the entire album played throughout from beginning to end. All along, there are an assortment of effects like fog, lights, slide shows and costume changes as well as some excellent musicianship and some of the best progressive rock ever composed.

"Finally", I said to myself. After all, this was the first time that I was able to put all the visuals I have seen before in sync with the show. "So, this is when he changes into the slipperman costume". I found myself entertained just by the mere fact that now I know how to put the various photos I've seen before into context. I was worried that I would have found the theatrics to be silly but instead, I found them very entertaining and instrumental in moving the narrative along.


As I sat through the show I couldn't help but wonder what Peter or Phil or Steve or Mike thought of seeing the show from an audience perspective. It's got to be somewhat puzzling and fascinating. However, from my point of view I have to say that the show was a welcoming reminder of how great the music of Genesis from that period was. It was also a good peak into the window of a time when creative staging was just coming out of its shell.

After the band finished the last song of the story, I dreaded the idea of the whole thing finishing. After all, I was having a genuinely good of a time. The band came back and played two songs for an encore: The Musical Box and Watcher of the Skies. Never braking character, the band went into darkness without revealing their true identities. To find that out, I resorted to the internet. For my part, I was glad to have attended and to have with me my trusty iPhone (which I used to take the photos shown here).

text and photos by Leon Alvarado

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