Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks – Genesis to you and me – played their last ever concerts at The O2 Arena this weekend.
I last saw Genesis play live in 1987, at Wembley Stadium on the Invisible Touch tour. Collins was a dynamo, walking up to the stage like a boxer, every bit the terrific front man, getting the crowd involved at every turn with in-between song banter. Don’t take my word for it, they filmed it:
That was thirty five years ago, and Friday’s concert was a sobering reminder of the passage of time.
Collins was a mere 36 back in 1987, he’s 71 in 2022 if my maths is up to scratch, and his health isn’t what it was, with a spinal injury restricting his movements. He is seated for the performance and requires a cane to walk.
He has retained much of his voice, but that chirpy cockney act of 1987 feels a long time ago. He even re-enacted the “Domino” audience participation bit, but it missed the lightning wit and energy from 1987 and, for me at least, only served to highlight how time takes its toll.
It’s okay though. It could be worse. He could be a fifty year old singer acting like a spoilt teenager, mentioning no names.
One thing that time hasn’t stolen is the music. There were songs played at last night’s concert that I probably hadn’t heard since I sold my Genesis records (and all the other ones too) in 1992.
Why hadn’t I played them in so long?
Maybe Genesis were never as popular after the story came out of Collins divorcing his wife by fax. A man whose popularity rested on his likability never really recovered his housewives-favourite billing. Perhaps I just moved on.
Yet the music – I was singing along almost word-perfect to the like of “Duchess”, “Home By The Sea” and “That’s All”. I even had a vague recollection of “Fading Lights”, the ten minute closing track from the 1991 album We Can’t Dance, which got a brief play. A reflective song, it made me think of Bowie’s “I Can’t Give Everything Away”.
I looked up the lyrics afterwards, because 1991’s Tony Banks seemed to be writing about the band breaking up before they actually did.
Like the story that we wish was never ending
We know some time we must reach the final page
Still we carry on just pretending
That there’ll always be one more day to go
It certainly didn’t feel out of place in their last concerts.
As the set drew to a close with a lovely “The Carpet Crawlers”, I thought about what rock music will look like in fifty years time, when all the people who made rock n roll have passed. Will people need the original band to play the songs? Will the songs survive without their authors playing them?
We already have tribute acts for The Doors, George Michael and Prince. Steve Hackett has a band that tours every year, playing his solo and Genesis songs to happy crowds of people re-living their youth. Will it be like orchestral music where you can hear Beethoven’s tunes without requiring him to be there in person playing along?
On the other hand, can anyone sing the menacing “Mama” like Phil Collins?
What we do have left are our memories of glorious Wembley Stadium nights in the eighties. Or as Tony Banks wrote in his song “Fading Lights”:
Far away, away, fading distant lights
Leaving us all behind, lost in a changing world
And you know that these are the days of our lives, remember