The Musical Box
Saturday 1st June 2002
The Royal Albert Hall, London UK

By Charlie Farrell


Canadian Genesis Cover Band wow Brits

Now the Canadian band The Musical Box are a cover band from Quebec, whose devotion to the task of re-creating the legendary stage-shows of Genesis from the early 1970's has become an obsession. Having only played on a couple of occasions outside of their native country, I was quite shocked when it was announced that the band would be playing a week-long tour of the UK, in halls of a considerable capacity.

The Musical Box UK Tour Flyer 2002

I needn't have worried because the word got around very quickly that they were well worth seeing and that no genuine fan would feel at all shortchanged by their performance which would be worth every penny of the reasonably expensive £27 (€40) tickets. The band had obtained a copy of the slides original used by Genesis in 1973, the stage-set had been recreated in every detail and even the between-song dialogue would be word perfect ... and so it proved.

The band consists of Denis Champoux (guitars), Eric Savard (keyboards, 12-string guitar, vocals), Guillaume Courteau (Drums, Percussions, Vocals), Sébastien Lamonthe (Bass Guitars, Guitars) and Denis Gagné (Vocals, Percussions, Flute). In addition Sébastien Lamonthe is also in charge of musical direction and Serge Morissette takes care of artistic direction. It is a labour of love both for the band members themselves and for their eager team of helpers. Equipment, clothes, stage mannerisms are all observed and replicated with great accuracy.

Rather unwisely I had purchased tickets for myself and my friends in the circle, just to save paying an extra £3. It was false economy as we were miles from the stage and the figures were tiny dots, so we quickly paid the difference and took up positions in the stalls directly facing the stage, although some distance from it. The hall itself has a capacity of around 5500. It wasn't full, by any means, but a healthy 1800 - 2000 souls were present.

The support act was Denis Champoux, the guitarist who plays the role of 'Steve Hackett' for The Musical Box. He played a couple of excellent tunes on acoustic, amongst them Steve Howe's Mood for a Day. He was then joined by a second guy on violin for a further few numbers. Pleasant enough stuff, but not enough to keep a large proportion of the audience out of the many bars within the cavernous venue.

The scene looked fantastic and as the lights went down, 4 men dressed in white took their places. The familiar mellotron opening of Watcher of The Skies began and 'Peter Gabriel' appeared in long cape with the 'bat wings' on his head. A hush came over the crowd and they remained in awe for much of the set.

The Musical Box, live at the Royal Albert Hall, June 1st 2002

Though I did see Gabriel (& Hackett) perform with Genesis at Milton Keynes in 1982, I just missed out on seeing the classic line-up featuring Gabriel and I can only imagine just how powerful the show must have appeared back in the early 70's. The stageset, the slides, the costumes, the instruments, even the changing and adjustment of instruments between songs and mid-song appeared to be as faithful as one could imagine. Once or twice I to pinch myself and realized that this was in fact 2002 - but it was all so convincing.

Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, Cinema Show, Firth of Fifth were majestic, but the rendition of The Musical Box in particular was truly oustanding and at this point of the show the crowd finally seem to lose its inhibitions. Maybe they had just been too entranced by the dazzling array of effects, costumes and Denis Gagné's amazing delivery of both the vocals and the bizarre tales which Peter Gabriel used to use to entertain the crowd between songs, but the aplause had been polite rather than overly enthusiastic up until this point. Unfortunately this meant that a number of over-enthusiastic fans began to shout out and scream idiotically during Denis's between-song stories, but at least there were signs of life.

In fact the only tune which was in any way disappointing was The Battle of Epping Forest during which Denis's vocals were a little low in the mix. Some of the stories told by Denis between songs appeared to be spoken a little too quickly to be heard clearly. These are small complaints overall but I think that Denis can be excused on the grounds that a) he ususually delivers Peter Gabriel's stories in French and b) both Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford were watching and maybe a little nervousness was present. One can only imagine how he must have felt on the first night of the tour, in Bristol, when Peter Gabriel himself, was in the audience.

Supper's Ready made for a triumphant end of set and by this time there were people dancing in the aisles, not many, but it was a start. The expected encore of The Knife came and was met with more stomping and cheering and then the lights came up!!!!

Steve Hackett and The Musical Box, live at the Royal Albert Hall, June 1st 2002

Well, those of us who have been checking mailing lists and message boards on the internet had been led to believe that there would be a special guest appearance and were not ready to leave. Just as the house lights came on fully, the band filtered back on stage again and gradually the lights went down again (phew!). Denis Gagné then announced that there was indeed a special guest and out came Steve Hackett for a second run through Firth of Fifth, which was perhaps just a tiny bit better than the first time. There was huge cheers, foot stomping etc, but we all really knew that it was over. We'd all experienced a 2 hour trip into the glorys days of progressive rock which would be hard to beat.

I can not count myself as a great fan of cover bands. I love a lot of the music from the 1970's and 1980s but I happen to prefer hearing present days bands playing present day music in a live setting. I will admit to having caught Re-Genesis (a UK-based Genesis cover band) on a couple of occasions and though I have enjoyed their concerts, this performance was simply leagues ahead, not so much musically, but certainly visually. The Musical Box is as close as one can get to the real thing in this day and age.

This show is not a cash-in, but a true labour of love. If you are in any way a fan of Genesis during the period when Peter Gabriel was lead singer you really must not pass up the opportunity to see this show, if you are lucky enough for it to pass anywhere close to where you live.

Setlist:
Watchers of The Sky
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
The Cinema Show
I Know What I Like
Firth of Fifth
The Musical Box
Horizons
The Battle of Epping Forest
Suppers Ready


The Knife

Firth of Fifth (with Steve Hackett)

 

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