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The Musical Box

performs The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway


23rd April 2005, Royal Albert Hall, London, UK
1st March 2005, PWA Zaal, Den Haag, The Netherlands
By
Charlie Farrell and Bart Jan van der Vorst
Photos by Jeroen Bos

'The Lamb' lives and breathes once again

By Charlie Farrell
Denis Gané

The last 10 years has not only seen the rise in popularity of the "cover band", but also the appearance of the "super cover band", where the group does not stop at the mere musical re-creation of their hero's music but takes the concept much further with the slavish attention to detail in the reproduction of the correct period setlist, stage settings, lighting and even between-song banter. Of course, when coverbands go to such length we can be fairly sure that the original artists that they are covering were not mere "pop groups" but one of the great "progressive rock" bands of the 1970s.

The Musical Box, from Canada, are just one such 'cover' band though they dislike being referred to in such a manner. They have received a great deal of acclaim for their reproductions of the stage performances of Genesis in their own country and are now building a similar reputation for themselves in Europe. Having reporduced both the 'Selling England by the Pound' and 'Foxtrot' performances on previous European tours, it was now the turn of another of the great masterpieces of 1970's prog The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

A reverred album indeed and one whose live performance was witnessed by a Genesis fanbase, who were unaware at the time, that this was going to be the live swansong of the band in its "classic" formation with Peter Gabriel on vocals. As one who missed the opportunity to see the show at Manchester's Palace Theater in 1975 (no thanks to certain classmate who failed to obtain tickets for me), it remains one of the events that I most regret having missed during my youth. The occasion of The Musical Box's return with the full show and incorporating all of the original slides and costumes was a godsend to those of us (and I'm sure I wasn't the only one) who missed out on experiencing the original show.

The Lamb is, to be honest, not an album that I have listened to very much in the last twenty years, but I probably listened to it enough in the preceding 10 years to last me a lifetime, so it was no surprise to find that, as the lights went down and the band took their places on the Albert Hall stage, the lyrics, hidden away in the recesses of my mind, suddenly came flooding back. Three projection screens situated above the heads of the band members were filled with images of New York City - an old new York City, yet there was a timeless quality to the images that helped one feel transported back to time of the original performance of the music.

Yet no sooner has the music begun to play than we are transported from the relative normality of New York City to the bizarre imagery of, first of all Fly on a Windshield, then Cookoo Cocoon to In The Cage. Such is the power of the music and the clever use of accompanying images; one does not stop to question what the hell it was all about anyway. The story didn't make sense to me 30 years ago when I studied it intently and it doesn't make any more sense on this occasion yet the costumes, lighting and in particular, the compelling performance of Denis Gagné as Peter Gabriel carry one along. The authentic rasp to his voice during The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging is particularly well observed.

Denis Gagné

Continuation music plays as Denis explains (using the words of Mr Gabriel himself), the story behind the next chunk of tunes (which would have formed the next side or so of the original double vinyl album). Possibly my favourite section of the album, the band move effortlessly from the aggressive, hard-edged Back in New York City, through the catchy Counting Out Time, complete with Monty Pythonesque slide show illustrating the subject matter of the song, to an epic, hypnotic Carpet Crawlers which received one of the biggest cheers of the evening.

More explanation of the increasingly bizarre storyline follows before Denis introduces Lillywhite Lillith which features some particularly impressive lighting before linking into The Waiting Room. This short instrumental was blessed with some particularly effective special effects as Denis re-appeared behind the now transparent projection screens as a menacing figure with long claws. From there on the imagery became more sinister with web-like patterns being replaced by seashells and then by skulls only serving to make the light-hearted Supernatural Anaesthetist appear even stranger.

Of course things continue to become even more bizarre as Rael loses his windscreen wiper before he is comforted by the Lamia represented by Pre-Rhapaelite-ish figures on the screen while Denis appears centre-stage beneath what appears to be a rotating lampshade, which then mutates into a strangely asexual figure who scurries off-stage. Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats sounded weak and didn't quite set the scene for The Colony of Slippermen as effectively as I might have hoped. This however, was compensated for by the extraordinary sight of Rael emerging from a red balloon as a slipperman, accompanied by some powerful keyboard sounds and some wonderful Dali-esque images on the screens above the stage. The crowd loved this and cheered loudly as Denis then left the stage to re-appear in leather jacket and jeans again for the final few songs.

Having stretched the audiences credibility (and certainly mine) by this point, it is hard to see how the story can progress, so, in some sense, it's a relief to return to NYC for The Light Lies Down on Broadway. However, it's no comfy ending as any Genesis fan knows, with the band then crashing into Riding The Scree and the frenetic In The Rapids before flash bombs announce the finale of It.

A well-deserved standing ovation follows as the crowd warmly voiced their appreciation of a stunning performance. Further cheers follow as Denis announces "We'd like to do a little older number for you". Though I'd guess that many of us would have loved a rendition of Supper's Ready, it is clear from the intro that what we'll hear is a historically accurate Musical Box with Denis quickly re-appearing with his old man's mask at the start of the Old King Cole section. After all that has gone before the story of the strange re-incarnation seems rather quaint and slightly more believable, while the length of the song leaves room for a well executed guitar solo.

A wonderfully dark Watcher of the Skies makes for a fitting encore and once again the crowd voice their appreciation. This time at the Royal Albert Hall, there are no extras and no "special guests" but by this point the audience are sated and there's barely time to grab a post-gig pint. All in all, an excellent performance and one that it is difficult to find any fault with. Now that I've laid that particular baby to rest, what are the chances of me being able to see a re-creation of ELP's Tarkus tour?

François Gagnon and Sébastien Lamothe

Personal afterthoughts of The Lamb

By Bart Jan van der Vorst

There is no need for me to recount the show itself, as it is extensively done by Charlie above, as well as in another review of The Lamb show last year.

For me, being born round about the time The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway came out, this is the only chance ever to see a live performance of this album. And with the current choice of Genesis tribute bands, The Musical Box is definitely the best one. Being fully endorsed by the various members of Genesis, they have been able to recreate stage designs, props and equipment close to perfection.
I had seen them twice before on their Selling England By The Pound tour, and was amazed by the perfection of their performance.

In interviews with the various bandmembers of the band, I've read that memories aren't particularly fond on their 1975 tour. Peter Gabriel left shortly after the tour, so it seems an obvious conclusion that tension between Gabriel and the band had been high during the tour as well. But what is more important, is the fact that most of the other bandmembers didn't particularly agree with the design of the show - With the projections and stage props the band was more playing a soundtrack to a theatre show, than a rock concert.

Seeing the original show performed by The Musical Box, using the original stage props and similar equipment, I can understand the feelings. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway stage production wasn't a particularly good show. It was interesting, at best, but for most of it the imagery and concept went completely past the audience.
Anno 2005 it is however a piece of Prog nostalgia and a compulsary piece of musical education - that is what I overheard a father saying to his 14 year-old son, sitting next to me!

You could say that the show was well ahead of its time. With extensive use of slides, pyrotechnics, costumes and an elaborate stage design. At the same time the costume changes (and un-changes, Gabriel ran around the stage half-naked for about 25% of the show) were rather overdone at times. The Slipperman costume was preposterous. Alledgedly when the band released the live version of The Lamb on their Archives box, they had to redo the vocals, because the singing was mostly muffled by the Slipperman costume.

The most gripping moment, for me, was Riding The Scree. For this particular instrumental both Gabriel and Hackett left the stage and this track was performed by Collins, Rutherford and Banks. And then there were three... indeed!

The performance of The Musical Box was fairly good, obviously all are very talented musicians. Especially drummer Martin Levac, who not only plays like Phil Collins, but he also looks and *talks* like the man. I wonder what the ad said when they were recruiting a drummer: "wanted, five foot balding left-handed drummer with a british accent". Amazing how they found him.
The new Steve Hackett, François Gagnon seems apt enough at playing the material, though The Lamb can hardly be called Hackett's finest hour. It seems he was absent for most of the time during the recording of the album, as he hardly plays on the album. Sébastien Lamothe is also a very believable Mike Rutherford, albeit a left-handed one. Same goes for Éric Savard who has the same stoical stage performance as Tony Banks does. So with your eyes open or closed, either way you can be fooled in thinking that you are witnessing the real thing. However, I must say that the earlier Genesis material suits the band better. Especially the singer, Denis Gagné seemed to have problems with the vocal style of Gabriel. Then again, I have never heard anyone sing The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway in tune in a live-environment. Either Gabriel's voice or his way of singing changed drastically back in '74. I would say that the Selling England By The Pound and possibly also the Foxtrot shows of The Musical Box are better shows for the band to showcase their talents. This became particularly clear with the encores where Gagné managed to copy Gabriel's vocal style pitch perfect.
However, that doesn't withstand the fact that The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway show is a piece of prog history that any self-respecting prog fan should have seen at least once in his/her life. And given the choices there are to see the show anno 2005, The Musical Box is definitely your best shot!

Martin Levac
Setlist
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Fly on a Windshield
Broadway Melody of 1974
Cuckoo Cocoon
In the Cage
The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
The Story of Rael pt.1
Back in N.Y.C
Hairless Heart
Counting Out Time
The Carpet Crawlers
The Chamber of 32 Doors
The Story of Rael pt.2
Lilywhite Lilith
The Waiting Room
Anyway
The Supernatural Anaesthetist
The Lamia
Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats
The Colony of Slippermen
Ravine
The Light Dies Down on Broadway
Riding the Scree
In the Rapids
It
The Musical Box

Watcher of the Skies

 


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