There will always be decisions in one's life that lead to deep regret afterwards. One of mine was to skip the Amsterdam leg of Genesis' 2007 tour. I found the venue far too big, the prices far too high, and the time schedule not convenient. But when I watched the When In Rome DVD I knew I had made a big mistake. It was a fantastic show, a great setlist (Ripples live, one of my all-time favourites!), incredible light-show and a more than memorable musical performance. And as it was announced as their last tour my mistake seemed unrepairable.
How wrong I was!
Suddenly there was this message from my son that Genesis would be playing Amsterdam again as part of their global Last Domino Tour. Almost at the same time, my best friend and musical companion also sent me a message to ask whether I was interested to attend that gig. Despite the enormous ticket prices, we didn't hesitate and decided to go. And that proved to be a very wise decision.
For almost two years, large-scale concerts were impossible in The Netherlands due to a well-known cause. By coincidence, this Genesis gig turned out to be the first post-Covid large scale concert that could go on. And because the health situation in The Netherlands had turned for the better, there were only minor measures in place for the 17,000 attendees: those in the standing section in central hall, like us, just had to have a negative test. So we entered the huge Ziggo Dome arena at half past six, taking our places some 20 metres from the stage and waited in anticipation. We wondered for about an hour if the venue would fill up completely but of course that happened. We also noticed that although the audience was dominated by middle-aged people like us, many of them seemed to be accompanied by their adult kids. So this historic gig attracted even quite a few young people!
At a quarter past eight, the lights were dimmed and the introductory song started, an instrumental piece by Tom Newman. When the band entered the stage, a shock was felt in the audience; where Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks looked very healthy and fit, Phil Collins evidently wasn't. He walked slowly with his walking stick to a chair behind a low standing microphone that fronted the stage and sat down, looking extremely frail in his training suite. I knew he had had quite a few health issues as well as considerable private problems but this was far worse than I had anticipated. Having vivid memories of his showmanship and excellent singing during the three gigs I'd seen in the seventies, this view was heart-breaking. What would his singing be?
There was no room to think that over as the band immediately burst out into Behind The Lines/Duke's End, the fabulous and energetic opening track of the Duke album. It was loud, it was crystal clear, it was very tight, and thus convincing. The opening vocals weren't. Collins' voice sounded hesitant and unstable and he seemed to have trouble to keep up with the tempo. Fortunately that improved quickly, although his singing was weaker than I heard it before. To compensate for Collins' diminishing vocal capacities, two good background vocalists, Daniel Pierce and Patrick Smyth, stood their ground, also contributing on percussion once in a while. And yes, Collins had to look on pages lying besides him to remember the lyrics and yes, he forgot a word or two and yes, he wasn't always right on tone, but foremost he impressed the full audience with being there, with his witty announcements, with his determination to do this show. While it was heart-breaking at the start it turned into admiration for his dedication to enjoy us and, not in the least place, himself and his musical friends on stage.
For me another very remarkable feature was the pleasure the band showed, illustrated by many smiles between Collins, Rutherford, and Daryll Stuermer, their guitarist during live shows for almost 40 years. Of course Tony Banks didn't smile nor did he show any reaction but that has always been that way. Their enjoyment also showed during the acoustic break halfway the show when the band came together on five chairs centre stage, playing reworked versions of That's All, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (hardly recognizable at first) and Follow You, Follow Me. A really nice treat and something they had never done before.
During this tour, Collins' 20-year-old son Nicolas takes care of the drum duties. And he was impressive, clearly showing the fabulous talents he inherited from his father. He was very energetic but also restrained when it needed to be, excelled both in the more recent tracks and in the really old ones, and thus impressed the full audience and his father. It is hard for a musician not to be able to play your instrument any longer because of physical shortcomings, but I guess it becomes a lot less hard when your own kid can take over these duties. That Nic was the only one to display that famous walk-dance during I Can't Dance was highly appreciated.
Apart from the music, Genesis live has also become famous for their stage show and this tour proved no exception. The sound was fantastic and the lightning extraordinary good with large moving panels above the stage. On stage there were several HD-cameras filming the musicians from close by and projecting these images behind and besides the stage, often in different ways. Many times these filmed images were combined with spot-on animations or historical photos, providing a fantastic visual experience. It was all very professional and very attractive to look at.
As for the setlist, the emphasis was heavily on the more recent albums Duke, Genesis, Invisible Touch and I Can't Dance. They selected the hits but also the longer songs, like the threatening Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea and the ballad Fading Lights. There were also some older tracks, albeit mostly as excerpts, such as the instrumental parts of Cinema Show and the awesome guitar solo of Firth Of Fifth. It was too bad that no songs were played from A Trick Of The Tail, my personal favourite, but that has been the case for many years (therefore it was so remarkable they did Ripples in 2007).
Surprisingly they did a full version of I Know What I Like; surprisingly because it was all too obvious that Collins wasn't capable anymore to do his famous tambourine-act. But this time he took the opportunity to mock himself mildly by doing a smaller tambourine act in his chair, to great enthusiasm of us all. The interplay with his son during this song was extremely nice to witness. Of course there also was Domino, complete with Collins' witty but adjusted game with the audience. And of course he managed to let us all do what he wanted, to his and our enjoyment.
The band choose to close the concert with the a-capella intro of Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, directly followed by a magical version of Carpet Crawlers. The audience listened in awe, realising that this was the end of an era. I can't imagine that the band will decide to do yet another tour, seeing the fragility of their singer. They still have that musical touch, they found a fantastic replacement on the drums but another tour will simply be too much for Phil Collins. That is really too bad. On the other hand, Genesis showed again in this gig what a fantastic live band they are, leaving us with the soothing memory that we witnessed a truly historical gig.
A worthy farewell by a phenomenal band.
Intro Dead Already (Tom Newman song)
Behind the Lines / Duke's End Turn It On Again Mama Land of Confusion Home by the Sea Second Home by the Sea Fading Lights (excerpts) The Cinema Show ((second half) Afterglow
Acoustic intermezzo That's All The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway Follow You Follow Me
Duchess No Son of Mine Firth of Fifth (instrumental excerpt) I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) Domino Throwing It All Away Tonight, Tonight, Tonight (excerpt) Invisible Touch
Encore I Can't Dance Dancing With the Moonlit Knight (intro & first verse) The Carpet Crawlers