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April 16, 2008

CD REVIEW: Genesis Live Over Europe 2007


By Dan Calabrese

Let’s start out with some complete honesty. I will never write a negative review of a Genesis album. It’s not something my DNA can produce.


So if you don’t like Genesis, you won’t like Live Over Europe 2007, no matter what I tell you. Genesis is a taste that most people have or don’t have. If you don’t take well to breathtaking chord changes, sonic-speed keyboard solos and muscular drum patterns, I can only hope the quality of the rest of your life makes up for this deficiency.


That said, the band’s new live album – the fifth of its history – is the first in which the song selection consists of the entire setlist from its most recent tour. All 21 tracks performed on the Genesis Turn It On Again Tour in 2007 – in which they played 46 dates in Europe and North America – populate the two-CD set in the same order in which they were played on the tour.


But as the title suggests, Live Over Europe consists entirely of the best performances from the European leg of the tour, including the free show in Rome that attracted an astounding 500,000 people.


In their late 50s and touring together for the first time in 15 years, Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford – along with longtime touring sidemen Daryl Stuermer and Chester Thompson – are remarkably tight in their playing and ambitious in their arrangements.


The album opens with an abridged version of “Behind the Lines,” consisting of the instrumental opening section of the song, which segues naturally into “Duke’s End” and then into the title track of the tour – the Genesis classic “Turn It On Again.”


This was one of several songs played in a lower key than when originally recorded – one of the tour’s few concessions to age as Collins finds it harder than he did in his 30s and 40s to hit the high notes. Other lowered-key classics include “No Son of Mine,” “Land of Confusion,” “Home by the Sea” and “Invisible Touch.”


If you only know Genesis by recognizing their mega-hits of the ‘80s and early ’90s, the aforementioned songs will be highlights of the album for you, along with “Mama,” “Throwing It All Away,” “Hold On My Heart” and “I Can’t Dance.”


Some who remember the softer sounds of the late 1970s will enjoy once again hearing the 1978 hit “Follow You Follow Me,” the only song on the tour performed with Collins singing and drumming simultaneously.


For fans who have ventured to discover the deeper Genesis tracks over the years, the album features two centerpieces. On the first CD, it is the medley of “In the Cage/Cinema Show/Duke’s Travels/Afterglow.” It’s more than 17 minutes of mostly older material, including some of Banks’s best keyboard work, set against Rutherford’s thumping bass, Stuermer’s jazz/rock-style guitar and the double-drumming rhythms of Collins and Thompson.


On the second CD, the highlight begins with the drum duet performed by Collins and Thompson, oddly commencing with the two slapping their sticks against leather stools before moving to the drum kits proper where they play the most aggressive and scintillating of the many drum duets they have performed over the years.


The drum duet segues as per usual into the 1976 classic “Los Endos,” an instrumental nearing seven minutes in which the five musicians produce melodies, stunning transitions and dramatic crescendos that would rival the best performance of any symphony orchestra.


The CD closes with the understated but emotional “Carpet Crawlers” – perhaps the song that most completely bridges the gap between all eras of Genesis music and Genesis fans.


Devoted fans will notice a few accommodations to suit the audio CD format, most notably the editing of “I Know What I Like” to delete the rather lengthy portion in which Collins dances a tambourine tarantella. (You try it when you’re 56.) It looked awesome on stage, but to listen to it, all you’d hear is a repetitive rhythm that would seem to go on forever. The album is sadly better off for the change.


Most of the material on Live Over Europe has been released on prior live Genesis albums, but “Duke’s Travels” and “Ripples” appear on a live album (not counting archive releases) for the first time.


If you didn’t see the tour (and if you live in the south or most of the west, you probably didn’t), it’s all here. For a bunch of 50-somethings who hadn’t played together since Twin Peaks was all the rage, Genesis played with skill and fury that will remind listeners why they have thrived for four decades – in spite of getting little love from critics – and why you get the sense that if they ever do it again, the reception will be just as enthusiastic the next time.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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