The inescapable band finally got away.
After a dizzying run of hits for Genesis in the 1980s - coupled with ubiquitous solo work from Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford - the British band at last headed off the charts in 1992 to give Genesis its first extensive break in three decades.
Now, more than 15 years after the last tour together for Collins, Rutherford and Tony Banks, the reunited trio is back on the road.
With no new material to promote, says guitarist Rutherford, the tour has proved to be a freewheeling affair since launching in Europe over the summer and landing in North America last month: a 2 ½-hour show featuring offbeat older material and instrumental segments amid the cascade of familiar hits. Vocalist Collins, relegated to about 15 minutes at the drums during Genesis’ pop heyday, now spends nearly three times that at the kit.
“We’re being slightly more selfish, I guess,” says Rutherford, a founding member of the band that became one of prog-rock’s leading lights in the 1970s before polishing up the act for its mainstream run. “We don’t have a new album to sell. We’re just doing things because we want to do them, really.”
In a big rock reunion year marked by the return of diverse brand-name acts - from Van Halen to the Police - Genesis comes with an especially large bag of material: During the 1980s, keenly embracing the promotional opportunities afforded by a fledgling MTV, the group was seemingly omnipresent, pushing 16 songs into the Top 40 of Billboard’s chart. Collins and Rutherford (with his Mike & the Mechanics) earned another 18 on their own.
It was an era that never has set well with fans of more a purist persuasion, dismayed by what they viewed as a commercial sellout by the group that once sported Peter Gabriel as front man. But Rutherford says the band’s pop success was a natural byproduct of its art-rock woodshedding a decade earlier.
“It’s always been down to - and this is not trying to sound conceited - the quality and the level we try to maintain with the songwriting,” he says. “Then you get on a roll and it just builds and builds. In this business, it’s always amazed me how good songs come through. OK, there’s promotion; there’s hype. But when there’s a good album and good songs made, they seem to find their way out.”
This year isn’t the first time back together for the group since Collins split after their `92 tour: The threesome has occasionally linked up for members’ birthday parties and weddings - including Gabriel’s in 2002 - and has kept in close touch for various catalog projects. After teasing at a reunion tour earlier this decade, the decision was at last made during a 2005 get-together to discuss plans for a surround-sound reissue of the Gabriel-era classic “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.”
“There’s a natural time, really,” says Rutherford. “It needed the gap to get ready for this stage. I’ve felt it’s been coming slowly for some time, really. With this, we kind of drifted into it in a nice way.”
Rutherford wasn’t surprised that the band clicked almost immediately in tour rehearsals and on concert stages, where he swaps guitar and bass duties with longtime utility man Daryl Stuermer.
“There’s something about the chemistry of the songs and the way we play that’s kind of ingrained,” he says. “It’s a combination of the people, and that’s the way it always should work, I think.” Having stepped away for more than a decade means “our heads are much more focused on the tour. ... You’ve got much more energy to put into the show.”
The plans don’t extend beyond this tour, which will wrap up Oct. 13 in Los Angeles. Collins, whose post-Genesis work has chugged along with a boost from Disney’s soundtrack department, has his high-profile solo work to tend to, while Rutherford and Banks continue grooming their own assorted side projects.
And while rumblings persist about a full-fledged reunion of `70s-era Genesis with Gabriel and guitarist Steve Hackett, Rutherford is trying to soak up the meaning of the moment - while keeping a satisfied eye on the past. During rehearsals in the spring, band members took time to examine archival material for an upcoming book on the group’s history, a process that Rutherford says gave him a renewed respect for his life in Genesis.
“This tour is a little more special in a way,” he says. “You really appreciate what we’ve had together.”