Reviews

The Musical Box: 1 November 2011 - Louisville, KY

Genesis is alive and well.

The Musical Box
City: Louisville, KY
Venue: The Brown Theatre
Date: 2011-11-01

Tribute bands are almost always terrible, right? Yet there seems to be one at every turn, clogging our bars and shithole dives and family cook-outs like some sort of unstoppable musical virus, aimed straight at our guts and eardrums. (Seriously, how many versions of "Yesterday" do we need to hear before these people are convinced that they'll never be The Beatles?)

But every once in an extraordinarily rare blue moon, a tribute act comes along that somehow manages to transcend mere second-hand mimicry and -- dare I say -- approach something that resembles art. One such outfit is The Musical Box, a Montreal-based Genesis tribute band that faithfully, painstakingly pays homage to the various eras of one of progressive rock's (and music's) most under-appreciated outfits.

On this current tour, the band tackles Genesis' 1975 masterpiece, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, in its entirety. Granted access to the original tour's visual slides and master tapes by former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel -- who wrote The Lamb's complex, fantasy-driven narrative -- the quintet remains faithful to stage presence and physical appearances of the 1975 line-up (dig that authentically gnarly cut-off Genesis T-shirt worn by drummer Gregg Bendian) and recreates -- to startling effect -- what it must have been like to witness this spectacle when it originally happened.

When the actual Genesis toured The Lamb, playing the often difficult album from front-to-back before its official release -- for audiences who hadn't even heard the music before -- the response was decidedly mixed, and fans were left baffled by Gabriel's increasingly grotesque costumes (like the infamous Slipperman), which often left the singer's vocals buried in sweaty latex. While not exactly a disaster, the tour had its share of technical problems (often due to synching of the music with the 1,000+ slides that accompanied), and by the end of their jaunt, nearly broke and mostly defeated, Gabriel quietly decided to leave the group, launching a now-legendary solo career.

Genesis gradually grew more and more radio-friendly, disbanding after 1997's disgraceful last gasp, Calling All Stations. But as punk's hot-headed edge smoothed over, as pop culture at large gradually grew more prog-friendly (The band was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years back), '70s nostalgia has proven cool again, and as a result, it's no longer embarrassing to be a prog-rock nerd. For younger generations born years, if not decades, after The Lamb's release, The Musical Box offer perhaps the only real opportunity to see this regrettably forgotten music played live, in all its epic glory. (This is especially true since talks of the actual Genesis quintet reuniting for a Lamb tour fell through back in 2005).

At the Brown Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, The Musical Box nailed every single nuance of the authentic Genesis experience. Vocalist Denis Gagné, portraying Peter Gabriel, was in particularly fine form, not only soaring to every wondrously cracked high note but also earning his paycheck by treating the stage like a playground, donning every single original costume and often singing from behind odd physical contortions. Toward the show's conclusion, Gagné (portraying the story's protagonist, Rael) seemed to appear on-stage in two locations simultaneously (also a throwback to the original Lamb show), as the band's glorious light show flickered and flamed in hypnotic precision.

The mostly sold-out theater's crowd was reverent and ominously quiet throughout, clinging to every surging bass stroke (played by Sébastien Lamothe, portraying Mike Rutherford) and electric guitar work-out (conjured by Francois Gagnon, portraying Steve Hackett) like a wilting thread toward a lost musical empire. But for all of The Lamb's epic highlights -- including stellar versions of classics like "Back in NYC", "Counting Out Time", and even the spooky instrumental "The Waiting Room" -- the biggest response came during the encore, which featured a positively jaw-dropping rendition of early Genesis classic "The Musical Box". (Makes some sort of sense). Gagné, now donning Gabriel's classic old-man mask, humping and air-fondling during the track's hilarious climax, had clearly (along with the rest of his bandmates) Trespass-ed "tribute" stature altogether. For that night, in those thrilling moments, Genesis was alive and well.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image