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Story and photos by Holiday Girod"They're not a tribute band," admits Genesis' longtime drummer Phil Collins. "They have taken a period and are faithfully reproducing it in the same way that someone would do a theatrical production." And after witnessing The Musical Box's performance last Friday night at The Pabst Theater, truer words could not have described the Quebec-based band's mind-blowing recreation of Genesis' successful 1973 Selling England By The Pound tour.
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of Genesis' fifth studio, Selling England By The Pound, the performers of The Musical Box painstakingly recreated Genesis' elaborate and, for many, most beloved stage show. Attention to detail was not only incorporated into the creative stage design, lightning and slide show of this tour, but also the bizarre stage costumes and quirky histrionics of former frontman Peter Gabriel. Even Gabriel's weirdly amusing stage banter in between songs were perfectly recited word for word. But more than anything, it was the music performed by this talented ensemble of Canadian musicians that perfectly mirrored the often angular, often pastoral and always engaging sound of early Genesis.
The Musical Box has been performing various Genesis tours since 1993, including their perfectly replicated versions of 1972's Foxtrot, 1974's The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and the Phil Collins-led A Trick of the Tail tour. But it's, perhaps, their Selling England By The Pound tour that best encapsulates the true essence of this pioneering prog-rock band. Opening with the dark and ominous "Watcher Of The Skies," frontman Denis Gagné faithfully reproduced Peter Gabriel's role as an extraterrestrial being in his techicolor cape, UV makeup and eerie batwings sprouting from the back of his head, amid Guillaume Rivard's (as keyboardist Tony Banks) foreboding mellotron. The band then turned in perfect takes on the likes of "Dancing In The Moonlight Knight," The Battle Of Epping Forest," "The Cinema Show, ""Firth Of Fifth," "The Knife" and the decidedly poppier " I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)."
But the true show-stopping moments occurred during two of Genesis' most beloved songs. "The Musical Box" climaxed with Gagné wearing Gabriel's old man mask and delivering a bone-chillingly dramatic performance as he quirkily gyrated and cried "why don't you touch me... touch me... now, now, now, now, now!" And during the sprawling 22 minute song "Suppers Ready" they delivered, for many, the highlight of the evening, with the band faithfully reproducing the intricate instrumentals that ran from delicate to destructive on this metaphysical masterpiece. Gagné donned a number of now famous Gabriel garbs throughout the lengthy song, including the comical "flower mask" during the "Willow Farm" segment of the song, and then later in a cloak and geometrical " Magog" headress for the song's sinister and oblique segment "Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-Starring the Delicious Talents of Gabble Ratchet)." This epic number not only proved to be a crowd favorite for the packed house, but also proved why this could be, arguably, the single most iconic statement in the history of progressive rock.
This was, admittedly, my first experience with The Musical Box's mesmerizing performance, but it will hardly be my last. Having been just a bit too young to catch these original Genesis shows in the early '70s, this talented musical ensemble has, thankfully, made it possible for young and old alike to experience one of rock's most engaging live shows.
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