Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

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Genesis - The Nice Men of Rock

Radio Times 1st - 7th August 1992

On Sunday, Radio 1 broadcasts the Genesis concert at Knebworth Park, the final stop on their world tour. Douglas Thompson joined the group in America for a taste of what's in store from rock's 'gentlemen'.

The tour bus cruises over the bridge above San Francisco Bay. Inside, the three members of Genesis, Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, are relaxing, their thoughts on the evening's sell-out concert. This is a rock band on tour. So where are the bleary, hung over faces, evidence of wild nights of hedonistic excess? Where are the furious, repair-bill-waving hotel managers? Look again: this is Genesis on tour, the gentlemen of rock, who are fed-up with apologising for not wrecking hotel rooms. In fact, back at the hotel they have just left, the staff are saying that the group and entourage were better behaved than the crowd at the brain surgeons' convention the other week. Genesis are to rock's pantheon of outrage what Guns N' Roses are to the Polite Society. But then, after 25 years together, unruly behaviour is hardly likely on this, their 1992 world tour, which culminates at Knebworth Park on Sunday and is broadcast live on Radio 1.

Back at the Oakland Coliseum concert, there is a taste of the spectacle to come. The Genesis show uses three movable rear screens and film and computer animation footage in an entertaining extravaganza of video technology. The sounds are from their most recent album, We Can't Dance and, of course, from the past - a choice that reflects the various age groups in the audience.

For an ordinary bunch of lads, Genesis put on an extraordinary show. And they promise the same at Knebworth. "We are really looking forward to it," says Phil Collins. "It's the show they haven't seen in Britain - we've been doing it everywhere else."

Earlier, they had left their hotel and jaunted rather than walked to the bus - more like going down to the local for a pint than to perform for thousands. At the Coliseum, there is frantic activity, but Genesis simply stroll through it. When it's time for a soundcheck, they zoom down to the stage on a little electric cart, to preserve energy, not ego. They surge through a few numbers as technicians examine sound level and quality. Collins's performance is just as forceful as it will be later in the evening. Three men who, only moments earlier, had appeared about as exciting as a bus queue are suddenly a magnet for our attention. It is a remarkable metamorphosis.

Soundcheck over, they retire to their dressing room where, between games of ping-pong and catching up with family affairs - Mike Rutherford records a taped message for his daughter back in England - they talk about the past, and the future. Rutherford has had chart success with Mike and the Mechanics. Banks has composed and performed original music for films. Collins has a thriving solo singing and acting career. So why are they still Genesis?

"No one ever believes us," says Phil Collins, "but it's simply that we enjoy it. As far as we're concerned it is not a business but just the three of us writing songs because we like it. It's quite a low-key affair. One manager, one secretary, we haven't got a cast of thousands.
"In America they really believe and love their success and I think people start believing what people tell them. England's great - they're such a cynical race, so there's no chance of that."

Mike Rutherford adds: "It always starts with an album. We've got some music to play. The main aim was not to go off on the road for a whole year - we've done nine and ten-month stints in the past and it's a big chunk of your life gone. We gave our manager a time-span, which grew, and designed a show that would work in venues like this. It's a big, open-air performance."

And a long way from the early days of From Genesis to Revelation and the classic The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. "The problem is that it's hard to compare," says Tony Banks, with a smile. "In the early days you played one in Croydon and another gig in Sheffield and were closer together. Here we're jetting around America. But every night counts, there's no 1; off. There's been this high pressure, I suppose for the past 15 years."
"Make that 25 years," says Collins. "In the beginning you're trying to make your name, and then when you've done that you're trying to make your name, because you don't want people seeing, 'Oh, they've gone off - they're not as good as they were three weeks ago'. Pride in what you yourself keeps you doing that."

Life on the road doesn't appear to be a horror story for them. Collins is careful: "It's difficult sit down and say this is hard work, consider!] what we do compared with most people. Everything is done for you: get into a hotel, they get you a key. You don't have to check in any more It gets tedious I suppose, but it's all relative." "It's not a normal life," says Banks. "It's terribly little, narrow area you're within. Also we've complicated our lives this time by the enormous technical side of it as well."

Will they tour again? Probably, but they don't know when. "I think one of the strengths of t\ band is the fact that we don't have any particular plan," says Banks. "We don't make ourselves a schedule."

Rutherford adds: "It's playing the music Promoting it, if you like, but just playing it is the way I look at it. The reason we are all in it is because we like to write music and record it. That's why we do it. It's not for the glory."

But glory they have. And thunderous applause as they walk on stage that night. Fame gives them the luxury of doing what they want. After this tour they will splinter again: Mike an the Mechanics; Tony Banks, composer; Ph Collins, solo act and actor.
"Everything we do is our choice. Genesis i our choice," says Collins. "People seem to thin' there is some sort of pressure for us to do ii No, it's all our choice."

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