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Genesis - When In Rome CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.16 | 183 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A last evening with old friends

Sometimes, one has to say farewell to someone or something we love very much.

In the case of Genesis, they thankfully did seize the chance for a proper goodbye. Considering that they haven't been a prolific creative force in many years -- they are more an entertainment enterprise like Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones of later years -- Genesis actually took the time and made the effort to create something much better than I expected, for sure. They planned out this goodbye release as a truly thoughtful hug to their fans, and it turned into something worth owning. And this is coming from someone who generally does not approve of old farts milking a band name -- I'm with Grace Slick on that issue.

Naturally, being the three-piece line-up, the set list was bound to focus on the Collins era primarily. You just have to set aside your desire for some grand 70s reunion and be realistic. These are old men retiring the live Genesis band, and it is going to be something different than what prog fans want, but in this case that isn't necessarily bad. This concert and especially this documentary gave me three very enjoyable nights of viewing in my home theater. They allowed the fans to share in their personal goodbyes to each other. We are given more in the way of intimate access with this release than most DVDs by legacy acts.

The nearly two-hour documentary starts from the beginning of rehearsals and gives us a "fly on the wall" view to everything. There are lots of fun surprises, but I'll share just a couple. On the first day Phil arrives, the guys share their "good to see you again" hugs before settling in to listen to some songs. Mike, who likes to joke a lot, asks Tony if it's time to break for lunch before they'd even done an ounce of work. Personalities open up here, which is what makes this package worth it. As the glorious sounds of "Cinema Show" wash over the practice space, we watch the guys faces while listening to Peter sing, and you can see them react to the magic with warmth and melancholy on their faces. You can see them marveling at how good the music still sounds and how long ago it was. It is very interesting and authentically emotional. After they decide to try playing the intro, Mike asks his assistant if he has a 12-string acoustic tuned and ready to go. The assistant affirms that he does. Mike pauses and then says, "Good, give it to Daryl" and they all burst into laughter again.

Stuermer explains how he and Thompson are able to drop right back into the groove because as working musicians, they are practicing every day. For the other guys, it is much harder to pick up where they left off many years ago. They allow us to see them working through that frustration. Sometimes, it's fun and humorous. Other times there are flashes of irritation that bubble up. The same is true for the production team. We expect that a band of this level would have teams of top level pros whipping their sound and stage show into expected form with the wave of a wand. The truth is that it was much more chaotic than you'd think as people tried to learn the songs and technology as the time before the first show was rapidly running out. It appeared that some of the light show timing aspects were barely finalized before the first show curtains went up. I also really enjoyed watching the some of the preparation that Phil and Chester went through as they worked up their playful co-solo.

Another priceless moment shows the three guys about to take the stage to a packed stadium in Europe (Finland, if I recall correctly) as the fans shout with thunderous volume, "Gen -- ee -- sees, Gen -- ee -- sees!!" The guys are in their small huddle below the stage, listening to this chant with amazement and nervous smiles, just about to climb the stairs to the stage. The give each other a final hug for good luck, ready to face a stadium of faces for the first time in 15 years. Suddenly, Phil and Mike decide they need a quick pee before taking the stage, and the look on Tony's face was priceless. Lots of little bits like this really made it fun for me. They then cut to Mike exiting the backstage men's room as he remarks, "All ten drops." Nothing like a little aging rock star prostate humor.

Did I mention there are also two full discs of concert music? I really loved every second of it. People can whine all they like about the two missing gentlemen, but despite the advancing years of the guys, I just loved every second of the show regardless of era. From the exciting introduction to "Afterglow" to Stuermer's massive solo on "Firth" to "Ripples" to "Los Endos," there were nicely performed gems throughout the evening. They struggle a few times, primarily Phil trying to hit certain notes. It would not be unlike watching Gilmour try to take the Floyd on the road again at this late juncture. Sure, he could do it, but it wouldn't be quite the same as the 70s, especially with Roger's croak of a voice. I actually like Phil's performance here and I like his matured voice. His clowning-around persona is toned down quite a bit. He is more serious and determined, no doubt a result of the great challenge, and I find the vocal performances just as pleasing and somehow more heartfelt. And Daryl and Chester are as kickass as ever. The time away hasn't phased them at all.

And then there is Rome! On the final night of the European leg, hundreds of thousands of Italians, all who realize that they were witnessing these friends for the very last time, made for extra passion and emotion. Everyone knows this is it, the last tour. It's a fitting venue choice because the Italians were very accepting and passionate about Genesis in the lean years. Cameras wisely captured people singing along to "Carpet Crawlers" during the final encore, and it really did get me choked up. Frankly, I realized that these people were special to me. Genesis have always been "around" in my youth and now they were saying goodbye. That is something that proved worth taking part in. Seeing people young enough to be the grandchildren of the band crying as they sang along to Carpet Crawlers proved again how special music can be. (Actually, I think that part was Finland, too.) The whole event truly had a lot of love, and I feel sorry for people who can't enjoy this because A) it isn't prog enough, or B) Steve Hackett isn't there.

The Circo Massimo gig is the one featured in full, on a beautiful night that really set off the huge screen and stage ambiance. The stage itself just looked amazing in the Rome night. The official crowd estimate for that night was 500,000, making it the biggest gig Genesis ever did.

Phil recalled, "They say there were 500,000 at the concert, but to honest, if you were in Rome that night, you were there... you had no choice. I've got a friend who works in The Vatican - which is a mile or so away across the river - and he told me that it was pretty loud even over there and that everyone opened their windows to let the music in."

Not often is a big stadium show from a legacy act, 40 years past their prime, going to affect me the way this one did. It would seem that, for me, they simply cared enough about the final product to succeed here. This is not treated as a throwaway or a product obligation, but as something that should matter. It feels to me like they wanted this document to be something people would want to return to, and I would definitely watch it again with great joy.

"It was a great opportunity. I think it's nice to get out there and, sort of knowing it is probably the last time, have a little bit of fun with that closure. Each night was kind of an emotional experience because you were playing a place you had played many times over the years and tonight you were saying thanks to everybody for the last 30 years of coming to see us. It's kind of nice way to say goodbye, really." -Collins

I might take this moment to also recommend both Collins and Rutherford's recent bios. Phil's book documents the absolute freefall of his health in the years following this DVD, while Mike's book was a fascinating look at both family and life in Genesis going all the way back to the very start. Both books are also chock full of entertaining, humorous, and heartfelt stories, with relatively little pretentiousness.

So, if you are able, set aside your cynicism and your expectations for a few evenings to take in this last call with old friends. I'm so glad that I did. I loved it.

Addio miei vecchi amici.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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