Ah, Genesis. Here is a band that has always been on the fringe of my listening habits, a group that has morphed from prog to pop, from respect to neglect, a creative force that turned into a temporary hit machine before ultimately rendering itself obsolete.
My respect for Peter Gabriel’s solo career somehow does nothing to draw me into his Genesis catalogue and my flirtations with prog rock (Rush, some Yes, but King Crimson and the like? No, no, no) likewise doesn’t endear me even to epics like The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. My timely interest in pop (coming smack dab in the middle of the Genesis pop era) pulled me into songs like Follow You, Follow Me and Throwing It All Away but the tastes I’ve acquired since then almost repel me from that material now.
All that said, being on the “never seen ‘em” list is generally enough to get me out of the house on a Saturday night, and Genesis fit the bill. So on September 15th, 2007 I drove 25 kilometres west of Ottawa to Kanata for a concert in my local arena (and paid $15 to park in what is essentially a paved farmer’s field).
And while nostalgia was enough to pull me through the evening (even in the face of Invisible Touch, a song that made me shudder even as a pop-loving teenager), late in the set the band played Mama, and you know what? I had forgotten how good of a song that was. There’s almost no song there at all, maybe a lesson taken from their former lead singer with his songs Biko and Sledgehammer; songs that are so full and immediately identifiable, but when you dissect them there is really very little holding them together. Can you imagine strumming an acoustic guitar and coming up with Sledgehammer?
Anyway, Mama. Stupid words, basically no harmonic movement, silly cackles, and a magical drum sound that rivals the power of John Bonham. It was a five and-a-half minute peak in an otherwise uneventful show, and the glow rode me all the way to the I Can’t Dance/Carpet Crawlers encore, which reminded me that Phil Collins is about the most unlikely pop star in the world. I’m not saying he’s the Elephant Man or anything, but he’s no James Dean either.
There, seen ‘em. Won’t see ‘em again. And that’s okay: if you don’t go, you won’t know.