In the beginning, there was Genesis — a progressive rock band from London, featuring Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Steve Hackett.
In the early 1970s, their concerts were more than just elaborate musical performances. They were akin to theatrical shows, with stage designs, costumes and lights that were like nothing else being done at the time.
And nobody is doing it now except The Musical Box, a group from Montreal that is in town tonight recreating the Genesis “Selling England by the Pound” show on the stage of the Byham Theater, 40 years later.
Like the band that has inspired them, The Musical Box — formed in 1993 — is made up of five musicians: Denis Gagné (“Peter Gabriel” — lead vocals, flute, percussion); François Gagnon (“Steve Hackett” — guitars); Sébastien Lamothe (“Mike Rutherford” — bass); Guillaume Rivard (“Tony Banks” — keyboards, guitar); and Marc Laflamme (“Phil Collins” — drums).
“When the Musical Box started, no one expected to be still playing 20 years later,” Mr. Gagné said. “When the band started, it was to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first time that Genesis played in Montreal, which was Nov. 10, ’73. We just thought we’d do it for a couple of weekends and that was going to be it.
“But demand was there and people asked to see the show and see the band, so we added dates. And then it just grew and grew and grew. Twenty years later we’re still touring. It’s totally insane actually.”
It’s the 20th anniversary show of a 20th anniversary show. It might be insane, if it wasn’t such a great show, embraced by audiences worldwide.
“We recreate everything like Genesis, to give the audience the illusion that they’re watching Genesis in 1973,” Mr. Gagné said. “We have the same instruments, we have the same stage sets, which we just had redone because we’re kind of crazy. We want it perfect, we want it exactly like they had. We’re still fixing things.
“We have the same costumes. We try to look like the band. Everything is done so that people who come to the show are like, ‘[Expletive], man!’ — sorry. pardon my French — ‘I’m watching Genesis in ’73!’ It’s a trip back.”
Mr. Gagné said the members don’t care for the label of “a tribute band,” because that implies picking songs from different eras. The Musical Box is recreating a show, and it is the only band with the permission and the rights of the original Genesis members.
“They’ve all seen us at different times,” Mr. Gagné said. “Peter Gabriel was the first to come see the show. Mike Rutherford came a couple of days later. Phil sat on stage with us for the encore in Geneva in 2004.
“Steve Hackett came on stage with us. Tony Banks was the last one to come and see the band. I think it was last year, and I heard that he said, ‘I can’t remember Genesis playing this good.’”
Even the players’ movements on stage are precise.
“We found footage,” Mr. Gagné said. “There’s no personal interpretation in what we do. It’s like a classical concert where the musicians try to arrange the music just so. They wouldn’t want to do something Mozart would not be pleased with.”
Even when they have the opportunity to cheat — using modern technology — they choose not to.
“Lately, we’ve been getting a lot more vintage than we used to,” Mr. Gagné said. “We even have analog soundboards. Everybody’s got the digital soundboards. We had a crew setting them up at a recent show, and the guys were saying, ‘Oh my God! These guys are not kidding.’”
And at the end of the show? How much applause is for Genesis and how much is for The Musical Box?
“That’s a question we should ask the audience,” Mr. Gagné said. “I think they appreciate the effort we put into the show and the way we perform the music.
“But this is a Genesis show they are applauding. I believe that they were so ahead of their time when they did that. That’s why it’s still working. Nothing that looks like it is done anymore. So this is something people can’t get anywhere else.”
The show at the Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown in the Cultural District, begins at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $39.25 to $51.25.
Dan Majors: firstname.lastname@example.org
First Published November 13, 2013 4:43 PM