The Musical Box “Selling England By The Pound Tour” – Manchester Apollo 30/10/16

Well it’s quite a while since I did a review for this site but I felt I wanted to share some of my thoughts with the wider ‘rock’ world as to what was a rather curious evening’s entertainment from a while back.
Ok so where to begin on this ‘gig’ review? Well I guess first off would you actually call this a gig or a theatrical experience? I’ve seen many a tribute band over the years and quite frankly some which pertain to still be the same thing despite only having one existing original member. Some don’t even that! In truth I find the majority of these to be simply cashing in on the nostalgia trip most of us at, let’s say ‘a certain age’, go down. However when I first heard about this bunch of French Canadians some 8+years ago I vowed I would at some point go and investigate their show. Being a bit of a Genesis fan, particularly of their early stuff, sadly I only managed to get to see them live in about 1985 when in my eyes they were way past their best. Consequently the idea that I could relive a point in time that I was too young to experience first time around was too much of an opportunity to miss. Anyway after missing 2 previous visits of theirs to the Apollo in Manchester this time I duly coughed up my dough and got a pretty good seat due to booking virtually as soon as the shows were announced. I would not miss a third time!
On arrival at the venue and taking my seat, the first thing that stuck me was how simple the stage layout was compared to today’s shows. Nowadays due to the sheer amount of backdrops, lights, lasers and pyro going on I feel it sometimes detracts from the music! All the equipment on stage appeared duly ‘retro’ whether this was actual or reproduced I’m not expert enough to know but it certainly looked the part and the fact that there were actual cables taped all over the floor was a pleasant sight to me as everything is radio nowadays!  However this brings its own issues which I’ll go into later. A simple series of silk screens as a backdrop and a small lighting rig completed the scene and everything was looking slightly lost on the large stage.
No support for this show and the lights duly went out at almost bang on 8. A polite smattering of applause from the rather sedate crowd and the ‘band’ took to the stage. After a bit of ‘tuning’ (yet again another blast from the past) we were into the opener of Watcher of the skies. Musically the band was first class however I feel it can quite often be the vocal which lets down tribute acts but certainly not in this case. “Gabriel”, or in reality Denis Gagne, sounded amazing and dressed in full make up, black floor length cloak and winged headdress and you could’ve believed it was a reincarnation of a 70’s Gabriel, albeit a slightly plumper version. The rest of the band was duly dressed almost completely in white adding to the effect, particularly when the UV stage lights were used.
The set went from strength to strength with each song interspersed with rehearsed ‘Peter Gabriel’ tales to fill the time whilst the ‘crew’ changed guitars, tuned, adjusted etc. No doubt this was all stage managed to replicate the original concerts however it brought home to me a much simpler time when the music was the be all and end all, over and above the ‘stage show’. Having stagehands actually on show is something I’ve not seen for a good number of years. in this day and age of over produced concerts I found the whole thing rather refreshing and brought a new level of appreciation to what touring back then must have been like without the technical advantages todays bands benefit from. I mean when was the last time you saw someone stumble on stage due to the tangle of wires taped here there and everywhere and I was mightily impressed with Mr Gagne for keeping his feet whilst dancing, particularly whilst the strobes were going. As I stated earlier I felt that the musicianship exhibited was spot on with not a single error (that I noticed) and the sight of ‘Rutherford’ playing twin neck guitar & then filling in the bass line on pedals with feet had me mesmerised.  Stagecraft at its best!
Would I go to see this show again? In truth I’m not sure. However if, or more likely when, they recreate another tour such as The Lamb Lies Down then I will be certainly at the front of the queue for tickets.
Set list:

Watcher Of The Skies
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
Cinema Show
I Know What I Like (in your wardrobe)
Firth Of Forth
Musical Box
Battle Of Epping Forest
Suppers Ready
The Knife (Encore)

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