When In Rome 2007
4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson
I broke procedure in reviewing the new 3 DVD set by Genesis by starting out with the 1 hour 50 minute 'Come Rain or Shine' documentary, the third DVD that chronicles Genesis' 2007 reunion tour. I'd advise you to do the same. If you're Genesis fan, you know that after a 15 year-break, the Phil Collins-Mike Rutherford-Tony Banks triumvirate wasn't going to release any in-concert footage that's not note-for-note perfect, so the 2 DVDs devoted to their free concert in Rome in front of 500,000 fans are flawless. (Some of the song selections are heinous, but we'll get to that.). The final European concert was captured in incredibly crisp tones and hues by director David Mallet. The 'Come Rain or Shine' documentary, directed by film maker Anthony Mathile, will provide you with many insights (and inside jokes) that will further your enjoyment of the concert. You'll understand the epic saga of 'Conversation With Two Stools' for one, and appreciate the yeoman effort the design crew, lighting techs and stage minions put into erecting, testing and altering the monolithic, 10 million dollar special effects-laden stage.
The feature-length 'Come Rain or Shine' puts the viewer ringside at many important junctures of the tour, including the seven months before it began when Rutherford, Banks and a politely testy Collins endured the press junkets and photo shoots promoting their long-awaited reunion. 'We're doing 20 shows in Europe,' says Collins. 'You do forty and you do twenty without the lead singer.' The trio also faces the inevitable question of whether or not Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett will participate. Viewers get an off stage glimpse of the group at early rehearsals as they chip away the rust -- Collins for one can't remember the words, and is gassed after a few passes on his drum kit. 'You yearn for the nostalgia of doing it, but when you get there it's hard work isn't it?' comments Rutherford after a sluggish get together.
Bearish band Manager Tony Smith distinguishes himself as the group's valuable unsung leader behind the scenes, hashing out last-minute details with the technical crew and taking them to task when badly-needed computer generated special effects look and act less than special. Smith is all over nerdy video engineer Richard Turner when he realizes the technical crew has created a zillion complicated special effects ' and no one to run them! Enter Brian Miles, who looks like a doe about to meet his maker in front of a sixteen wheeler. Whether or not Miles can master the mountain of cues a mere 72 hours before the first show (particularly the 'Running Man' effect in 'The Cage') is one of the absorbing dramas that play out during the course of the in-depth documentary. Another is the crew's ongoing battle with the weather. When massive thunderstorms postpone shows three and four, rain gets into the lights and the gear, making it difficult for the stage hands to load in and out. Musicians will 'get' this part and be fascinated at way the crew can install and tear down the massive stage without frying themselves. 'The rain is severely testing everything now,' an antsy to perform Collins comments. 'It's testing the equipment and patience, it's unbelievable.'
It's not surprising how little Collins is involved in logistics -- as a singer I can tell you all we do is show up for the performance! Collins is in on a few meetings, but from the very beginning it's obvious he'd rather spend time with his family, that he's going to put his efforts into his performance, and he'll gladly let Rutherford and Banks handle the off stage business.
The third subplot seems like a running joke, but at least two members of the crew take it very seriously when it becomes their task to scower the landscape to look for bar stools for drummers Collins and Chester Thompson can play them onstage. It's hard to believe that hours before a sold out reunion tour two grown men have to go to a furniture warehouse to test stools. Not only do the men get lost, they leave with the wrong stool and have to go back. Upon receipt of the cushiony seat, an unimpressed Collins comments, 'It's nice, as far as stools go.'
As far as revelations go, viewers will learn more about Collins relationship with Banks (they haven't always been buddies), how a book brought the triumvirate closer together, that Banks has actually 'loosened up' over the years, and how Collins copes with being the group's front man.
And let's settle this once and for all, kids... Some folks believe there is no Genesis without Peter Gabriel. Au contraire. Genesis floundered under Gabriel's direction, birthing twenty-minute, ponderous suites that would have put anyone with insomnia under. They had tremendous success when Gabriel departed and went on to even greater glory when talented but out-of-step guitarist Steve couldn't Hackett anymore. By 2007, Gabriel's solo career was so far removed from his work in Genesis that despite the wishes of Genesis purists, he had no intention of putting on his frog suits and make up to gurgle 'Supper's Ready' or 'The Musical Box.' It's ironic that the group chose to end the DVDs with songs associated with Gabriel ('I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)' and 'Carpet Crawlers'). It's a concession to Gabriel's lingering presence, but I also think they're great songs that get the crowd singing along with the group. As for Hackett, well, with a guy as proficient as Daryl Steurmer around, he simply wasn't necessary.
Each song has its own set of extras. The extra extras are neat minute-long segments not found in the documentary that Genesis devotees will undoubtedly savor. Hit the interactive icon that appears in the upper left hand of the screen just before the song begins and you'll be taken to the rehearsal hall, the group's hotel rooms, or the factory where the stage was constructed. For example, the extra extras for 'I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)' include a look at Phil Collins' stash of memorabilia. Collins has proudly saved articles and one-of-a-kind photos from the group's earliest days, many of which end up as background visuals for their stage show. You'll also get to hear Stuermer, Rutherford and Banks tentatively practice their background vocals for 'I Know What I Like.' Press the icon for 'Follow You, Follow Me,' and you'll be taken to 'Mike Wants Phil's Feel On the Drums.' Rutherford thinks Chester Thompson's drumming is 'too heavy' for the song and asks Collins if he can drum and sing. He's right. Collins has a lighter touch that suits the wistful arrangement, and multi-tasking doesn't affect his vocal. The extra extra for 'Ripples' is particularly enjoyable ' an acoustic version of the song done by the boys in a hotel room. It has its own charm because Collins' voice is exposed with no production help, and he equips himself well, even though he doesn't remember all the words!
Nearly every song is a testament to perfection. I counted only one flaw ' when Collins couldn't decide how he wanted to improvise the ending to 'I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe),' and even that was only a momentary glitch. If you look at the documentary you'll understand that after nearly two decades apart this type of quality doesn't automatically manifest itself, so whether you like the group or not, they didn't bank the cash and put it on automatic pilot; they worked hard to get back into fighting shape.
The focus of the concert is, of course, on Collins, who may not be very ambulatory, but has maintained his impish heart, serving as a cheerleader and even attempting to introduce some of the songs in Italian. Rutherford periodically grins in the background, but his strength is bolting down the beat on bass or serving up concise, seconds-long solos (short, the way guitar solos should be!). The musical MVPs are hired hands Chester Thompson, who's a bit more lead footed than Collins on the drums, but is a studied pro, and Darryl Steurmer, who plays a thick bass when Rutherford suits up on guitar and generally outplays him when he gets to solo on the six string, recreating the group's hardest riffs without breaking a sweat. The real star (musically) is Tony Banks, whose fingers never stop moving across the keyboards as he shows a mastery of the classical, pop and rock styles the group embraces. Unfortunately, Banks never looks up from his keys ' not even at his bandmates, and he never smiles, making it appear as if he's not enjoying himself. From a viewer's standpoint, allowing Banks to spend the entire concert as the musician in a bubble dulls the thrill a bit. Good thing there's also lot of computer generated imagery to satisfy the eyes if you get tired of looking at pugnacious Phil.
Moto Bene, Genesis (The Good Stuff)
The group's performance of 'Ripples' goes beyond great to majestic. The music crests during the choruses and Collins can still infuse the lyrics with drama and irony. Banks, hunched over his keys, plays with the expertise of Van Clyburn. The romantic crowd-pleaser elicits much arm-waving and swaying from the teary-eyed audience.
The other arm-waving crowd-pleaser is 'Carpet Crawlers,' from 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,' Gabriel's last L.P. with the band. In the 'Sing Along' extra extra, Collins openly frets that after two hours of singing he won't be able to hit the necessary high notes ('You gotta get in to get ow ow ooooout'). As a novice singer who's had to pound out 'Try A Little Tenderness' as a closing number, I feel ya, Phil. Banks stays bent over his piano like Schroeder ignoring Lucy, and Steurmer shines on guitar, showering the verses with sonic beauty throughout. The audience loves it as well, and proves it with more arm-waving.
Another satisfying nod to the Gabriel era is 'I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),' a quirky sing-along that gets the extended treatment with Collins encouraging audience participation. Collins draws on his experience as a child actor, mugging, dancing and stirring up happy vibes. It's nice to see the band, which is a bit business-like and stiff, have a little fun. (Everyone except Banks, of course!)
Collins propels 'Follow You, Follow Me' with gentle fills on the drums and a sincere vocal; Steurmer bears down for a sinful solo on 'Land of Confusion,' which bubbles like a caustic cauldron, and the first half of 'Domino' (subtitled 'In The Glow of the Night') drifts along on cloud-like beauty. (The second half, 'The Last Domino' is a rushed, nasty piece that leaves you feeling you been chucked over Niagara Falls in a paper bag). The brisk 'Turn It On Again' is note-perfect, and includes an intro jam that verifies the group's impressive power as a cooperative entity.
The tempting ballad 'Hold On My Heart' bathes the band in warm violet and blue hues. Collins takes five, performing while sitting on a stool (there's that stool thing again!). His casual approach gives the song a heightened sense of intimacy, and you'll hear how essential Banks' blanketing keyboards are.
'I Can't Dance' is still as irreverent as ever, and Collins, Steurmer and Rutherford resurrect the ape walk used in the video for the enjoyment of the audience. The stodgy Rutherford proves he can lay down a funky Average White Band riff, and Collins turns on the schmaltz.
Basta! (Songs That Should Have Stayed Retired)
There are a number of performances where the group's ambitions can't outweigh the fact that some of the material stunk like the Jersey turnpike fifteen years ago and has further decayed with age. 'The Cage' mixes together snatches of songs (including 'Cinema Show' and 'Duke's Travels') that bombard the audience with schizophrenic dreck for ten minutes, despite Brian Miles' ability to execute the complicated trick of the 'Running Man' sequence. Steurmer plays another crisp lead in 'Fifth of Firth,' which is just an excuse for Collins to stay on the drums after 'Follow You, Follow me' and duel with Thompson.
One of my favs, 'Throwing It All Away' loses it's sentimentality due to Collins' improvised dingo scat intro and a pace that pushes it out of the ballad category. 'No Son of Mine' is simply a horrible tale of father/son regret that never fails to disappoint, despite Collins' arching his eyebrows to prove how profound the song is. But the biggest waste of film is 'Conversation With Two Stools.' It's a lame idea that I thought was a running joke on the documentary DVD, but Collins was serious. He and Thompson face off in front of 500,000 people playing bar stools! No matter how heavily the stools are miked, they still sound like drum pads ' which is what they should have used in the first place! The segment does provide a few cool visuals as the camera eavesdrops on the two drummers from overhead, or tightens to reveal they're in sync and conversatin'. Both men eventually shift to the drums for the inevitable drum battle that leads into the awful instrumental 'Los Endos.' Too bad they didn't endos this idea in rehearsal.
'When In Rome' recaptures the birth of a supergroup from Genesis to the final bow. Hopefully, the group won't wait another fifteen years to perform again, (because if they can't dance now, they'll never be able to boogie in wheelchairs). In the meantime, 'When In Rome' is a magnifico tribute to an 80s icon. Bravissimo!