Until recently I had given the so-called Tribute Bands a very wide and slightly suspicious berth, yet there is no denying that they are becoming big business in some quarters of the industry. I blame the Elvis impersonators, who started the ball rolling after the King’s demise and now most of the big bands from the 60s and 70s are represented by interlopers – Bjorn Again, The Australian Pink Floyd, The Bootleg Beatles, Dread Zeppelin and so on and on. So, in the spirit of adventure, I went to see French Canadian Genesis Tribute Band, The Musical Box, perform the legendary ‘Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’ show, allegedly perfect in every detail from costumes to back projection and lighting.
I never saw the original Gabriel line up play live, so this had a touch of the ‘never meet your heroes’ about it and having owned the studio album since the 70s and the live version on the later archive box set, I have always had a picture in my head of what the live show was like. Actually seeing it performed was a strange experience as it both punctured my imagining and opened up a new view all at the same time. In some respects it rather grounded my impression of it in reality, but in others it revealed its beauty in a live environment. I actually got the shivers during ‘Hairless Heart’ and the achingly melancholic ‘
Lamia’ where guitarist
François Gagnon’s guitar replicated the soul of Steve Hackett in all its glory.
There is no doubt that members of The Musical Box have done their homework and the musical exposition was mightily impressive, to the point of virtually reproducing the studio album in all respects. The tone of the instruments, including the 70s keyboard sounds, was spot on and the playing immaculate. But it was Denis Gagné’s impersonation of Peter Gabriel that was key to the act. Frankly, without his uncannily accurate Gabriel impersonation (including his flute playing), the whole illusion would’ve collapsed like a pack of cards. If there was a weak link, it was ‘Tony Banks’ who didn’t quite nail some of his solos and rather glossed over some of my favourite bits, but this is nit-picking as playing a piece from such a well known band to their fans who know every nuance is probably a no-win situation.
Interestingly, they finished with a rendition of ‘The Musical Box’ from Nursery Cryme (complete with Old Man mask) and then ‘The Knife’ from Trespass as an encore and in many respects these were better, having a real atmosphere to them. It left me feeling that I would’ve quite liked to have seen some of their other sets from around the ‘Foxtrot’ period, but perhaps another time.
As the rock genre moves across the generations, the great bands of the past are now lost to newcomers, so to reproduce live acts in this way may be viewed as a service to those who missed out, yet the average age of the audience was not reduced by curious youngsters, but remained solidly around the 50-something range. It seems that as long as we original fans can still get out of a night, the future is secure for the Tributes, but beyond that? Who knows.