I wrote this for a Genesis mailing list I'm on, so I'm just re-posting it here for anyone who might actually care. Thanks.
My thoughts on Hartford, San Jose and Sacramento ***REALLY LONG*** (no, I'm not kidding)
For what it's worth, here's what I thought of the three shows I've seen so far:
Hartford: The anticipation I was feeling before the show was incredible. I had thought I'd never see them again, and even when the first official announcement of the tour came out, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. But the more I heard about it, the more excited I got, so I went from "yeah, I might go see them once" to "how many times can I get away with seeing them"? When they took the stage and then as they went through each song, it was just great to hear how incredible they still were. For this show, I was on the right side of the stage, about 3 sections from the stage, about half-way up. Everyone knows the setlist so just some thoughts on individual songs:
During "Land of Confusion", Phil gestured to the front row. I thought he was just motioning some of them over so that he could shake their hands since they had their hands outstretched. It took me a second to realize that he was motioning specifically to one guy who had a celphone in his hand, presumably calling someone so they could hear the song over the phone. The guy handed the phone to Phil, and for a couple of lines, Phil was singing simultaneously into the phone and the mic. The crowd went crazy. Can you imagine being on the other end of that call? Or better yet, listening to your voicemail and hearing Phil singing to you?
"Afterglow" - One of the songs I love, and it was incredible to hear how beautifully Phil sang it. Same with "Ripples". Amazing.
"I Know What I Like" - I loved the montage that goes by, but it's so hard trying to decide whether to watch the montage or the stage, especially with Phil's antics. So fitting that Peter and Steve should be included in the montages (and Daryl and Chester, of course). I looked to see if Ray was in there, and I didn't see any in the times I was looking, but as much as I like "Calling All Stations" (the album as a whole), Ray was really just a blip and more of a hired gun in the history of Genesis. I'm still surprised that the album artwork appears on some of the tour merchandise - I didn't even expect that.
"Mama" - When I first heard that they were doing this, I was really surprised because doing this song totally rips Phil's vocal chords to shreds. Singing this every night of the tour? Maybe they decided to go ahead and do it since it was a relatively short tour, and there's quite a bit of instrumental work on the setlist, so at least Phil isn't singing for the entire close-to-3 hours.
"Invisible Touch" - Oh my gosh! Indoor fireworks! I had no idea. How very cool.
San Jose: This has been the best show so far for me. I had a floor seat, 18th row, left of center. The people around me were so into the concert - some of them would leave to get drinks or go to the bathroom, but mostly, people were focussed on the show. The guy to my left had never seen them live before and never thought he would. He said he was also attending the Friday night Bowl show. The guy to my right hadn't seen them since the 80s, and he was just loving every minute of it. I was standing/dancing for most of the concert, which was fine and which I expected being on the floor. When everyone was standing, I could still get a good view of Tony, so I didn't have to rely only on what the cameras showed me. At Hartford, I basically only had a view of the back of his head. There was a tall guy a couple rows in front of me, but I could see Chester and Phil on either side of him. And when people in front of me were sitting down, I could see the entire stage. I couldn't believe I was that close.
"Hold On My Heart" - Phil seemed to be struggling with some of the notes, though I couldn't tell if it was really just him or some distortion from the sound system.
"Ripples" - This seemed to be a favorite of the floor crowd at least. Though it happened on some other songs as well, on this song in particular, the crowd was acting as Phil's backup on "Sail away, away". It sounded amazing.
"Throwing It All Away" - I had been surprised at how they staged this song when I saw them in Hartford, with the camera just showing people in the crowd, but I realized that it was another slow song in the set, and they wanted to make it more fun. The tempo was a bit more upbeat than the song normally is, so that added to it.
"Domino" - During Phil's demonstration of the domino principle, when he got to the "tiny people in the back", they reacted by throwing their arms up, but they didn't jump to their feet like the other sections had. Phil apparently noticed because he then said, "Don't get up." I laughed a lot at that comment. I also loved seeing the band doing their part of the "affects those of us up here", especially sedate Tony throwing his arms up.
From that proximity, I could better see facial reactions and observe a lot more of what the guys were doing, both when they had the spotlight on them and otherwise. It was so nice to see the playfulness among them, and they'd be joking around with each other. They really seemed like they were enjoying themselves up there. And even though Phil tells the same stories/jokes every night, some of which he's told for several decades, he still does a good job of making them sound fresh.
Sacramento: For this show, I was on the left side of the stage, about as far back as the 13th row on the floor, and I was about 5 rows up, so I was at about where the left projection screen was. Still a pretty good view of everyone, except that during certain parts, the lights on the right side of the stage would light, and they'd be blinding, since they were just to the right of Tony from my viewpoint.
I noticed especially during the drum duet but also at other instrumental parts that it looks like Phil is chewing gum or candy. Is that to keep his throat moist? Does he spit it out when he's actually singing and only has it in his mouth when he's just the drummer?
I also noticed that after "Follow You, Follow Me", the roadie switched out his drumsticks. It looked like that was planned (I think I noticed that at Hartford too), but I don't know if the sound is just different with different sticks or they wear after a while or what, since that's almost about the half-way point.
"Ripples" - The crowd was doing the same backup singing as in San Jose. I hadn't noticed that happening in Hartford.
"Domino" - This time, when the "tiny people in the back" reacted, Phil again said, "Don't get up." But then he added, "Oh, wait, you're already up." Was this an inside joke for those who'd been the night before, including the band? No matter, I laughed.
When I was in the merchandise line before the concert, there was a kid there, probably in high school, who was there with his dad and a friend. The kid was saying that if his dad would buy him a t-shirt, he'd buy one himself as well. His dad asked why he needed 2 t-shirts. His response was, "They're my favorite band!" It was nice to see the mixture of ages of people there. This kid definitely did not look old enough to have even been able to see them live before.
On the darker side, there were two donkeyopenings sitting in front of me who decided they needed to talk throughout the entire show. Sometimes, it was about the show itself. "How weird is this? Dude, isn't this weird?" Sometimes, it was about entirely unrelated things, like where one wanted to go on vacation. Why the hell do you come to a show to talk through the whole thing? There were parts where they weren't even paying attention to what was going on onstage. I think their wives were doing the exact same thing. So their talking would be intrusive during the faster and slower songs since they'd have to yell loud enough to hear each other over the actual concert being performed there. One of them also decided to be an even bigger donkey and he'd sing/yell *really* loudly at parts, totally off-key. And he'd make derogatory comments about how the band would have to change this or that part when they played L.A. because L.A. people would never go for that. Hey, donkeyopening, he's been doing the "Home by the Sea" routine for years now, and even though it's a little different this time, the audience participates no problem in L.A.
With the first three shows I've seen, I've been on both sides and the middle and from different distances, so I've been able to see the show as a whole, with the screens and lights and such, as well as the more intimate moments on stage. I think they did a good job of mixing it up on the setlist, with lots of older and newer stuff, and I'm surprised (though enjoyably so) that there is so much instrumental stuff in the set. The only song I'd take out is "I Can't Dance" since I'm not all that fond of the song, but it is contagious and catchy and gets the audience up again during the encore. I'd rather they substituted "Anything She Does" - it's from the same album and also upbeat, though obviously not a hit, and then Phil might have to apologize for the content of the song like he does after "Mama".
Only two more shows left on the tour, both at the Hollywood Bowl. I'm really interested to see how the stage setup is going to work, given the Bowl's shell and all. There's a part of me that's not feeling sad because I never expected to see them again, so being able to see them on this tour has been a bonus. And I already went through these feelings during Phil's First Final Farewell Tour, when I'd resigned myself to never seeing him on tour again. But who knows what I'll feel on Friday and then Saturday night, knowing this is really probably the end. I can only hope that they can work something out with Peter.