Fans of the classic rock band Genesis and their music of the 1970s will have much to celebrate this coming Fall and Winter. The highly regarded and world-famous tribute band, The Musical Box, recently announced they would once again be touring with their production of Genesis’ classic tour for “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.” The Musical Box has earned legions of fans, including the members of Genesis themselves, for their incredible ability to recreate the music and live shows of early Genesis with extreme accuracy. Featuring visual effects as used by Genesis during the original “Lamb” tour in the 1970s, this production is sure to delight many when brought to North America and Europe in late 2011 and early 2012.
The Musical Box: The Ultimate Genesis Tribute Band
The members of The Musical Box have taken the art of the tribute band to a level rarely found in the popular music world. Few tribute acts are able to recreate the sound of a band and their stage production as well as they do, especially for a band such as Genesis of the 1970s. As led by Peter Gabriel at the time, Genesis live shows were a mixture of complex progressive rock, elaborate light shows, visual effects, story telling and costumes. The Musical Box attempts to accurately reproduce each of these elements of the Genesis live show, and has in the past received assistance from the original band members and their touring crew in order to do so.
The Musical Box formed in 1993 in Montreal to mark the twentieth anniversary of the classic Genesis album “Selling England by the Pound.” Originally a seven-piece group, they reconvened in 1995 as a five-piece, like Genesis themselves of the early 70s, with new lead singer Denis Gagné. The addition of Denis was critical to the band’s success as he was able to mimic the vocals, appearance and stage presence of Peter Gabriel with incredible accuracy. Denis learned to play the flute and even shaved an odd bald spot on the front of his head, as Gabriel had done during that era, to more convincingly be able to “play” Peter on stage.
The Musical Box focused on the early 1970s tours of Genesis up until 2000, specifically their “Nursery Cryme,” “Foxtrot” and “Selling England by the Pound” tours. Unlike other tribute acts which simply play a selection of a band’s popular hit songs, The Musical Box would play Genesis set lists exactly as they had been for each of these original Genesis tours, recreate the costuming and stage effects as accurately as possible, and even mimic the on-stage banter as can be heard in many existing recordings of 1970s Genesis performances. The effect for the audience at a Musical Box show is impressive, virtually leaving one feeling “transported” back in time to the 1970s and able to imagine you are actually hearing Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett and Tony Banks playing.
The Musical Box and “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”
In 2000, The Musical Box purchased the rights to perform “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” from Genesis and Gabriel and launched ambitious plans to stage the show. “Lamb” was originally released in 1974 and was the last Genesis album – and tour – before Peter Gabriel left the band. A double-length concept album, the complicated story line of “Lamb” is about a juvenile delinquent living in New York City named Rael who gets swept underground into a bizarre and nightmarish world. He faces strange characters and many dangers in an attempt to find and rescue his brother John, also lost to the underground.
The music for “Lamb” was primarily composed by the other members of Genesis, but Gabriel was responsible for the lyrics and main concept, which truly took shape in the elaborate stage presentation for the tour. Three screens behind the band featured 1,200 changing slides, while Gabriel performed as “Rael” and went through several costume changes including the grotesque “Slipperman.” The emphasis on Gabriel’s theatrics in this live show would cause friction with the other members of Genesis, and be part of what led to his following split from the band.
The Musical Box were given copies of the original background slides as well as assistance from the original slide operators to get them in the correct order and timing for the show. The band also was given full access to Genesis’ original master recordings of “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” so they could study and recreate the album’s music as closely as possible. When they toured with “Lamb” in the following years, the production was a stunning success, wowing original Genesis fans and stunning new ones who had never had the opportunity to see the show performed in its entirety before.
In 2007 The Musical Box returned but went back to performing earlier Genesis work on their tours, and seemed to have no future plans to do “Lamb” again. In 2008, they staged their first tour based on Genesis’ post-Gabriel era, 1976’s “Trick of the Tail.” Denis was able to perform as Phil Collins singing, and through careful staging drummer Marc Laflamme would take on the role of Collins when behind the drum kit. This tour was also a success with fans and caused some to wonder if they would continue with more tours based on later Genesis music, but nothing along those lines materialized. Indeed, the band took a complete hiatus in 2010 and no news surfaced of any future plans until recently.
“The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” 2011/2012 Tour
News actually broke of The Musical Box returning with “Lamb” on the official Genesis website in January 2011. In the announcement, little was said if there were any changes to The Musical Box’s line-up but that “major surprises are unlikely.” This would be the first time The Musical Box would be performing “Lamb” since 2006, with the tour beginning in the United States in late 2011 and continuing through winter 2012 in Europe. So far, only two dates have been announced in the United States, in Glenside, Pennsylvania at the Keswick Theatre, November 18 and 19, 2011. Already these two performances are close to sold out. European performances will include dates in Rome, Milan, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stockholm, Oslo and Brussels.
The Musical Box is a Must-See Band for Genesis Fans
Having personally attended at least a half-dozen performances by The Musical Box through the years, I cannot recommend attending their shows highly enough. The level of the band’s musicianship is outstanding, each member well up to playing the complex progressive rock music of 70s-era Genesis. Denis Gagné as Peter Gabriel is a stunning site to behold, as he truly disappears into the role and vocally matches Peter’s singing extremely well. The Musical Box is a delight to any fan of classic rock music and in fact their earlier tour of “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” holds a prominent position on my list of the best concerts I’ve ever attended. Those who love the music of Genesis should be sure not to miss this concert tour.
* The Musical Box, Official website
* “The Musical Box – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway 2011/2012”, Genesis News, January 15, 2011
* The Keswick Theatre, Official website
* “The Musical Box (band)”, Wikipedia
* “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”, Wikipedia
* Personal experience