Review: Genesis Captured Live

Genesis/BBC Broadcasts/Atlantic/Rhino
Four  out of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

A treasure trove of unreleased live recordings culled from the vaults of the BBC, this remarkable five-CD box set spans nearly 20 years in Genesis’ trajectory, from its earliest recordings dating back to 1970 until the advent of the band’s more commercial incarnation circa 1998. As one might expect from the BBC, the quality is excellent, and a terrific representation of the band at various peaks of its prowess.

As any fan of the band can attest, Genesis underwent a dramatic transformation from its initial progressive incarnation with Peter Gabriel at the helm, to their latter-day incarnation, which found them making deliberate inroads into the top 40. Consequently, the earlier offerings culled from various sources and with Gabriel providing the vocals, may be of most interest to devotees and archivists. Those are to be found on disc one, which is dominated by extended works such as “The Musical Box,” “Get ‘Em Out By Friday,” “Watcher of the Skies,” and “The Fountain of Salmacis.” Given the heretofore relatively rare glimpses into the band early on, this CD could be considered the highlight of the entire offering. 

The second disc probes a transitory time in the band’s evolution, one that followed Gabriel’s departure and Phil Collins’ elevation into the role of the band’s frontman and lead singer. Here again, the tracks, taken from the Knebworth Festival and London’s Lyceum, in 1978 and 1980, respectively, offer a telling insight into Genesis’ ongoing transition as a revamped band that maintained an adventurous musical outlook while still probing the possibilities of generating wider appeal. Several songs—“Dancing With the Moonlit Knight” and “Carpet Crawlers” in particular—maintain the earlier motif, but at the same time, “Turn It On Again” shows that certain more melodic possibilities haven’t eluded them entirely.

CD3 culls more material from the Lyceum show, adding a pair of tracks from a performance at Wembley in 1987. Here again, the group manages to retain more than a hint of their progressive posture courtesy of “The Knife,” “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” and “Afterglow,” while also incorporating such increasingly accessible offerings as “Mama” and “Follow You Follow Me.” The remainder of the tracks, recorded at Wembley and included on the fourth disc, find them further along in terms of now reliable radio fare, with “That’s All” and “Invisible Touch” offering ideal examples of the band reaching its commercial prime.

That commercial crossover culminates on CD 5 with the material captured at Knebworth in 1992, as Genesis was effectively coming to a close with that phase of their collective career. “No Son of Mine” and “I Can’t Dance” are decidedly less interesting than the tracks that preceded them, but still prove essential in terms of offering a well-rounded picture of the path the band had taken up until this point. To borrow the title of an earlier album, this is an excellent opportunity to follow the journey taken from early Genesis to further revelation.

Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images

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