Flashback: Genesis Perform an Epic ‘Watcher of the Skies’ in 1973

Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, and Tony Banks attended a Knicks/Lakers game together at Madison Square Garden last week, giving the rumors Genesis is contemplating a reunion tour a tiny shred of credibility. It’s quite possible the old friends were merely in town to celebrate Collins’ 69th birthday or to see LeBron James in person, but none of them have plans for the foreseeable future — so this could be one of the times where the rumor mill is onto something.

The fan fiction version of this possible tour involves finding a way for Peter Gabriel and guitarist Steve Hackett to be involved as well. That lineup of the band hasn’t played together since a one-off reunion show in Milton Keynes, England back in 1982. That show was put together with minimal rehearsal and they didn’t bother to film or even properly record the thing. Their last tour with Gabriel was the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway run of 1974/75. They played 104 shows on that one, but not a single one of them was professionally filmed and only tiny fragments have emerged over the years. “It’s largely my fault,” Gabriel told Rolling Stone in 2011. “I was a major film obsessive and I had dreams of trying to do things properly, so I wouldn’t allow it.”

To see a Peter Gabriel-era Genesis show in full, you need to go back to a set they filmed across two days at England’s Shepperton Studios on October 30th and 31st of 1973. “I was promised at the time that it wouldn’t get seen anywhere if I didn’t like it,” Gabriel said in 2011. “And I didn’t like it, and it still got used.” Here’s footage of the opening number, “Watcher of the Skies,” from that show in Shepperton. (In the following years, everything from Star Wars and Superman to Alien and Blade Runner were also shot there.)

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The material from this period of Genesis is loved largely by prog aficionados. The mass public doesn’t really know any of their music until “Follow You Follow Me” hit five years later. This was after Gabriel and Hackett left for solo careers and Collins brought the band to Top 40 radio and football stadiums with songs like “Invisible Touch,” “That’s All,” “Land of Confusion” and “I Can’t Dance.”

That said, tribute bands like the Musical Box have made a very good career out of recreating Gabriel-era Genesis shows. Hackett has spent the past few years staging Genesis Revisited shows all across the globe, playing to the biggest crowds he’s faced in decades. There’s an audience for this stuff, and a reunion tour by either incarnation of the band would be a huge event. The only issue now is whether or not the members have any interest in actually doing it.


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