Monday, April 22, 2013

No. 409 – Mama

Performer: Genesis
Songwriters: Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford
Original Release: Genesis
Year: 1983
Definitive Version: Live at Wembley Stadium, 1987

When I arrived at Northwestern in the fall of 1986, Genesis unquestionably was my favorite band. And, as documented, I would be seeing them in Cleveland in January after Scott had slept with my girlfriend in front of the Buzzard’s Nest store in Columbus to secure tickets.

But I couldn’t get the nagging feeling out of my head that they were going to be playing in Chicago almost right after I got there—three shows. I was certain all the shows had been sold out long before now—the point was moot—but I still wanted to go anyway.

After the first show, I couldn’t wait to read the review in the Sun-Times. It was fairly tepid. I was sure it probably was in fact great but that the reviewer just didn’t like Genesis. What really caught my eye was the final sentence: Tickets for the last two nights still were on sale. Wait, what? They weren’t all sellouts? You mean … I could go if I wanted?

Well, this was an unexpected development. Yes, I had a ticket in hand, but that was for a show in January, three months away. I could see them tonight, for the princely sum of $25. During class I could think of nothing else all day. I didn’t really have the money, and I’ll be seeing Genesis in a few months, but … I HAD to go. I called Ticketron and bought a ticket for that night.

In boot camp, we had an assignment to interview someone else in class and write a bio story. Tony was assigned to interview me, and he wanted to do the interview that day. I explained I had to head out for a concert, but if he wanted to walk back to my residence with me, we could do it along the way.

When I got back to my room, I saw that all my furniture had been packed up in cellophane in the middle of the room so a crew could come in and paint the walls. (Why this wasn’t done before class started, I don’t know.) I flitted about the room grabbing this and that as Tony fired questions at me. I don’t remember what he asked; I was preoccupied.

The show was at the Rosemont Horizon, out by O’Hare. I had a reasonable idea of how to get there after looking at my Chicago map, but I had no idea how long it would take, so I left way earlier than I needed to. This led to me having enough time to get dinner at a hole-in-the-wall Italian place in Rosemont that wasn’t too bad (at least for my tastes at the time, which weren’t sophisticated).

I picked up my ticket at will call feeling excited but also a little guilty that I was sneaking off to see Genesis by myself. I got over it quickly. My seat was crap, but I wasn’t expecting anything else. I was on the side, down low behind the front of the stage. When Phil drummed, I could see him fine. When he sang, I had a great view of his bald spot. But I was there, and that’s all that mattered.

The crowd was just as excited to be there as I was, it seemed. The Bears, defending Super Bowl champs, were having another great season, and they owned Chicago.

The defense was known for barking at the line of scrimmage, and the fans serenaded their team thusly. That carried over to the Genesis concert. People were barking and woofing the whole time, seemingly at a drop of the hat. As the fog began to roll over the stage and the staccato beat of this song started, droning on for minutes before the band hit the stage, 19,000 dogs woofed their approval.

In fact, it was so crazy that Phil changed a bit to reflect that. Before Home By the Sea, Phil talks about how he feels spirits in the room and has the crowd “call to the spirits” by raising their arms and going wooo. He’s done this since 1984. It’s lame, and he knows it’s lame, which is why he has to shame those “who are too cool to do this” to build up the crowd response. When it’s sufficiently loud, the lights lower closer to the stage to create different effects.

Well, in Chicago, he said “usually we call to the spirits by raising our arms and going ‘woo,’ but tonight I want you to raise your arms and go ‘woof woof woof.’”

There was no need for goading: The entire arena lit up with barks. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen a crowd-participation event at a show where the whole crowd—and I mean the whole crowd—bought into it immediately.

The show had plenty of cool effects and was heavy on the new stuff, until the end when they finally dipped into the older stuff. They played the closing section of Supper’s Ready, which aside from being a total shock—they hadn’t played any part of it live in the United States since 1976—was also my favorite song.

The rest of the show was great, but that moment put it over the top on my show list. Plus, it was the best crowd experience I’d had up to that point. Maybe the guy from the Sun-Times saw a different show than I did, or he wasn’t a Genesis fan. That simple.

I was so giddy from the experience that I couldn’t keep it a secret. I told Scott the next weekend that I saw Genesis. He was a bit miffed. I assured him I still wanted to go to Cleveland, and “just you wait, because …”

I told him everything. I couldn’t keep it in. Was I maybe setting him up for a let-down if the Cleveland show wasn’t as good? How could it be not as good? Genesis never changes its set list; it’ll be great.

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