The Watch – impersonation or reincarnation?

Simone Rosetti

Cover bands.  Tribute bands.  “Experiences.”  Do not get me started!  Have you never wanted to do something creative?  Something that was truly yours?  Do you see your job as, essentially, one of impersonation?  The only passion that really comes across to the audience is the passion for perfection.  At best, the performers disappear, or, as is often the case, wear costumes.  But part of it is still an exercise in impersonation.

But I am a good one to talk.  Let us not even, for the moment, mention the dozens of shows by a certain Genesis tribute band that I have witnessed.  As an audience member I delight in the opportunity to see something I never had the opportunity to witness the first time around.  And, taken on its merits, the performance is inspiring – sound, vision, composition. But here’s the sick part: I also have audio-only recordings of tribute bands!  Why not just listen to the original?  That’s the thing I’ve been listening to for twenty-five years!

But that’s just it.  After all this time, I’m looking for something different, another level of genius.  And when that raw material is in another’s hands, the possibility for “interpretation” or variation is dangerously prominent.

Well, The Watch is your cure for the common tribute band.  Part of what motivated Genesis (a BIG part) was the desire/need to write music.  That push to be creative, to do something new, was, no doubt, a big part of what moved the real Genesis on stage.  The Musical Box has never had that.  New music has always been explicitly excluded from their mandate.  The Watch, on the other hand,  has four studio albums of original material and a live album of that material.  They are established original artists.  They have also created two Genesis programs that perfectly imitate the dominating force of Foxtrot and Nursery Cryme.  Those records have had a profound, though often overlooked, influence on music throughout Europe, North America and South America.

Will The Watch have that kind of impact?  I don’t think so, but one never knows.  The point is that they are making the music that they want to make, and while it is overwhelmingly influenced by Gabriel-era Genesis, it is also their own.  Or is this what Genesis would have sounded like if that remarkable quintet had never disbanded?  That’s a fanboy question for the ages.

For now, I count myself very lucky to have come across this band from Milan.  Thirty-eight years ago, Genesis was looking for a break with a live show that they new was good, but it wasn’t getting through outside England.  Italy was a home for Genesis when they were on the road.  Now, it seems, Genesis has become a musical home for a few gifted musicians from Italy.

I have ordered The Watch’s two most recent titles from Amazon – Primitive and Planet Earth.  I also want to thank Sommutante for having an amazing music blog.  It’s in Portuguese, but it’s pretty easy to see he’s pretty hip.  And I don’t recommend Google Translate.  Just listen to the music.

Shining Bald Heads (5:55) – from Vacuum (2004):

04 Shining Bald Heads


Here we go again with “tribute” band madness

After seeing Montreal’s The Musical Box perform three different recreations of classic Genesis concerts (at over two dozen separate events), I am still overwhelmed by the sheer weirdness of it all.  How can you spend so much time in a role without starting to lose the line between where the individual begins and the role ends?

There can be no doubt that the music is other-worldly.  Without any doubt, these are musicians of the highest calibre, but there is always something more there, something on which I can not put my finger.  The music is too good to be just the reading of someone else’s staff notation.  Let us forget about the costumes and wigs for just a minute and look only to the music.

I have, for example heard the incomparable Neal Morse play the opening chords of ‘Watcher of The Skies’ and noted that, despite the utter lack of improvisation contained in that musical passage, his version was not as dramatic.  And this is an artist (Morse) whose prog credentials are above and beyond any reproach.  He is a modern master.

But when you hear David Myers (who?) play the same passage, there is a calm immediacy that transfers all of the power and majesty of the original directly to the listener.  Is it that he is not Neal Morse?  Is it that Myers has all of the authentic and original equipment?  Is that David Myers is wearing a wig?

Of course, none of this matters when Sebastian, who, in his attempt to recall the prominent and unique role played by Michael Rutherford in this quintet, and wears no costume whatsoever, leans into the fuzz bass and the Moog Taurus pedals and I feel my internal organs being rearranged.  At that point, I don’t give a flying fuck who is playing the music.

But, as it was in 1998 when I first experienced the monster in The Musical Box, the experience remains bizarre.  Greg Bendian has taken over the drums and is absolutely giddy to be living out his boyhood fantasy of being Bill Bruford.  Bendian is highly accomplished and has firmly established credentials with his ‘Mahavishnu Project’ which, as one would surmise, re-creates the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra.  That is/was Bendian’s project – he had control (probably did more work) and gets a lot of the credit for tremendous success, notoriety and several albums.  Not only does TMB NOT have albums, but Bendian has to give up a few choice drum parts because, in the original performance, Bruford did not play those parts – Phil did.

So Bendian has to give up featured drum parts in ‘Cinema Show’ and ‘Robbery Assault & Battery’ where Phil wanted to be showcased.  But the ‘singer’ Phil can’t play drums as well as the real Phil.  Which means that, during the evening’s performance, the role of Phil Collins is played by two men – Denis Gagne on vocal and percussion and Marc LaFlamme on drum kit.  Marc does an amazing job and a large portion of the audience doesn’t even know he is the person playing.

So, after all this time, the performance of these talented musicians continues to fascinate, delight and confuse me.  But with players this talented and a score this well-executed, all you need is a program of some of the finest music ever composed.  Fortunately, Genesis has taken care of that for us.

(The camera phone doesn’t do great, but here’s what I got, picture-wise)

Are you fucking kidding me? And what in GOD’s name is “pure abundant authenticity”?!?

Daryl Stuermer and Martin Levac are Genesis Rewired.  On a day when we should be celebrating the birthday of the 20th Century’s greatest composer, I am nothing but embarrassed.  My love of Genesis does not stop with the departure of Peter Gabriel.  Nor does it end with the unceremonious dismissal of guitar visionary Steve Hackett in 1977.  Although the trio of Banks Collins and Rutherford is well known for its multiplatinum hitmaking tendencies, that same organization also creating powerful prog rock masterpieces such as Duke’s Travels/Duke’s End, Fading Lights and Down and Out.  These songs stand tall in the great pantheon of Genesis music.

But Daryl Stuermer?  On his own website, Stuermer, who was brought in as a touring yes-man with enough technical prowess to butcher Hackett’s poetry while not complaining, describes himself thusly:

In 1978 Daryl became the lead guitarist and touring member of the super-group Genesis.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is an out-and-out lie.  He was a touring guitarist who played some lead during said tours.  He was NEVER a lead guitarist for the band.  When Hackett left, all guitar duties for all music that band Genesis ever made from that moment forward was performed by the gentle Mike Rutherford.  There is no Genesis album (with the exclusion of live albums) that Daryl Stuermer ever played on.  None.  Zero.

And now, Daryl has partnered with an individual who has made his public life an imitation of Phil Collins professional career.  I’ve seen Martin Levac perform with the cover band The Musical Box, and he executed all of the percussive acrobatics of the Gabriel era with authority and panache.  He also ran his own Genesis cover band that focused on the post-Gabriel era.  From what I have heard of that band, the music is astonishingly good.

But now Martin has flushed his credibility down the toilet by partnering with Stuermer for a project that is described in terms that barely make any sense:

Together they create an unforgettable evening that reinvents the Genesis experience.

Destined to become this year’s most requested concert, this five-piece band with a sensational light show, presents the music of Genesis with pure abundant authenticity.

Can anyone tell me what any of that means?  And this mummer’s farce is only perpetuated by the fact that the website does not say of this is new and original music, Genesis music or Phil Collins music.

Fellas, listen.  Here’s a little tip for ya.  There is no such thing as “abundant authenticity.”  Something is either authentic or it is not.  At the moment, all indications are that Genesis Rewired is not.