Selling England by the Note

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATribute band The Musical Box brought their wares to the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco February 21, and 22 2014.  The first night they recreated the 1973 Genesis tour that supported Selling England by the Pound (SEBTP).  On the second night they performed the 1972 tour for the prior Genesis release, Foxtrot.

The performances were striking in their accuracy, and transported this viewer and those in the audience to a time long ago when to many of us, Genesis owned the English progressive rock mantle.  The experience of seeing this band is something better than tribute.  They actually recreate these shows down to the set design, including slides, costumes, and props, and very faithfully perform the live music itself, with the same interpretation the band employed during the shows from the era.

Having thus far only seen The Musical Box perform the 1974 masterwork The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, it was a rare treat to see these two prior tours.  For me personally, the SEBTP album and tour represent the best, most realized work in their early days.  Between the touching opening of “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight” to the majestic “Firth of Fifth” and melodic refrains of “The Cinema Show” this is where the band really hit it’s stride.  The Musical Box capture the live experience deftly, and hearing the work in it’s live format, complete with visuals, and Peter’s stories, explain what all the fuss was way back in those days.  It was even grand to see them wind their way through “The Battle of Epping Forest” usually dismissed by the actual members of Genesis as a bit of a mess.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the second night, the band recreated the Foxtrot tour.  What was remarkable about this was how effective the simple white curtain was compared to later more complex backdrops.  Without projections, and with lots of black lights and some fog, the opener “Watcher of the Skies” was able to be appreciated even more than on later renditions.  The rather minimalist stage and use of fewer costume changes actually focuses the audience more on the music, making me for one appreciate “The Return of the Giant Hogweed,” “Can-Utility and the Coastliners” and “The Fountain or Salmacis” more than any time in the past.

Notably, both shows included the classic prog masterpiece “Supper’s Ready” and encore “The Knife” which were highlights of both nights.  This is a highly recommended experience for any fan of early Genesis or of progressive rock in general.  Catch it before they are gone!

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