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Genesis Live: Turn It On Again…One Last Time, Part 1

After announcing a farewell tour in March, 2020, Genesis finally hit the U.S. this past fall...and then Covid struck the audio team.

The FOH Position on the final Genesis Tour
The FOH Position on the final Genesis Tour.

The word “Genesis” has many connotations, but in the music world, for the last 50 years, it has meant a towering mainstay of popular music. The band first became known in the 1970s for its sprawling prog rock, massive light shows and unabashed theatricality, but after key members left—most notably singer Peter Gabriel—throughout the second-half of the decade, Genesis had to begin again. Drummer Phil Collins took over the vocals, and although the band had been reduced to a trio, it soon bounced back bigger than ever, radically reinventing itself as a purveyor of gleaming, straight-ahead 1980s pop. The result was a decade-long string of Top 10 albums and singles around the globe that retained the group’s reputation for musicality while welcoming a new generation of fans, leading to album sales of a staggering 150 million worldwide.

The cover story to the January, 2022 issue of Mix.
The cover story to the January, 2022 issue of Mix.

With the exception of a 2007 tour, however, Genesis has been relatively dormant since that heyday…all of which added to the sense of surprise when the band announced in March 2020 that it would be reuniting for “The Last Domino,” a final farewell tour. The 47-date run was scheduled for November that year but then pushed back—twice—due to COVID, eventually hitting the road in September 2021. Armed with yet another visually overwhelming production soundtracked by music from every era of the band’s history, the tour has been playing to arenas packed with fans welcoming their heroes back, if only to say goodbye. “Genesis” may mean “beginning,” but every beginning has an end.

When Michel Colin walked into Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, on December 8, load-in was going just as planned. As the longtime front-of-house engineer for both Genesis and Phil Collins, he’d mixed every show on the tour, and while the initial U.K. leg had problems—the last few dates were bumped to 2022 after three bandmembers got COVID—the second leg, a 21-date run through the U.S. with sound provided by Miami, FL-based Unreal Systems/Agora USA, hadn’t missed a show. Still, the pandemic weighed heavy on everyone’s minds, especially since the tour’s COVID compliance officer and a member of the backline crew had both tested positive earlier that week.

“We are tested for COVID every day,” Colin recounted over the phone, two days later. “The day before, I was all alright, everybody was, and then suddenly that morning, the doctor came to visit me—‘Michel, I have bad news for you….’ It’s a very, very low infection and I feel fine; they just saw traces of it, but we couldn’t take a chance. They had to get me out of the arena; now I am in this fantastic hotel in Columbus with a nice view and I have to quarantine for 10 days.” By the time Colin’s quarantine ended, there was no tour left to return to; the U.S. leg had finished, leaving him with nothing to do but to fly home to Europe.

Live Showcase: Going International with Phil Collins

In Colin’s absence, however, the shows continued to go smoothly, with his assistant Gavin Tempany manning the Avid S6L console at front of house. Colin explained, “All the reverbs and everything else are already set with snapshots and automation in the Avid, so that’s why it wasn’t a very big deal when I tested positive. Gavin can do it because he was behind me in the rehearsals and all through the tour, so he knows the show perfectly. The only thing he has to do is what I do—just adjusting the mix, following the ride vocal, riding the keyboard.”

Colin, who worked with the group on its 2007 tour and Collins’ intervening solo journeys, noted that while a Genesis concert has a numerous 1980s pop hits and the same lead vocalist, that’s where the similarities end when it comes to mixing.

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“It’s not the same kind of music,” he pointed out. “It’s prog rock, so you have to do that kind of sound, and my approach to mixing is to always get as close as possible to the record. The thing is, the band’s sound is more powerful today than on the records they did 50 years ago. I have to mix it like it is now, so it’s the same but not the same. And the biggest difference [between the band and solo tours] is that the singer is not the star of the band—there are three stars. The founders are Tony Banks on keyboards and Mike Rutherford, the guitarist. At the beginning, if you remember, Phil was just the drummer—nothing to sing, just had to play drums. Later he became the singer, then after that, the big star we know, but this band is still Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins together. I don’t answer to only one chief; I have three chiefs!”

That said, Colin has been mixing Genesis using essentially the same system he carried on Collins’ 2018 “Not Dead Yet” solo tour, with front-of-house centered around the Avid S6L with Waves integration, using plenty of Waves and Sonnox plug-ins. A Waves LV1 Production console with a pair of DiGiGrid IOC ethernet audio for SoundGrid interfaces sits nearby, and an L-Acoustics X8 and SB15m reference system is also present.

Click For Part 2: Discover Phil Collins’ inexpensive vocal mic and how to get that classic 1980s gated drum sound live!

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