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‘The Spaghetti Scene’ or … GENESIS IN ITALY

Written by on April 22, 1972

From New Musical Express – NME, April 22, 1972.
by Tony Tyler.
THE CLASSIC way of pulling a band together, of ironing out the bugs, of setting the final seal of quality on a group’s music, is by the tour. And, of course, there are tours and tours.

In America a group can expect endless plane flights, unlimited horrid hamburger and – in general – smooth, efficient organisation.
Germany is similar, except that distances are shorter and food worse: A major compensation is the beer; a major drawback is the Teutonic pest – the burgeoning free-rock Kultur.
Italy? Something else again.
In Italy it’s no use in oiling the tour machine till the cogs mesh smoothly; Italy will throw spanners into the best of works. Pointless to prepare finely-drawn schedules; the Italian way of doing things will take care of that too.
But Italy is still a nice place to play. To people, as they say in the Pan-Am guidebooks, are friendly. The weather is clement. The wine? Ace. Travel? Italian motorways are excellent and fast, and their Pavesi autostrada eateries make the Blue Boar look like a fleapit.
So what is so different about Italy? To find out, Tony Tyler spent four days with Genesis on the road in the northern provinces east of Venice. Here’s his report.
VENICE AIRPORT. Sun. Yippee. Met by Paul Conroy, Charisma trailboss, Phil Collins, Genesis’ demon drummer, and lugubrious Italian promoter named Maurizio Salvadore. He’s not very old – and he’s never gonna be, judging by the way he drives the Alfa.

Takes 20 minutes to cover the 20 miles to the first gig: Treviso. Collins tells me that although ‘Nursery Cryme’ reached number five in the Italian hot slot, it was 15 before the group arrived to exploit the situation. Pity, but we are cheered by hordes of luxurious posters advertising the gig.

Arrive at hostelry, check in, shower and descend to eat. Hotel has enormous “ristorante” sign, and chops are licked in anticipation. But Italy strikes back. Sorry, signori, the restaurant isn’t serving right now. OK, we’ll wait. The truth of the matter is, signori, that the restaurant is actually closed all day.

Oh well. To the village, then.
Maurizio has disappeared with the car.
As the rest of Genesis are touring Venice and aren’t expected till later, we walk. Two kilometers.

When Genesis return from the glories of Venice we all pile into truck and depart to view the gig site.

Illuminated
It’s named Apollo 2000 (although another illuminated sign says Apollo 2001) and is a typical Italian “locale”, vast, ornate, space-age and just a little sterile. Not designed to catch passing trade, by George.

Interior appointments would shame any British club, and Genesis, hardened troupers though they are, are overawed. Downstairs and separate is another gaff: An amazing disco, decorated with atom like structures made of light bulbs. Someone climbs into DJ’s plastic cockpit and sets myriad patterns of lights dancing.

Enter Italian DJ (“Andy Dunklini”, says Tony Banks, master organist), who gets uptight at foreigners playing with his beloved controls.

Upstairs, people are beginning to filter in. No greatcoats, no levis here. The Treviso mob are dressed in their best. Pucci sweaters, tended locks, ornate birds. Difference between here and England is amazing. There’s no scent of exotic cheroots, no cheerful rock’n’rollers. The Italians are dedicated in their approach to “Il Pop”, and the long bar is crowded with serious-faced purchasers of Whisky-coca.

Genesis are greeted with roar of approval from the Pucci-and-coke crowd. Before tuning is completed, there are hollers for numbers from ‘Nursery Cryme’, but the group stick to their pre-arranged set and begin with ‘Happy The Man’, a shortie featuring three 12-stringers – even Tony Banks plays “12” for this one.

Modulated appreciation. Set continues, and it’s incredible how clever this band is. Not only in lyrics – which are quite excellent – and in presentation, which is simultaneously dramatic and pensive, but in sheer instrumental ability.

Mike Rutherford, bassist, deps on guitar now and again, and keeps the bass lines moving by means of a neglected fruit of rocktech: bass pedals, which he operates from a sitting position while playing his Rickenbacker. Vocalist Peter Gabriel is the only member of Genesis who stands onstage. Stern, with folded arms and flowing sleeves, he resembles a cross between an art nouveau drawing and Mandrake the magician. He also flails a tambourine and pedals a solitary bass-drum with his right foot. Extraordinary chap.

High point
‘Fountain Of Salmacis’ is the high point of the Treviso gig. Easily translatable title and the kind of drama that is international. Fluid piano figures and sweeping mellotron introduce the pacey lyrics from Peter, while Steve Hackett on lead contributes volume-pedalled sighs from his Les Paul.

Now ‘Musical Box’, another biggie with the Treviso mob, ‘Return Of The Giant Hogweed’ – which baffles them – and Genesis’ finisher, ‘The Knife’. We all depart to eat (after fighting the usual autograph battle) for a second time.

SATURDAY

From Treviso to Trieste is about 180 miles. A long enough distance to get good’n’mad when a classic Italian foul-up occurs. We’d had it too easy that first day, you see, and Italy needed her revenge. Word reaches us that the Trieste gig is in jeopardy. Somebody has been busted in the club, and the Trieste police (all Italian cops have arbitrary powers and are seemingly answerable to nobody) have closed – or are threatening to close – the club. The lugubrious Salvadore departs to tackle the police and we await marching orders, passing the time by the odd hand of brag. After all, maybe something can be arranged…

At one o’clock we are phoned and told to leave for Trieste. Exultation. We pay our bill and split.

Should have known better.

We are met at the Trieste club by the club owner, who looks dejected as only an Italian can. Little chance of playing. We hold Press conference, signori, and denounce the infamous polizia, signori, but I think you don’t play. So we wait in nearby bar, drinking coffee and eating seafood. Time passes. Game of footy. More time passes. Salvadore returns, with face so long there’s shoe polish on his chin. No dice and no gig. Let’s go.

Into the vehicles, by God, and let’s see who can get to Verona (Sunday’s gig, and exactly back the way we have just come) first.

SUNDAY

Verona is a different scene altogether. It’s our turn to make out today, remember. Italy won yesterday, and it’s definitely Genesis who win today.

The gig is very near Verona, and hordes of Genesis freaks flock from the fabled city to get off on the band’s music. Sunday gigs in Italy are doubles – which is to say that there are two sets – one in the afternoon for the teenagers who have been let off the leash by their parents for a few hours, and one in the evening for the more hardened regulars.

The afternoon gig is lovely: place packed, flowing liquor, excellent performance from greatly cheered Genesis, now recovered in morale from Saturday’s disaster. And, although there are less people for the evening set, the band play better still. Echoes of Crimson in the swirling Mellotron and seated guitarist; echoes of rock’n’roll in the punchy drumming of Phil Collins; echoes of doom in the intense appearance of Gabriel, dominating the stage like a Beardsley etching.

I leave after the gig, slightly inebriated. Wish everybody well. Shake hands. Climb into Alfa deathtrap with Paul Conroy and an unbelievably-smiling Salvadore. To Milan. Then London.

MONDAY

But Italy hasn’t finished yet – she still has one last card left to play. There’s a strike at Milan airport. Italy won, after all.

Typed up by Thomas Holter, from GENESIS MAGAZINE No: 12, July 1979.

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