WASHINGTON – When the end is near, everything resonates a little deeper.
That feeling of finality shadowed Genesis’ performance at Capital One Arena in D.C. on Thursday, the second city on the band’s North American tour, which launched earlier in the week with a pair of shows in Chicago.
But with a 50-plus-year career on their resume, there is still plenty to celebrate as Genesis takes its final lap around the country, armed with spectacular lights and video to complement their kaleidoscopic catalog.
Co-founders Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks told USA TODAY that “The Last Domino?” outing will indeed be the end of the road for the band. Currently, the tour is slated to wrap with a few makeup dates (COVID, naturally) in London March 24-26.
The health of singer Phil Collins, 70, has been at the forefront of this tour – Genesis’ first since a 2007 reunion – and his initial appearance may have caused some concern in the sold-out arena.
Looking a bit frail and pallid, Collins, who suffers from degenerative nerve damage, clasped a cane and walked gingerly to his swiveling throne, where he would stay seated most of the next two-plus hours.
But remaining stationary didn’t quell his charisma.
His 20-year-old son, Nic, perched behind him on the drum riser to assume the rhythm duties that Collins so memorably wove into Genesis’ sound since 1970.
As columns of white lights polka-dotted the stage and a high-def screen flashed close-ups of the trio, they slithered through the taut instrumentals “Behind the Lines” and “Duke’s End.”
A muddy sound mix clouded “Turn it On Again,” but cleared up for the ominous “Mama.” Lava-red splashes oozed across the screens as Collins dug into his theatrical leanings to sneer and grimace through the lyrics, punctuating them with the song’s trademark reptilian cackle.
“It’s been an interesting couple of years, but we’re here tonight,” Collins said from his chair, one of several times he addressed the crowd in efforts to engage.
He noted that “Land of Confusion,” Genesis’ 1986 hit packed with political undertones, was “written about something else,” but still resounds (the song’s video, featuring satirical puppets of the band members and a Ronald Reagan caricature, is among MTV’s most memorable offerings).
In this version, marching masses in masks and raining rolls of toilet paper projected the modern-day point of the song, which benefited from the crunchy licks the willowy Rutherford spun from his guitar.
The band’s set list has remained mostly unchanged since the September tour launch in Europe. But the D.C. crowd did experience one mid-set swap: “Duchess” from 1980’s “Duke” album, replaced “Misunderstanding,” from the same release. It was a curious move since Genesis had just debuted their Top 20 hit in Chicago.
But what is still one of the most impressive elements of Genesis is its broad musicianship. The 23 songs cherry-picked for the tour seesaw between the complicated prog-rock of the band’s ’70s output (much of it initially fronted by Peter Gabriel) and their omnipresent radio hits of the ’80s and ’90s, which were bathed in pop, but still retained much lyrical bite.
From 1973’s “The Cinema Show,” which showcased Nic Collins’ wiry strength while his dad air-drummed from his seat, to the set-ending “Invisible Touch,” its slick drum patterns endemic of its 1986 birthdate, Genesis seamlessly knitted decades.
Rutherford even donned his specialty double-neck guitar and bass for “Fading Lights,” which took on a new poignancy as Collins sang, “Another time it might have been so different/Oh, if only we could do it all again. But now it’s just another fading memory/Out of focus, though the outline still remains.”
The quiet part of the show, when Rutherford, Banks, Collins the younger and longtime guitarist Daryl Stuermer all sat around Phil Collins for stripped versions of several songs, allowed a few moments to absorb the music without the flash. “That’s All” – with Rutherford steering with a pumping bass line – coasted on its easy groove, while a recast “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” and relaxed “Follow You Follow Me” appealed to the multiple generations in the crowd.
Banks, who always conducts himself with elegance behind his altar of keyboards, navigated “Firth of Fifth” with Nic Collins, whose playing on the instrumental projected the uncanny sound that his dad created, before riding the tricky time changes of “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe).”
Through the musical calisthenics of “Domino,” accompanied by high-kicking lights, and the beauty and sadness of “Throwing it All Away,” with Rutherford picking out the melody on electric guitar, Genesis flourished.
But how else would this band say goodbye if not with expert musicianship and a smorgasbord of songs.