It's no surprise the new music DVD When in Rome 2007 from Genesis is a well-crafted, three-disc document of the group's first tour in 15 years. Since its formation more than 40 years ago, the band has been known for its technical precision in both sound and vision.
The 2½ hour-plus concert (out on DVD Tuesday— exclusively at Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Walmart.com, Samsclub.com and genesis-music.com, $20-$30) spans the group's career from the time when Peter Gabriel fronted the group (1973's Firth of Fifth and I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) to 1991's We Can't Dance album. The DVD's director and producer David Mallett, previously directed concert videos for AC/DC, Cher, Cirque du Soleil Madonna and U2.
As the concert plays out, viewers can click on an interactive icon to watch more than an additional hour of video clips, mainly from tour rehearsals. A film-length documentary on the third disc covers all the tour's inner workings from the first planning meetings to the Rome concert that ended the band's European tour.
I talked with keyboardist Tony Banks, singer/drummer Phil Collins and guitarist Mike Rutherford about the DVD and tour:
Q: Was the 500,000 at the Rome show (July 14, 2007) the largest crowd the band has performed in front of?
Mike Rutherford: Yes, it was. I'm sure it was. It was a great opportunity. We have a great history in Italy. For me to play somewhere that special, the Circus Maximus, rather than another dome or arena or stadium, and the setting outside with a bit of backdrop of Rome behind, it was something for us very special, I think.
Q: Is there any additional pressure with a show like this and the fact you are recording a DVD?
Tony Banks: Having the DVD recording is definitely additional pressure, particularly, I think it was the first time we tried to record a show which hasn't been a multiple show. Normally, you have it so that you can do more than one (show at a venue) so if you have a problem or something goes wrong, cameras or something, you know there is another show to kind of cover the bits that you didn't get. But on this particular show, we thought this is such a special occasion we really would like to record this one. We did need to put all our eggs in one basket and if something had gone wrong we would have lost it. But we were lucky and fortunately the cameras all worked and most of the time we played pretty well. The extra people doesn't really provide any more pressure. Once you get above 20 people, it's always the same.
Q: Talk about how this stage show compared to past productions.
Rutherford: We've always enjoyed putting on a show like that and I think our music lends itself towards that kind of interpretation with lights, the Vari-lites and lighting stuff (lighting designer Patrick Woodroffe's credits include concerts for Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and the High School Musical Tour). It was quite a challenge, but what is exciting now in a way is the technology with screens what you can do in terms of visual content. We shot various films, animation and stuff. It does enhance the songs and the band in really quite a great setting, song by song. I must say (set designer) Mark Fisher (whose credits include Cirque du Soleil, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, R.E.M., U2) who designed the stage show, was fantastic because he designed something really original but also something that actually did work as well, which is important, too.
Q: How did you feel at that point in the tour?
Phil Collins:We were halfway through. Europe had been fantastic. We were surprised and pleased with the stadium shows. We had some bad luck with the weather, which of course didn't matter in America because obviously we were playing indoors except for Toronto, Los Angeles and New York. It was an emotional end to that part of the tour, but we still had the American part to do. Neither stretch of the tour was too long to get to the point where you started to wish you weren't there. We ended up at the last show in Los Angeles smiling as we started at the first show in Helsinki.
Q: Did you notice anything particular difference between the audiences in Europe and the U.S.?
Banks:We were surprised that there was less difference than we thought there was going to be. We weren't sure how American audiences were going to respond to a song called Ripples, which is quite a delicate song. Sometimes in the American arenas they can get a bit noisier and we were going to replace it with a song that we know is popular in America, In Too Deep, which again is a softer mood. But I think people appreciated us playing a slightly more obscure, old track like that which has always been a favorite with fans. So we stuck with it. Obviously American audiences are always a bit more rowdy. Sometimes in England when you play in Manchester the audiences are so attentive it's almost so quiet you don't know what's going on. But on both sides, it was very enthusiastic.
Q: I really liked the acoustic Ripples clip and the rehearsal moments mixed as extras into the DVD. At any point did you worry about turning the cameras on yourselves?
Collins:I had worked with the director (Anthony Mathile) on my last tour. I did a documentary (The Long Goodnight), a fly on the wall-kind of thing. He was very good at just blending into the scenery. He's a nice guy so we got on with him. When it was suggested to do something as special as this Genesis thing to document it from the word go, I held my breath to see how well Tony and Mike took to the idea of having somebody around all of time. I would say 90% of the time it was not a problem at all. And I think he got all those moments because he became so familiar. He got a lot of moments that you would otherwise not get.
And I think the documentary and extras do something to sort of explode some of the myths that people probably have about Genesis and how things are put together and it's all very swish and glossy and it's all very smooth. We have a great sense of humor and I think that comes across in the documentary and the extras. It's nice to have that on one hand and the concert on the other.
Q: Speaking of the funnier things, would either you, Mike or Tony, talk about Phil's idea for the drum solo to be played on stools.
Banks: Well, it shows in the video the first time he said he was thinking of playing stools, I thought he was joking. But no, he's serious. I thought, well, we'll give it a go. It's like anything. We were only in rehearsal stage. If it hadn't worked, he would have been the first to say it's not working. And they were able to make it sound big and powerful. And then, they move to the real drums and it takes off again. It's like the Concorde when you go supersonic. You have that second moment. It was quite a strong segue really. If there was any problem, it's that it made it twice as long. (Phil laughs).
Collins: In the documentary, the two obvious threads are the comical side to the stools, next to the quite serious searching for the button pusher (who must activate an on-screen effect at the right time). It was good that we had those angles to hang something on for a documentary of that length. But it was all real.
Q: There are also points in the documentary where each of you talk about the band and each other and now that it is all over would you talk a bit about how this experience has affected you?
Rutherford:It was good as you think it would be and probably a bit better. The whole process, it makes us appreciate and reminded us of what good friends we have become and have been.
Collins:And will be. (lots of laughing heard).
Rutherford:It was quite nice and emotional without being over the top about it.
Banks:You must understand we are English, British types. We don't express emotions. But I entered this with a little trepidation. People do change after 15 years. And you have to include in this Daryl and Chester, when it comes to a live band we very much think of ourselves as a five-piece. We've been lucky in Genesis. All groups have a few problems, but we do sort of get on with each other.
Collins:It was a great opportunity. I think it's nice to get out there and sort of knowing it is probably the last time and have a little bit of fun with that closure. Each night was kind of an emotional experience in some respects because each night you were playing a place you had played many times over the years and tonight you were saying thanks to everybody for the last 30 years of coming to see us. It's kind of nice way to say goodbye, really.