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Live Review: The Musical Box at Arcada Theatre • St Charles

| June 14, 2022


The Musical Box


The Musical Box

The Arcada Theatre,

St. Charles, IL

Friday, June 10, 2022

The Musical Box, the renowned Genesis-with-Peter Gabriel tribute band, has long been a fan-favorite musical export from The Great White North. This Canadian marvel has entertained the enormous Genesis and Peter Gabriel following for 29 years, with next year marking the 30th anniversary of the band forming in Montreal, Quebec.

TMB arrived at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles on Friday, fresh from a performance the night before at the recently reopened and remodeled Des Plaines Theatre. Both theaters are run by Onesti Entertainment’s Ron Onesti, known to many in the industry as the “Prog Ringmaster of the Midwest,” and has brought more international progressive rock to Illinois than any other talent buyers this side of the UK. What made Friday night at The Arcada even more unique was the content that the band is currently performing: Genesis’ double-album concept masterpiece, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.

To Genesis fans, The Lamb (synonymous with rock opera to many) is the most ambitious project that Genesis had ever undertaken. Ditto with The Musical Box. Being the only Genesis tribute band licensed by Genesis and Peter Gabriel to perform their music live, not to mention using their costumes, original multimedia slide presentation, and theatrical props, performing Lamb has been a primary goal of TMB since its inception.

As the concert’s start time approached, the shared anticipation of the sold-out crowd grew exponentially. The 900 seated Prog fans, many of who have seen TMB multiple times, instinctively knew that mounting this state-of-the-art (albeit 1974-style) multimedia prog extravaganza would be quite difficult to achieve, yet worth the price of admission to be able to witness this ‘time machine authentic’ experience.

As house lights dimmed, first up was a surprise to most in the audience––an opener! Matt Keen, a local singer/songwriter/guitarist, had the dubious task of entertaining the prog-hungry crowd who were laser-focused on getting right to the main attraction. Keen immediately registered with the audience and caught their attention with one acoustic guitar, a looper pedal, and a proper dose of charisma. He engaged the audience, alternating between unique cover versions of songs by varied groups such as Pink Floyd and Tom Petty with a few original songs he released. The TMB audience enjoyed Keen for a good reason. He possesses an excellent singing voice, admirable guitar skills, and live audience chops that collectively made for a successful opener. As per his dialogue with the audience, he told the crowd that he had just arrived from the Des Plaines Theatre, where he set the stage by opening for BoDeans and then made a beeline for the Arcada to open for TMB.

During the intermission, the sense of anticipation re-claimed the audience as one could discern conversations all around, with various Genesis stories, tales of the making of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, and people’s recollections of where they were when they first heard this grand opus, etc. As most Genesis aficionados are aware, The Lamb marked the end of an era – it was Peter Gabriel’s last Genesis album. Incredibly, the double album was slated to be released on November 18, 1974, in the United States, with the first date of the US tour being only two days later. The tour began in Chicago on the 20th of November, 1974, and ended five months later, back in Chicago, on the 4th of April, 1975. And here’s the thing – most of the audiences were unfamiliar with the just-released 94-minute double album! The only thing they were familiar with were the two encore songs: “The Musical Box” and “Watcher of the Skies,” both performed as encores by TMB at The Arcada show.

House lights fade to black a second time, and so it begins. Every intricate detail of what the public saw back on the 74/75 tour is what we all experienced over the next 94 minutes. We had taken a time machine back to the mid-Seventies when music, audio, and video technology were so primitive compared to today’s standards that it’s hard to believe Genesis and Gabriel could achieve such significant results. TMB had painstakingly re-created the set, the costumes, the instruments, the slide show, the triple-screen multimedia ideas – it was all gloriously there. There were multiple standing ovations throughout the evening. Every note, dynamic, singing, playing, and multimedia presentation, whether static or animated, synched together seamlessly (which supposedly only happened about every fourth or fifth gig 48 years ago with Genesis).

Word has it that TMB may be retiring their Lamb show for good after this current international tour. At least they have had it professionally filmed (unlike the real Genesis that never did procure a pro-shot film). At the end of The Lamb, as the plot goes, the main character Rael finally connects underground in a supernatural world with his brother John. Still, as the lyrics describe, as he gets closer to John, he realizes it’s not his brother’s face he sees– it’s his own, and somehow there are two Raels on stage, one far stage right and the other distant-stage left. The ‘second’ Rael is a roadie dressed the same as the main character Rael, and with the use of specialty lighting and a tiny touch of pyrotechnics, there are two Peter Gabriels playing Rael for a few seconds before the finale called “it” begins. Stunning. Props and kudos go out to the entire production team of The Musical Box. It’s as close as you’ll ever get to experiencing what was considered a religious experience by thousands of audience members who saw Gabriel and Genesis together.

The current line-up of The Musical Box consists of singer Denis Gagné (Peter Gabriel), guitarist François Gagnon (Steve Hackett), bassist Sébastien Lamothe (Mike Rutherford), keyboardist Ian Benhamou (Tony Banks), and drummer Marc Laflamme (Phil Collins). Each member was indistinguishable from their role; everything was note-for-note perfection, with all nuances, musicianship, and execution impeccable. Bravo Musical Box, to use a sports phrase, you most definitely “stuck the landing!”

– Steven Kikoen

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