On either May 30 or 31st of 1987 (I thought it was 1986 in Wednesday’s post) I saw Genesis play Giants Stadium for my first ever rock concert. Last night, one score and nearly half a year after my inaugural experience, I was able to relive that magic when Andrew Morton and I trekked to The Meadowlands to see Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and their duo of able sidemen, rock Giants Stadium once more.
I met Andrew outside of the Port Authority at 5:30 PM with 4 complimentary tickets (courtesy of Laura Bassett) to the show in the lower front pocket of my dark brown cargo shorts. We would only use two but I liked the thought having 4 tickets so we had the option of sitting in any of the 4 seats and if someone pressed us for proof of our occupancy rights we would be able to obnoxiously sprawl across two seats each and say, “yeah, these are ours.” I had purchased two round trip tickets for the bus two The Meadowlands just minutes before, so we were all ready to go. It was a hair before 6pm when we got off the coach bus near Gate D of the House That Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms built. The stadium gates had yet to open and tens of fans of the 70’s prog rock and 80’s adult contempo- pop progenitors, Genesis, awaited their inevitable ascent upon their pews of worship in the court of Phil Collins’ Kingdom. Some of these loyal subjects wore mullet hairstyles, some wore shirts of the band they were going to see, some blasted “In Too Deep” from their car stereos. Most of them were above the age of 40. Also exceeding 40 in numerical value was the cost of the shirts and nearly everything else at the nearest souvenir stand. I decided long ago (never to walk in anyone’s shadow) that the only important souvenir one needed from a concert was a ticket stub (unless of course they offer a cd of the show or the shirts are totally sweet), so after perusing the wares at gate D Andrew and I decided to make a lap around the stadium as there were still a solid 2 hours before the time advertised on our admission tickets.
Andrew and I did a full lap and could have easily done 2 more before the show began but when we found ourselves at Gate D once again we noticed that people were being allowed into the venue. Upon our entrance we headed up the escalator to the Upper Tier. As we dismounted from the moving stairs we were face to face with The New York Sack Exchange. A poster featuring the iconic New York Jets Defensive Foursome of the 1980’s featuring Marty Lyons, Joe Klecko, Abdul Salaam, and Mark Gastineau adorned the wall opposite the escalator. We approached the poster but made a right at Gastineau and I told Andrew of the time I saw him making out with Brigitte Nielsen in an Arizona airport sometime in the Late 1980’s or Early 1990’s. If only I had known about Page Six back then.
Our first order of business once on the upper tier was to get some quality eats. Most of the little carts were closed on our level. They probably only have them available on game days. Therefore, getting hamburgers at the Goal Line Grill was out of the question. Our dining choices were limited to Hot Dogs or Sausages at Fan Favorites or hot dogs or chicken fingers at 1st Down and Fries. Andrew and I both went for the chicken finger dinner with fries for a hefty sum of $7.75. I added an Aquafina on top of that for an additional $4.oo. Normally I would be whining about the cost (well I sort of am now) but I did get the tickets for free, so all in all it was a pretty cheap night of entertainment.
Andrew and I found our way with food in hand to the middle of a nearly vacant section 329. I remarked that I couldn’t see the stadium getting much more crowded than it’s current capacity which was sparse to say the least. We dug into our expensive and mediocre meal. I let Andrew have my Honey Mustard sauce which was more or less regular mustard, for his nuggets and we shot the shit talking about our expectations for the show as well as a few writing ideas we had. The main topic of conversation was probably the fact that I was reliving my first concert experience more than 20 years later. I told Andrew that if I called my mom she’d probably say “that’s cute” and not be really in the least bit amused.
I chose to test this theory by actually calling her. For the first 5 minutes of the phone call I didn’t even get to discuss where I was at the moment but once I had the opportunity I decided to test my mother’s powers of parental recall. The conversation went something like this…
Me: Mom do you remember taking me to my first concert in the summer of 1986.
Mom: Was it in Queens? Was it in a park?
Me: No. It was at Giants Stadium.
Mom: I remember something about being in an open space.
Me: Were you high?
Mom: (long pause implying maybe) Was Aileen there?
Me: So you admit it…You told me when I was a kid you never did drugs but it was okay if I tried once as long as I didn’t make a habit out of it.
Mom: Who was the concert?
Mom: Oh is that with Phil Collins.
Me: Yes…Guess where I am now?
Mom: Giants Stadium
Me: Guess who I’m going to see?
Mom: Genesis…That’s cute…
The rest of the conversation I went on to tell her how certain I always was that she had to have done drugs since she grew up in the 60’s and had gone to see bands like The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Bob Dylan live in concert. There was no way she could have gone to see those bands without expanding her mind. That basically capped off probably one of the strangest and funniest conversations my mother and I had ever shared.
After hanging up the phone it was back to waiting patiently for Genesis to take the stage. The stage set resembled an avant garde boom box with video screens on what resembled the circular speaker areas. Later in the show the stage set would more resemble a large white whale as the entire thing was a video screen for live concert footage and computer animated backgrounds. As the crowd waited though the screens played videos from groups spanning the last 30 years of music. The artists ranged from Talking Heads to Tapes ‘n’ Tapes. There were also skateboarding videos being shown on the screen causing me to wonder allowed if this really appealed to the Genesis demographic. The screen also showed ads for a new Genesis book and other Genesis related paraphernalia. Meanwhile, the stadium was becoming slowly filled and reached a respectable level of attendance. People moved in all around us though we had a considerable buffer zone between us and the nearest concertgoers. The demographic also became more varied as two impossibly attractive women that couldn’t have been older than 30 happened into our section. Andrew and I wondered aloud what they could possibly be doing at this concert.
There was a semi-palpable feeling of excitement in the air as the band taking the stage was inevitable. At around 8:58 the majority of the lights began to shut down and after a brief and frankly kind of stunning video screen presentation the band took the stage with musical bravado in their intro to “Turn it On Again” a song that I did not recall so I automatically chalked it up to pre-80’s pop Peter Gabriel era Genesis though I knew that not to be the case with this particular song it was just my own lazy way of classifying the songs I was unfamiliar with. The next two songs were more my speed, sort of. “No Son of Mine” immediately followed the opener and while I was familiar with it, it was from an era where I had already lost interest in Genesis, more notably known as the album I Can’t Dance. All was well one song later as the band blasted through the Reagan era anthem “Land of Confusion”. I thought they should’ve waited a little longer to dust off that gem but they’re in charge not me.
I was quickly reminded of my ignorance to the non-80’s Genesis catalogue with “In The Cage” though I was transfixed by the graphics on the screen behind band which reminded me of the movie The Lawnmower Man. The music descended into a prog rock jam out session that could’ve easily double as material by ELP or Yes in their heyday. Prog rock bands to me are kind of a dime a dozen. At times the music just seems like an all out attempt to put as much keyboard, guitar and drums into a single measure. The frantic musicianship gave way to light rock. As the band transitioned into “Hold On My Heart”much of the audience transitioned to the bathroom line.
It was a good thing that the audience was done relieving themselves because Phil needed them for audience participation for the spooky “Home by the Sea” and “2nd Home By The Sea”. He readied everyone to make spooky sounds and then never used them throughout the duration of the performance. The next 2 songs were more prog-rock, probably Gabriel-era numbers. I would’ve had no idea what they were but thanks to my own Prog-Rock encyclopedia Andrew Morton, I knew that I was listening to “Follow You, Follow Me” and “Dance on a Volcano”.
After all of the musicianship, Phil Collins took over with a little showmanship. During “I Know What I like” the bald frontman/drummer did a few trick moves with his tambourine playing off of his head knees, feet and hands much to the delight of the mostly middle aged crowd.
Phil followed up this performance by a genuinely wicked performance of the song “Mama” which really is a pretty good song. I was familiar with the song because it was used for Colorwar Sing at Camp Westmont in 1992 when I was a member of the “White Mystery”.
The three songs that followed weren’t anything to write home about. One was a Gabriel-era song that sent a lot of people heading towards the lavatory and one was probably my least favorite song off of the “Invisible Touch” album. That trio of songs was probably followed by one of the two best moments of the evening as Phil Collins and Chester Thompson engaged in a thrilling drum duet. For all of the criticism Collins gets for being such a suspect soft rocker, people forget that he’s actually quite accomplished as a drummer and can spank the snare and cymbals with the best of ’em.
When the drumathon ended I sensed the show drawing nearer to it’s close. The next song was foreign to both myself and Andrew. It was more surprising that Andrew didn’t know since he had known the name of every song up to that point. However, familiarity settled back in and the crowd sang along to “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” and the set was closed out by a spirited version of “Invisible Touch” which saw the release of pyrotechnics both visual and verbal. The visual being actual fireworks and the verbal being Phil Collins use of the f-word to let you know that “She’ll fuck up your life” with her invisible touch.
With that the band briefly left the stage. I was almost positive I knew that the last two songs would be “I Can’t Dance” and “That’s All”. The latter of which would be followed by the band abruptly leaving the stage never to return. I was correct on my guess of “I Can’t Dance” which I always found to be somewhat unbearable but the crowd ate it up and grooved to it. Rather than close with “That’s All” they ended the show with one of their older numbers, the Gabriel-era “The Carpet Crawlers” from the 1974 album, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Thus the night was brought to a close on a quiet number rather than the poppy 80’s number I had wished for. Nonetheless, the evening was certainly worth the price of admission. My live music experience has officially come full circle. I never have to go to another concert again…though I’m pretty sure I’ll go to one rather soon.