The Musical Box toasts the past
By Naughty Mickie
No, a time machine has not been invented nor has some animatronic madman recreated Genesis ala Disneyland's "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln." The one-of-a-kind concert, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" has been touring the world thanks to the Canadian band The Musical Box.
The talented quintet includes Denis Gagne, vocals, flute and percussions, Francois Gagnon, electric guitar, 6- and 12-string acoustic guitar and electric sitar, Sebastien Lamothe, bass, 12-string electric and acoustic guitar, bass pedal and backing vocals, Martin Levac, drums, percussions and vocals, and Eric Savard, keyboards, organ, 12-string acoustic guitar and backing vocals. The group has been performing Genesis' 1974 "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway'' show as an exact replica in its entirety to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the original tour.
To add even more weight to this undertaking, Genesis and Peter Gabriel gave The Musical Box original slides from the production and the license to perform the material registered as a play. The show also features the original costume, set and makeup designs.
For the unfamiliar, the piece relates the story of a Puerto Rican juvenile delinquent in New York City who travels to an underground realm filled with creatures and danger to rescue his brother. The songs have double meanings, telling the story, while also discussing themes such as mythology, the sexual revolution, advertising and consumerism.
I caught up with Denis Gagne to find out more about this intriguing project. Most of the band is from Montreal, Canada, but Gagne lives near Quebec City. He bubbles as he describes the scenic vistas around his home and is eager to discuss the show. I start out by asking him to attempt to explain the concert.
"Oh my god." Gagne pauses thinking and then, "What we do is, it's quite simple actually, it's a reproduction of 'The Lamb Lies Down on roadway' show which was presented by Genesis in '74 and '75. What we did was bring everything from stage, set to costumes, we've bought the same instruments, remade sometimes because they don't exist anymore. We bought different things that they had at the time so we could make it look exactly the same. We have doubles of the slide projection that were shown on the show in '74, something like 1,122 slides behind us."
That's cool, but why redo it?
"Because we would have loved to have seen the show, but we were too young to see the show," Gagne says candidly.
Lamothe originally formed the band so he could play some of the music they're doing now. Gagne joined the group a year after their routine began becoming very theatrical.
"We wanted to do something that you can't get any more." Gagne explains the importance of the show in today's scene, "I think that because that kind of stuff is not done any more and musically or visually, it doesn't exist. That kind of music is not really composed any more and I think that is why people come to see this. It's like Mozart, people still listen to Mozart, what he did was brilliant. I feel the same way about Genesis, what they did was total genius."
To better understand his point of view, I want to get to know Gagne better. I ask him about his childhood.
"I'm the only one in my family who decided to play music at all," Gagne replies. "My brother took some guitar lessons, but he gave up quite rapidly. My mom said that as a kid, when I was at a wedding or something, I was always standing by the PA and listening to the band. I think I had it in my without knowing."
He was in his first band by age 16. Gagne always sang, but added bass playing to his performance, later dropping it to better focus on his vocals. He joined The Musical Box in 1994 and has been playing professionally ever since.
Gagne studied music in college for two years, playing double bass and taking singing lessons. He has very little time for hobbies.
"Right now? No. I don't have time for anything. Summertime I live by the lake so a lot of swimming, boating kind of stuff," boasts Gagne.
He and The Musical Box will be performing "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" for at least two more years, but after that, Gagne isn't sure what he plans to do.
The band has been touring Europe. "The show has been exploding over there," Gagne says. He adds that it has been especially popular in Germany. The Musical Box has played in the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London, England and are scheduled to perform at Paris Olympia in France.
There is a DVD of the show in the works, but no release date has been set yet.
"We're the only band that plays Genesis music that has a license to do so. We're supported by Genesis and Peter Gabriel," Gagne tells me.
Genesis members and Gabriel have seen The Musical Box's previous shows and Phil Collins wrote the introduction for their current tour program.
"I saw Peter Gabriel on TV once and they asked 'Why don't you guys play together again?' He said, 'It was fun at the time. I had a great time, but I don't think I'm going to go back there. There is this band, The Musical Box, if you want to see Genesis with Peter Gabriel, this is what you have to see.'" Gagne laughs.
For more information on The Musical Box visit www.themusicalbox.net
You can find out about Southern California progressive rock shows at http://www.calprog.com
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