The Musical Box
The Musical Box IF Denis Gagne was a comic impressionist he'd have his own TV series and be performing to sell-out crowds worldwide. Instead, the French Canadian is front man of a tribute group. Well, it's a bit more than 'just' a tribute band. The Musical Box don't merely play old Genesis songs, they have painstakingly over a 15-year period actually become Genesis.

And they have done it with the full co-operation of Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford, all of whom have seen The Musical Box play live.

Their attention to detail is meticulous, their performances exact replicas of those progressive rock shows of the early Genesis period - up to the point when Gabriel left to pursue a solo career in the mid 1970s.

The stage sets, instrumentation, light shows and set lists are identical. In fact Genesis even provided hundreds of original slides to be projected behind the musicians.

A key figure in The Musical Box success story, and their cult following, is Gagne.

The band was formed in Montreal, where French is the first language, and the story goes that Gagne actually learnt English by listening to old Genesis records.

His movement around the stage, introduction to songs and the sound of his voice is word for word, note for note. Anyone disappointed at never seeing Gabriel need only hear Gagne.

But a problem surfaced for The Musical Box. Having successfully toured the Foxtrot, Nursery Cryme and Selling England By The Pound shows, plus a magnificent recreation of Gabriel's epic Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, they had to come up with a new challenge - or disband.

So they decided to perform A Trick Of The Tail, the first post-Gabriel album and tour on which Collins took over on vocals.

Here was an entirely new challenge for Gagne and one that he carried off triumphantly at the Philharmonic.

How's this for a tribute artist. Gagne can sing Gabriel songs to perfection but didn't, because Collins couldn't.

On the Collins songs, like Dance On A Volcano - which opened the concert - Entangled and Squonk, you could close your eyes and be in doubt you were listening to him, before Gagne leaped onto the drum kit and bashed away to an impeccable standard.

And on the Gabriel period numbers, like the 'lamb casserole' medley of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Fly On A Windshield and Carpet Crawlers his voice was more lost in the mix, the way Collins's would have been.

This show, as always, stuck rigidly to the 1976 set list which accounts for the omission of the song much of the audience wanted to hear, Ripples.

That said, The Cinema Show, Firth Of Fifth and the beautiful White Mountain were all tours de force before the provocative Supper's Ready heralded a psychedelic light show - all lasers and dry ice.

As on the Trick Of The Tail album, Los Endos closed the show before an encore of an instrumental Watcher Of The Skies.

There are some wonderful tribute bands around, the Australian Pink Floyd and Led Zed to name a couple - The Musical Box are the closest anyone will ever get to the early Genesis.

They're as good as the real thing, and that's saying something.