The Lamb Lies Down in Toronto!

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Story: Lenny Stoute

This one is from the pages of the best kind of rock 'n' roll story. That’s the one where a group of friends get together and start a band for fun, then hang on tight as unexpected success on a grand scale changes their lives.

When a group of Montreal prog-rockin’ musos cooked up a Genesis tribute band called The Musical Box in 1993, it wasn’t meant to last. It came together primarily to celebrate the 20th anniversary of seminal Genesis album 'Selling England By The Pound', with two shows at The Spectrum.

Instead, it morphed into the longest one-of in rock history, becoming their ticket on a ride that has seen The Musical Box play to hundreds of thousands of  people around the world.

The original lineup was a seven-piece with a strong theatrical outlook, and it plunged into using visual effects and costumes that were in the original Genesis shows of the 1970s. This kind of intimate meta connection to the original is a large part of what has placed The Musical Box apart from pretenders in the genre ever since.

Named for a 1971 Genesis song about an old man reclaiming his youth, the Montreal outfit has since become one of rock music’s least likely success stories: a French-Canadian cover band playing progressive-rock epics to raving crowds across the globe.

Says (frontman/band leader) Sebastian, “ In the beginning it was just a group of musician friends who were very into the music of Genesis. At that time we never imagined it wold lead to anything long term.”

At some point, the show seems to have taken on a life of its own, dragging the band along with it. A Musical Box show is no mere tribute; it is a revival. The band evokes the experience of a Genesis concert from the blazing glory of their past. The lighting, the sets, even the musicians’ gestures are choreographed from painstaking study of archival footage. Though its lineup has varied through the years, The Musical Box has guarded the authenticity of the act with great care.

“We keep that music alive, in a way,” says Serge Morissette, who serves as the band’s artistic director. “I’m sure we’ve sold a lot of Genesis albums. no doubt. Each time we’re in a new city, in a new arena, there’s new interest.”  The success ante was upped in 2010 when the group negotiated an exclusive licence to mount its current tour, restaging Genesis’s 1974 rock opera - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.

The gentlemen of Genesis guard their brand very strictly, and the licence was granted for a two year period, after which the property, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, goes into mothballs.The time is nigh and the current tour, touches down at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall on November 30 and December 1.

Toronto promoter Michael Lofranco, who’s been close to the act for more than a decade, weighs in on what must be a reflective time for the members of The Musical Box. “ We had long conversations on the subject during the summer but somehow it always came back to this tour and putting on the best shows possible. Perhaps next tour will see Selling England by the Pound or somthing else from that era."

Fans of Genesis will know the score but for those who may have never had the experience, The Musical Box presentations offers more than vintage prog rock revisited. It’s about the recreation of a cultural phenomena from a specific time when three-chord rock, in collusion with light shows, broke free of the form in the spirit of  "progression.”

Such is the commitment to authenticity in recreating the context, the band even hired Genesis’s original slide operator to put the 1,120 slides in The Musical Box’s current stage show in proper sequence.

The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway The Danforth Music Hall November 30 and Dec. 1 2012.

For ticket purchases visit Ticketmaster.ca