For months, Genesis fans have meticulously pored over the photos and YouTube clips, arguing on Twitter and in comments sections about all things Phil Collins: the changes in his vocal timbre, his inability to drum, his physical need to sit onstage throughout the band's long-awaited reunion tour.

But no matter how prepared you may be, it's still hard to see your hero half-hobbled. As the front man limped onstage last night, cane in hand, at Chicago's United Center, the weight of the moment almost felt too massive — can our guy actually do this?

The first song of their North American leg — and first U.S. gig since 2007 — was a breeze for everyone else: a triumphant instrumental medley of 1980's "Behind the Lines" and "Duke's End," showcasing the ensemble firepower of keyboardist Tony Banks, bassists and guitarists Mike Rutherford and Daryl Steurmer (the touring lineup's longtime not-so-secret weapon) and Phil's son Nic Collins on drums. But the true test came with another Duke standout, "Turn It On Again": And the singer delivered — sounding sturdier and more confident than he did on the U.K. dates.

That assessment applied to the whole performance: a versatile, 23-track set that stuck almost entirely to the earlier blueprint of their Last Domino? tour, with sweeping prog pieces butting up against candy-coated pop. (The one switch-up: swapping out the dramatic Duke rarity "Duchess" for that album's much more famous pop hit "Misunderstanding," dusted off for the first time since 1984. The latter was the evening's clear low point — coming off as slightly under-rehearsed, though rescued by the falsetto backing of touring members Daniel Pearce and Patrick Smyth.) But even if there were a few hiccups (like some flubbed lyrics to Invisible Touch epic "Domino"), collective joy always won out.

Part of that zeal was in the staging. No rock band brings a light/slide show more suited to the spectacle of arena performance: Take "Land of Confusion," where the animated images of stacked toilet paper and face-masked strangers nodded overtly to pandemic reality. (As Collins noted onstage, "The last couple years have given [the song] new meaning.") More of that zeal came from the players themselves: Rutherford, playing his now-trusted entry-level Squier electric guitars, frequently kicked into "rocker guy" mode with his hard strums and whammy-bar textures; the younger Collins consistently beat the daylights out of his kit (see: the instrumental section of "Firth of Fifth"); even Banks, never a man for excess facial expressions, appeared to crack a smile between his breathtaking synth solos and tasteful piano patterns. (This surefootedness brought a sigh of relief, given that "positive COVID tests within the band" led to Genesis postponing their last four U.K. dates.)

Even from his seat, the elder Collins tackled some of his greatest hits, visually speaking: staring menacingly amid red lights during the laughing section of "Mama," pulling out a tambourine for the head-slapping interlude of "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)," twisting his face into a scowl while barking out "fuck up your life" on the neon-lit "Invisible Touch."

What makes Genesis so brilliant is what makes their fans so difficult to please: The hardcore prog fans will undoubtedly still wish for more material from the Peter Gabriel era, while the best-of crew probably could have done without, say, the virtuoso instrumental bit from "The Cinema Show." But few bands could convincingly do both in one set: Take the encore, in which the endearingly silly blues-rock of "I Can't Dance" slammed into the fanciful vocal intro from "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight," then into the swaying balladry of "The Carpet Crawlers."

The walk-on may have briefly appeared troubling, but the final bow felt glorious.

Alex Kluft, UCR
Alex Kluft, UCR
Alex Kluft, UCR
Alex Kluft, UCR
Alex Kluft, UCR
Alex Kluft, UCR

Genesis, Nov. 15, 2021, Chicago
1. "Behind the Lines" / "Duke's End"
2. "Turn It On Again"
3. "Mama"
4. "Land of Confusion"
5. "Home By the Sea"
6. "Second Home By the Sea"
7. "Fading Lights" (first two verses)
8. "The Cinema Show" (instrumental section)
9. "Afterglow"
10. "That's All" (acoustic)
11. "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" (acoustic)
12. "Follow You Follow Me" (acoustic)
13. "No Son of Mine"
14. "Misunderstanding"
15. "Firth of Fifth" (instrumental section)
16. "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe")
17. "Domino"
18. "Throwing It All Away"
19. "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight"
20. "Invisible Touch"

21. "I Can't Dance"
22. "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight" (first verse)
23. "The Carpet Crawlers"

Alex Kluft, UCR
Alex Kluft, UCR
Alex Kluft, UCR
Alex Kluft, UCR

Genesis Albums Ranked

From Peter Gabriel to Phil Collins to that guy who came after Phil Collins, we take a look at all of the band's studio records.

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