The cleverness of a grandiose art-rock outfit like Genesis, which opened the Merriweather Post Pavilion season before 10,000 fans on Saturday night, is that it tours infrequently. That makes its rather heavy brew a lot easier to digest and reminds fewer people that the current, second Genesis sorely misses the charismatic front man of the original Genesis, Peter Gabriel.
It's been five years since Gabriel left to pursue a solo career and while former (and now occasional drummer Phil Collins has performed a yeoman job as vocalist, his stage demeanor is irritatingly smug and condescending, a major problem in a band whose music begs for a stuckup nose and a stiff upper lip.
Genesis, along with Yes and ELP, has defined the British art-rock sound: Tony Banks' classically majestic keyboard work built above resounding rhythm tracks from Chester Thompson will occasional guitar flurries from Mike Rutherford and Daryl Sturmer -- and the inexorable flow of obtuse, meaningful, you know, deep, lyrics.
While the group drew amply from their newest album, "Duke" (including an uncharacteristically punch song title, "Misunderstanding"), the night's better moments came from past albums. "Trick of the Tail" alone provided three outstanding numbers, "Ripples," "Dance on a Volcano" and "Los Endos." The ballad images of "Ripples" and the explosive fury of "Volcano" pointed up the extremes in the band's psyche. Too often, though, those extremes met in a muddled mass of overly complex arrangements marred by Collins' overblown vocals. Genesis is still "Selling England by the Pound," as one song says. vTheir currency has been somewhat devalued.