Should you stop into Maxwell’s this Saturday, you’ll see mild mannered supermen held in kryptonite, as the wise and foolish virgins giggle with their bodies glowing bright. Through the door [to the stage] a harvest feast of musical talent is lit by candlelight, as RAEL brings the Music of Genesis to Hoboken, in full theatrical regalia.
Named for the central character in the progressive rock masterwork The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, RAEL is an early-era Genesis tribute band that hails from the New York Metro area. Band members Lloyd Gold (vocals and flute), Mike Belmonte (bass, bass pedals), Paul Sheehan (drums and vocals), Rob Shepard (keyboards and guitar) and Sal Locascio (guitar and vocals) stay true to form, with eccentric costumes and strict adherence to the demanding nature of the genre.
We spoke with Lloyd Gold, the Peter Gabriel of RAEL, who discussed his own band’s genesis and walked us through what we can expect to see this Saturday night…
hMAG: Can you explain the attraction of prog rock to the uninitiated?
RAEL’s Lloyd Gold: What attracted me to prog rock was the virtuosi musicianship, the complex song structures, otherworldly imagery, conceptual lyrics, the departure of traditional rock by fusing it with classical and jazz elements, odd time signatures and overall taking rock to a more sophisticated level. By the mid-seventies prog rock’s popularity began to decline, due to the rise of punk, disco and the elitist music press who branded it as pretentious-dinosaur rock. In my opinion, prog rock is more punk than punk. Punk is easy to mainstream and market to the masses. You can go into any mall in America and walk into a Hot Topic store and buy a Sid Vicious outfit, but you can’t buy a Rick Wakeman cape or Peter Gabriel batwing hat there.
h: What era of Genesis can fans expect to hear at a RAEL show?
LG: At our RAEL shows, we focus mostly on the reenactment of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, performing music from Trespass through The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. And occasionally we play a song from Trick of the Tail (their first post Gabriel album). We do tackle some of their more ambitious pieces like “The Musical Box,” “Fountain of Salmacis,” “The Cinema Show“ and “Supper’s Ready.” In regards to the Lamb album, we do play a nice chunk of it referring to it as the ‘Lambchop’ set. In addition, I do wear the Peter Gabriel costumes for specific songs, changing and running on and off stage during the more extended musical interludes.
h: Genesis has a complicated history. What’s your take on later Genesis?
LG: Ha! If you asked me this question 10 years ago I would have said eighties Phil Collins and Genesis was an abomination. But now in my ‘wiser’ years, I realize going pop was beneficial for their survival. They were just doing what was required of them at the time. The music in the eighties was all about corporate rock and pop, feeding the masses simplified, catchy pop songs. Some good some bad but that’s what was in vogue. There was no place for prog on mainstream radio. In the eighties, Genesis did find a new audience but I think their legacy will be their prog era. A young musician today might discover and be influenced by albums such as Foxtrot or Selling England by the Pound, but I don’t think Invisible Touch will affect them the same way. But it’s funny how Phil Collins became a punching bag and the poster child for unhip Dad rock of the eighties. For some reason a line was drawn in the sand, one side cool bands the other side not cool bands.
h: How did RAEL form? How were you lucky enough to find a group of musicians with such a fervent appreciation of Genesis
LG: The band formed when I met Mike Belmonte, who became our Mike Rutherford and band captain. He filled in on bass for a cover gig I was playing. We talked about how much we love old Genesis and we faked our way through “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” and “Carpet Crawlers.” Mike recorded us and sent it to his old friend Paul Sheehan and asked if he wanted to form an early Genesis tribute. Then Paul became our Phil Collins. We must have had favor with the gods because not far after we found Sal Locascio (Steve Hackett) and Rob Shepard (Tony Banks). After many hours of practice we actually started to sound pretty good. Playing this type of music makes you really focus on these tiny details, dynamics and highly emotional moments in the songs. For me it’s an honor to play with such brilliant and talented musicians. I’m just the impish clown jumping around adding the theatrical elements to it.
h: What’s the crowd like at a RAEL show?
LG: Our audiences are pretty much the same as Spinal Tap‘s…”predominately male.” Haha! No, there are some women there. Most of our audience wear t-shirts of Genesis, Yes, Marillion, Rush and sometimes RAEL. We meet Genesis fans that come from far and wide and they know every lyric and every lick. Many of the older fans love to tell us they’ve seen Genesis with Gabriel live. Some of my favorite shows we played so far was the Bergen Performing Arts Center, the Space at Westbury, but the most rewarding show we played to me was the Tralf Theatre in Buffalo. Buffalo is the biggest Genesis town. The audience went mad. I have a theory, the further north you get from the equator the more prog fans you find. It’s not bikini and beach music.
h: Have you gotten any feedback from Genesis band member?
LG: We never got any feedback from any Genesis members hearing us, but we all had the pleasure of meeting the great Steve Hackett, at one of his shows. He was Genesis’ guitarist during the prog years 1971-1978. When I told Mr. Hackett about RAEL he said, “you should play easier songs like Johnny B. Goode, you’ll get more girls.” Haha!
Lloyd Gold- vocals and flute
Mike Belmonte- bass, bass pedals
Paul Sheehan- drums and vocals
Rob Shepard- keyboards and guitar
Sal Locascio- guitar and vocals
“We’ve got to get in to get out…”