St. Andrew’s Church, Newcastle
Monday, 30th October 2023
What is the Genesis Piano Project? Well, essentially it’s a one-man show in which a classically trained pianist performs his own arrangements of much-loved Genesis ’70s songs, and does it to an incredibly high standard. I was very fortunate that out of only three dates in the UK, one of them happened to be taking place in Newcastle, so after my wife found this concert advertised online, and hearing various selections of live renditions on YouTube we decided that this was an absolute must to go and experience. It took place in the unusual setting of St. Andrew’s Church in Newcastle city centre, which also happens to be the oldest church in the area, dating back to the 13th century. Not a typical venue by any stretch of the imagination, yet for this particular performance it seemed absolutely ideal.
Arriving inside this fabulous building we found tonight’s artiste Adam Kromelow still chatting to one of the church’s main administrators up at the far end of the room. The doors had only just opened, and I was incredibly fortunate to get a seat right at the front, and on the left-hand side where I could clearly see the keys of the instrument, an open-top baby grand piano, in the centre of the front section of this wondrous room. The setting was quite stunning with all the architectural lighting illuminating the internal structure. Fair enough, I’d arrived a good hour early to make sure that I got a decent seat, but was also highly delighted to be the first one through the door and get my prized spot.
Before I get into describing the evening, I just want to give you some background information on the artiste. Adam Kromelow fell in love with the music of Genesis in his youth, but while studying at Manhattan School Of Music he also introduced his friend and fellow student Angelo Di Loreto to Genesis. They came up with the idea of arranging the music so that it could be played by two pianos, and titled it The Genesis Piano Project. This duo performed several shows, which eventually led them to taking it on tour to Europe back in 2014. They recorded an album in 2018 at Charterhouse School, the place where Gabriel, Banks and Rutherford originally formed Genesis. The album wasn’t released until 2021, a year after Angelo Di Loreto sadly passed away.
Adam bravely decided to keep the project going in honour of his friend, but felt that he couldn’t possibly replace him. Instead he adjusted the music to be played by one piano only, and has come up with superb arrangements where he covers as much of the music as possible, and still plays vocal melody lines where necessary. This is no easy task when even regardless of the lead vocals, you always had four magnificent musicians in Genesis playing some very complex material. For Adam to undertake this, and yet still manage to do it to a very high musical standard, is actually quite breathtaking. Needless to say, I was completely blown away as I marvelled at this man in action, playing music that is very close to my heart and doing it all so magnificently.
After a brief introduction, Adam took to the stage, sat at his piano stool and then proceeded to launch straight into the introduction of Firth of Fifth. Even as an introduction, it’s not exactly a simplistic piece to play, and I’ve watched many a brave man in several Genesis tribute acts give it their very best shot. Yet if that alone wasn’t enough to make you catch your breath, playing this entire 10 minutes-plus version certainly set the stage for what the evening was going to be like. Watching this man cover as many musical bases as possible to keep the integral melodies flowing, and to do it with such ability and flair, was truly a musical feast for any Genesis fan. His playing was pretty much flawless, as far I could hear, as I know this music back to front and inside out, even though I’ve never heard it being performed before in quite this way.
Up next was a beautifully interpreted version of One for the Vine. For me, it’s one of the highlights from the Wind & Wuthering album, and certainly a song that had Genesis keyboard player Tony Banks at the forefront of it too. The rendition was gorgeously performed and this was the first of many moments where I experienced my eyes tearing up and a lump in my throat. All the beautiful light and shade moments were featured, and Adam’s thoughtful and articulate playing was absolutely magical. For me personally, this brought memories flooding back as a 17 year old kid watching Genesis for two sold-out nights at the Newcastle City Hall, and Genesis performing One For The Vine on that particular tour. Amazing times that changed my life, and now being musically recreated by this incredible one-man orchestra.
The third selection was from the Trick of the Tail album, another strongly piano-led composition with Mad Mad Moon. It’s a song with a very gentle introduction that takes you on a mystical, dreamlike journey, with plenty of musical changes along the way, and ends with the same haunting introductory passage. This completed a fabulous opening trio of tunes that highlighted Tony Banks as a brilliant song-writer, whose legacy of ’70s material remains among the best that the UK produced during that decade. Adam’s feel for the music and his interpretations are a marvel to behold. He really gets Tony Banks, while adding his own charm to the songs, and making them feel very personal for him also. I could not fault his playing, and his take on these much-loved Genesis classics was truly outstanding.
Next up, a total change of pace and mood with his version of More Fool Me. A song that is often overlooked in light of the many monster tracks contained on the Selling England by the Pound album, yet it has its place in history as the first Genesis song that Phil Collins sang unaccompanied lead vocals on. Known as essentially being an acoustic guitar tune, Adam reworked it fantastically well to adapt it to piano, and also accompanied it with lead vocals too (the first of four occasions during what was mostly an instrumental show). His vocals are quite soft, high pitched, with a distinct New York phrasing, yet worked very well with lighter-weight compositions such as this.
And now on to my personal favourite of the evening, an extraordinary and full version of Cinema Show, which on paper shouldn’t work as the contributions of Collins on drums and Rutherford on bass were fairly integral to the entire vibe of the original recording, in particular throughout the instrumental section. Yet Adam’s reworking was magnificent, from the gentle opening chords, right through to the pomp and majesty of the major up-tempo sections. In my front seat position, I could see everything that his hands were doing, and it was truly spell-binding. His feel for the music, for the softer and louder moments, his sense of timing and rhythm, all of it was completely top class. What he accomplished was way beyond any of my expectations. And yes, I cheered my backside off massively at the end of this song.
Another change of pace again with a softer, more pastoral tune, and this time it was another acoustic guitar composition adapted for piano in the form of For Absent Friends. Just beforehand, Adam told the story of the project and the passing of his friend Angelo, and suitably dedicated this song to him. This was the second time for him singing lead vocals, and it was a good choice as it suited his voice very well. After this came a fine version of The Colony of Slippermen, including the highly memorable ‘Raven’ keyboard section from the original, eventually segueing into the fantastic Afterglow, which was a live staple of the Genesis shows for a very long time. This song, also featuring Adam’s vocals, brought us through to the closing section of the show.
Adam chats with the audience between songs and explains his love of the music, hoe he came to chose these particular songs and why they mean so much to him. For the closing numbers he told us of his love for a bootleg album that captured the only pairing of these next two songs, as it was only performed one night in Chicago back in 1978, and he was going to recreate that now. With that he began Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, and played it about 80% through before moving into the closing section of The Musical Box. I know this bootleg very well so know that his rendition was very faithful to that one-off 1978 performance. After rapturous applause he returned to the stage for a short encore of Follow You Follow Me, which he also sang. I was stunned to realise that he had been on stage around 90 minutes as it flew over so very fast. Seriously, I could have happily had a 15-minute interval and listened to another 90 minutes after that, it was so very good indeed.
Any adjectives or superlatives I throw at Adam Kromelow would not do him proper justice. He is a stunning player who performs music that is so very close to my heart, and his unique and very articulate interpretations of these songs touches a place deep in my soul. I would not hesitate to go and see this man in concert again. Hopefully he is returning to these shores sometime next year, and is also planning to play with an orchestra in Canada for a concert that will be recorded and made available at some point in the future. So, for any hardcore Genesis fans out there who love the ’70s era (both the Gabriel and Collins fronted line-ups) and would appreciate hearing a masterful player performing these songs to a staggering level of ability, yet still retaining all the authenticity of the original compositions… you seriously should take time out to go and see the Genesis Piano Project the next time it’s back to the UK.
[Photos by Colin Smoult & David Edwards]
Firth of Fifth
One for the Vine
Mad Mad Moon
More Fool Me
For Absent Friends
The Colony of Slippermen / Afterglow
Dancing with the Moonlight Knight / The Musical Box (End Section)
Follow You Follow Me
Adam Kromelow – Piano, Vocals