Collins May Be Gone, But Genesis Plays On

PARIS -- After selling 100 million records in 30 years, Genesis have gone for new blood -- and the old boys are loving it.

Ray Wilson, the band's new lead singer, wasn't even born when the British super group was founded by a bunch of guitar-twanging teenage rebels at one of the country's smartest schools.

Their first singer was Peter Gabriel, their second was Phil Collins. Both left Genesis without an atom of acrimony to launch huge solo careers.

Their place as front man to one of pop music's most durable combos has been taken by a soft-spoken 29-year-old Scotsman who used to buy Genesis albums when he was a star-struck teenager.

Now he is up there strutting his stuff before 200 fans at a Paris studio, the first "softly softly" step for Genesis polishing their act for a gruelling 17-country European tour.

Genesis founder members Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks may be just three years short of their 50th birthdays -- but nothing beats the buzz of performing live.

After a six-year hiatus, they are back in business with dark and rocky tracks from their 20th album "Calling All Stations." For the fickle world of pop needs conquering all over again with a new line-up.

Young blood Wilson gently mocks Rutherford as they move into an acoustic set. "Sorry about this. Mike has to sit down after five songs," he tells the cheering Parisians squeezed in tight for the impromptu "unplugged" session.

Egos are off limits in this most polite and diffident of pop groups. Genesis definitely does not go in for smashing up hotel rooms and the like. "When things are going well, it is fairly easy going. Money is not something we argue about," said Rutherford.

Theirs is certainly not the threatening, snarling face of anarchistic rock.

"For three decades, they have been the band you could bring home to your mother, confident they'll never puke on the furniture," said the London Independent of the rock veterans.

For Rutherford and Banks, the game is all about craftsmanship and longevity. The age gap with their new young singer matters not one iota.

The gray-haired and eloquent Banks says of the new arrival who fought off hundreds of hopefuls: "We liked Ray immediately because of the sort of sound pictures his voice conjures up.

"It has a natural darkness. With Ray we can write in a heavier, more atmospheric way than we did with Phil. We also like the fact he doesn't have much history."

Wilson has been fronting bands since he was 14 and hit the top of the charts with a single made famous in a jeans commercial.

Now he is in a different league but totally unfazed by the spotlight.

"It is a great honor to be third in line. But I am a good singer, and I do my job well," he tells reporters at a pre-gig press conference.