As the sun set over the City of Churches on a mild balmy Friday evening, Adelaide Oval came alive with the 30,000 strong crowd who witnessed the legendary Phil Collins on his Not Dead Yet Live! World Tour. As a music legend, Collins is an artist who has sold more than 280 million records in a career spanning almost fifty years as both a solo artist and a member of the iconic band, Genesis, has seven Grammy Awards and an Oscar to his name. It has been more than twenty years since Phil Collins’ last Australian performance, and while his body may be letting him down, his voice, sense of humour and stage presence hasn’t.
Following behind his band members, Collins slowly hobbled on stage on a walking stick to thunderous applause. He was dressed in dark navy trousers, grey T-shirt, black shoes and black zip track top with sleeves pushed up. Featuring stubble grey beard with glasses, he settled in to his ‘interview style’ chair and adjusted himself ready for action. To accompany Collins, his fourteen piece band has some highly accomplished long time touring members including guitarist Daryl Stuermer (Genesis), keyboardist Brad Cole, bassist Leland Sklar and percussionist Luis Conte, along with a four-piece horn section and 4 backup vocalists and Phil Collins’ seventeen-year old son, Nicolas, on drums.
After a short moment Phil says, “Welcome, I will be sitting down tonight my back is fucked, had back surgery, it sucks getting old, let’s get on with it”. Collins kicks off with the emotional Against all Odds easing both band and him into the mood and then straight in to crowd favourite Another Day in Paradise. Wow, what a start! The four-piece horn section enters the stage and the band break into I Missed Again, featuring a classy sax solo in middle with Phil playing ‘air drums’ at his chair while admiring his musicians. Hang in Long Enough was next with full horns section a feature.
Phil tells the crowd “300 or 400 years ago I played in a band called Genesis, we wrote lots of songs and we may not play the one you want but we are going to play this one because we rehearsed it!” and kicked in to Throwing It All Away from the Invisible Touch album. With no crowd interaction Collins went straight in to the Genesis’ massive hit Follow You Follow Me from the 1978 album Then There Were Three’, with special live footage of early Genesis playing in the back ground on the big screen. Turn Back the Years was next featuring Collins’ beautiful soft vocals and a stunning lead guitar solo by Daryl Stuermer a feature.
Next Collins said, “Here are a couple of things you might recognise from ‘No Jacket Required’” with Inside Out next and then straight in to Who Said I Would with the horns rejoining Collins on stage during the song up front and centre.
Collins’ said ‘good band isn’t it’, and commenced individually introducing all members. Most of the band members Collins has known and played with for many years, and it showed. There was a definite bond; a sense of intimacy and friendship that can only be forged over time. He saved the most important shout out until last, his son Nicholas Collins and loudest applause from the crowd with Collins commenting, “I am very proud to introduce my seventeen-year old son Mr Nicholas Collins on drums, who also brings the average age of the band down somewhat’. Collins introduced the next song, “I invite one of my backing vocalists, Bridgette Bryant to sing with me to sing a song written by Steven Bishop called ‘Separate Lives’, and not written by me unfortunately with a lot of people think”. This was a beautiful arrangement and one of the highlights.
The drum duo was next featuring Nicholas Collins and percussionist Luis Conte duelling and sharing lead duties, with Phil proudly watching them in the shadows on stage. It was Phil’s turn next with the trio playing bongos, soap box and a block board arrangement, a crowd favourite seeing Phil play the block board instrument. The hit song Something On The Way to Heaven followed, with the enthusiastic crowd itching to get up out of their seats and dance in the aisles.
All band members left the stage and Phil hobbled over to the grand piano and his son joined him. Collins’ commented that “Nick taught himself one song he liked from my songs and I learnt the lyrics again” and they played a duet together You Know What I Mean with Nick on piano and Phil on vocals, with father and son embracing at the end of the song, a lovely touching moment.
The stage lights went out with a hazing purple beam appeared across the stage and the single keyboard note of the classic hit In The Air Tonight commenced, with Collins standing up at the microphone. This was a fabulous arrangement which featured amazing lighting effects as well as Collins vocal mastery on display. Can’t Hurry Love followed with everyone in the venue up dancing and singing along. Collins moved straight into Dance Into The Light, featuring both horns players and backing singers grooving out in pairs out front on both sides of the stage. The huge hit Invisible Touch followed by Easy Lover, with a cool duet with back-up singers Arnold McCuller and Amy Keys jibbing with Collins as the easy lover! It was raining hits!
Sussudio was the final song of the set and a show stopper, featuring full horns with Collins encouraging the crowd to sing the chorus with hands clapping in the air. The traditional farewell bows followed with Collins saying on exiting the stage, ‘thank you’.
After a short break the band reappeared followed by Collins for the single song encore. The band commenced Take Me Home with Collins waving his hand signalling goodbye from his chair with the crowding singing the final chorus “take, take me home”, with Phil saying “sing it Adelaide”. Collins’ final words ending the show, “thanks very much Adelaide be careful on the way home”. A casual wave as he limps off the stage followed by the band let the audience know that we may have seen Phil Collins playing live for the last time.
At 67, Collins looks a lot older than many of his peers still playing on the world touring circuit. Looking frail perched on his chair with microphone in hand, Collins proved himself belting out his classic tunes; he has lost none of the spark that has endeared him to fans since his Genesis days. Vocally, he was strong, his distinctive tenor unwavering. Anyone who tries to tell you that their experience was hindered by Phil Collins being restricted to sitting in a chair for most of the evening, did not allow themselves to be fully embraced by the music and the passion that was quite literally unbelievable. Phil Collins is a true musical genius.
Live Review By David Kerr