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LIVE: Phil Collins – Perth, 28 Jan, 2019

| 30 January 2019 | Reply

LIVE: Phil Collins – Perth, 28 Jan, 2019
RAC Arena, Perth, Monday 28th January, 2019
Photography and review by Pete Gardner (a self confessed Genesis tragic, so this may not be totally objective…)

Eighteen months into his two year world tour, and halfway through the Australia/New Zealand leg, Phil Collins brings his ‘Not Dead Yet’ show to Perth for the first of two sold out nights at the RAC Arena.

He may have taken some time out as years of touring caught up with him, physically and emotionally, but he is back, tonight he proving he is still one of rocks great entertainers.

Walking onto a unlit stage with the band hidden behind darkness, Phil Collins, supported by his walking stick, sits heavily in a spotlit chair with a cheery, “good evening Perth!” and some quick banter about his health – “back’s gone, foot’s fucked!”

Collins’ health issues have been well documented in recent years, mostly by Collins himself. 60 years behind a drum kit have taken their toll on his body, and back surgery has left him with no feeling in his right foot and unable to walk without support. Not good for one of the most iconic drummers of the past few decades and one of only three artists to sell over 100 million records both in a group and as a solo artist, an accolade shared only by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson.

The first time I saw Phil Collins on stage was at a very wet and muddy Milton Keynes Bowl in October 1982 at the Six of the Best Genesis reunion concert. Peter Gabriel had gotten himself into a great deal of financial trouble over the first WOMAD festival, and his old band mates had offered to help him out. Standing in the pouring rain as a naive 15 year old, I watched one of rock’s most iconic and legendary concerts, transfixed, and that night a love of music and live concerts was instilled in me for life. This was obviously Gabrielʼs night, but by now Genesis was Collinsʼ band and the show truly came alive as Collins once again stepped out from behind the drum kit to sing Turn it on Again.

I have seen Collins perform a number of times since then, both as a solo artist in his heyday in the 80ʼs at the Hammersmith Odeon and Royal Albert Hall, and as the frontman for Genesis. I remember all too clearly queuing for endless hours at the gates of Wembley Stadium, to make it to the front barrier for one of the Mama tour shows. He is one of those artists you grow up with, and one of those things that go to make up a life. To see him brought low physically brings a real sense of mortality, until he starts to sing.

Collins is nothing if not one of the world’s great performers. Time has not withered his voice, and this is evident from the opening bars of Against All Odds. The Perth crowd is suitably appreciative, and the band, led by Daryl Sturmer on guitar and Leyland Sklar on bass, segue seamlessly into Another Day in Paradise to another huge cheer.

By the start of I Missed Again, the tone of the night is set: this is not a big explosive theatrical rock extravaganza, this has more of a big band feel about it. Tonight is about the music, a celebration of the career of one of rock’s most unlikely superstars. What is heartening is that Collins proves this is about the music, not the image. Never a fashion icon, he often performed through the 70ʼs in just a t-shirt and sweatpants, and MTV won’t allow us to forget the bad suits of the 80ʼs. Tonight is no exception, with our frontman dressed like he is off to the supermarket rather than performing in front of thousands of fans paying premium price for a couple of hours with their hero.

The band and tempo lift for Hang In Long Enough, the opening track to the But Seriously… album, the incredible Vine Street Horns proving worthy successors to the original Phoenix Horns, pilfered from Earth Wind and Fire, who accompanied Collins on early solo recordings and tours. These guys are tight, on point and better – much better!

In a tribute to his old band, a couple of Genesis numbers are offered up to a hungry audience, as the Turn it On Again Genesis reunion tour bypassed Australia in 2007, a very sore point with antipodean Genesis tragics. The first, Throwing It All Away, is an odd choice. Obviously a Collins composition, I was surprised at its inclusion in the set when there are so many better Genesis songs to choose from, but Collins did comment he was unlikely to play a song to please everyone.

Follow You Follow Me was a better selection and very well received by the Perth crowd, the video clips on the screens above the band a happy reminder of Genesis at the height of their powers, including Peter Gabriel pushing a mimed lawnmower (It’s one oʼclock and time for lunch, dum de dum de dum).

Collins ability as storyteller is nowhere more apparent than in this rendition of Canʼt Turn Back The Years, with Sturmerʼs guitar ethereal and filling the arena. I have never understood why such a brilliant guitar virtuoso as Sturmer, the backbone of the touring outfit of both Genesis and Collins for the last 40 years, shines on stage, but has been an incredible disappointment in his own solo outings.

Announcing a couple of songs from No Jacket Required, Inside Out features a brilliant guitar break from Sturmer as Collins conducts from his chair. The song is a rare treat for Australian fans only played on this leg of the tour, and the first time Collins has included it in his live show since 1990.

The Vine Street Horns bring the tempo back up for a fast and lively Who Said I Would. Collins presides over a protracted band introduction, unsurprising considering how crowded the stage is, including guitarist Ronnie Caryl, Philʼs old mate from his pre-Genesis Flaming Youth days. He very proudly finishes by introducing his 17-year-old son Nicholas, who shows every ounce of his Fathers talent on the drums.

The lights fade to create a starfield backdrop for a wonderful rendition of Separate Lives, featuring the excellent voice of Bridget Bryant, before the stage empties allowing Nicholas Collins and Percussionist Richie Garcia to launch a magnificent drum duet. There is no mistaking Collins Junior’s heritage, looking just like his Dad at that age, but his playing style does differ from that of Collins senior in his heyday, and he attacks the kit with unbridled ferocity.

Damn! This kid has one hell of a career ahead of him!

Phil, who has been sitting in front of the kits watching proceedings again takes the spotlight and is joined by the two stick men for a bare-handed trio on the percussion blocks. He may not be able to sit behind a kit these days, but there is no way he is going to be left out of this highlight of the evening.

The full band return for Something Happened On The Way To Heaven, an obvious crowd favourite, before vacating the stage once again as Nicholas takes his place at the grand piano for the most touching number of the night, accompanying his Dad on You Know What I Mean. Over the years Collins has written many melancholy break up ballads – unsurprising when he has been through three divorces – but this song from Face Value shows just how good a songwriter he is, and it holds up so well nearly 40 years after its release.

The lights drop into a swirling purple mist and a sample track of hypnotic sounds fills the arena until the unmistakable rhythm of the drum machine breaks through to a huge cheer. It is, of course, THAT song. It must be impossible to estimate how many time Collins has performed this song during his career. I had the pleasure of seeing him sing it at Birminghamʼs NEC in the mid 80ʼs as he did a stint as Eric Claptonʼs drummer on the August album and tour, with Clapton introducing him saying, “now is your chance to hear THAT song again…” Sturmer’s guitar again lifts as Collins now stands to sing the opening to – yep, In The Air Tonight, and making it sound as sharp and bitter as he ever did. Nicholas doesnʼt disappoint, delivering the drum break on cue, the ending still delivering the punch it always had live even with Phil not pounding the kit himself.

Lightening up the mood, You Canʼt Hurry Love is a bright joyous affair. The party continues with Dance Into The Light and another Genesis number, Invisible Touch, with the Vine Street Horns again showing their chops and another audience sing along. Easy Lover, the duet originally performed with Earth Wind and Fire’s Phil Bailey, has backing singers Amy Keys and Arnold McCuller taking turns at duetting duties and lustfully pawing over the seated Collins.

The set closes with the stage detonating in a dazzling over the top display of rainbow lights, confetti and streamers, reminiscent of an exploding unicorn, as the band and Collins belt out Sussudio to the cheers and amassed choir of the ecstatic and vocal Perth crowd.

The band take their bows and leave the stage for the obligatory encore break, returning after a few minutes to end the night with Take Me Home. It’s a fitting end to the evening, Nicholas again proving just what a damn good drummer he is, wrenching the spotlight away from his old man for the duration of the song. Did I say this kid has one hell of a career ahead of him?

There cannot be many performers able to conduct a two-hour arena show from a chair. It is a testament to Collins’ ability, and whilst his body may be broken, as long as he still has his voice he will always command an audience. Tonight was a tour de force of Collins’ best work; perhaps one can only hope there is new music still to come – something he has hinted at. Whilst he can breath and sing the world has not heard the last of Phil Collins. After all, heʼs not dead yet.

Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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