A few years ago I attended the wedding of two friends in New Jersey. On the shuttle bus ride from the ceremony to the reception, a friend and I got into a debate about what solo artists with hugely successful careers also had successful careers as members of a band. A few obvious names got batted back and forth before my friend incredulously asked who could possibly have had bigger success with a band and as a solo artist then Sting. The first name that popped in my head was Phil Collins. In my opinion, between his solo career and Genesis, he produced more hits than Sting as a solo artist and as a member of The Police did. Let's face it, Phil Collins was second only to Michael Jackson in the 80's. Maybe Madonna, Prince and Bruce Springsteen were arguably jockeying for second place as well, but without a doubt Phil was in the top 3. My friend called me crazy and asked his brother and our other friend who were sitting behind me who they agreed with. Without hesitation they both stated that Phil Collins was the clear winner. We then began to berate him (in a friendly ball busting way) for his love of Sting and started joking that Phil Collins was clearly superior to Sting because he can sing "In The Air Tonight" to people and make them kill themselves (we were basing this on the urban legend surrounding that song). For the next couple of weeks, we would constantly reference Phil's superiority to Sting in email chains or in person whenever we could work it into the context of a conversation and sometimes even when we couldn't. We would also send YouTube clips of Phil's videos and live performances to our friend just to torture him even further (my personal favorite being the most random video of Phil Collins wrestling the Ultimate Warrior).
From there, I got on an "ironic" Phil Collins kick. I was espousing the wonders and virtues of Phil Collins, but was really just laughing about it. Then a funny thing happened....I really started to like Phil Collins. I remember the exact moment it happened too. I was listening to "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)" on a Saturday morning after a long Friday night and it dawned upon me that it really was a great song. The music is good, but the lyrics really make it one of the best break up songs of all time. Then I started thinking about it more....with "Sussudio", "I Don't Care Anymore", "Easy Lover", "Take Me Home", "Another Day In Paradise", "I Wish It Would Rain Down", "One More Night", "You Can't Hurry Love", "Don't Lose My Number" and of course "In The Air Tonight", this guy had a ton of great songs. And that was just his solo career. His truly great work involved entire albums with Genesis like Duke, Abacab, Invisible Touch and the self-tilted. It all of the sudden struck me that I actually genuinely enjoyed Phil Collins and was a fan.
This all happened about two years ago and of course it was right after Genesis finished their reunion tour and it looked like it would be a long shot for them to ever tour again. Then came news that Phil had major back surgery and would never play drums again. The possibility of any type of touring or live performances by him were looking non-existent. But as luck would have it, it was announced a few months ago that Phil would be releasing an album of '60s Motown covers called Going Back this coming September AND would be doing a series of performances in New York City this summer to promote it. Of course the huge bummer was that he would not be playing ANY of his hits and would strictly be sticking to the Motown covers. While I was pretty disappointed that I would not be getting to hear any of his hits, I do like '60s Motown and I do love Phil Collins, so I figured a combination of the two was better than nothing at all.
Something Happened On The Way To Heaven" and closes with "In The Air Tonight" and probably one more." For a fleeting moment, my heart skipped a beat and I thought that maybe, just maybe Phil was going to fake everyone out and mix in a few originals with the Motown covers. But then I realized that the woman I overheard hadn't a clue what she was talking about. As we made our way inside, I overheard multiple people saying things along the lines of "Wait, what?!?!?! He only plays Motown?!?!?!?". Obviously these people had not been paying attention when they bought their tickets. It was clearly advertised that this was an evening of cover songs with an 18 piece band. I was glad I paid attention because I know I would have been just as upset as those folks if I headed into Roseland Ballroom prepared to sing along to "Sussudio" only to be sorely let down. [On a side note, I'm glad I didn't wear my 'Su Suss Sussudio' t-shirt that evening because I wouldn't have been the only dude there with that bright idea.] What struck me the most as we made our way around the venue was how the crowd was mostly people in their 20's or 30's. I figured this was going to be an older folks show, but not at all. Sure, there were some older folks there that you would expect to be Phil Collins' demo, but they were well outnumbered by a younger set. [My personal favorite was the 6 foot blond girl who was dressed like a naught librarian/secretary who I would later see at the merch booth drunkenly buying multiple Phil Collins t-shirts....really? Oh yeah, Lyor Cohen was at the merch booth at the same time asking the merch lady how sales were that evening.....or at least his twin was.]
We managed to push ourselves to a spot very close to the stage, but unfortunately it was sort of behind it. That being said, we still had a decent view of Phil which is what mattered. As advertised, Phil stuck to the Motown covers. They were all recognizable classics like "My Girl", "Dancing In The Streets" and "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave" and the crowd camped out near the stage seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely as there was lots of dancing. When I took a trip to the men's room at one point, I did however find that there were more than a few disgruntled concert attendees. Quotes like "I would have stayed home, watched a DVD and drank beer if I knew this show was going to suck.", "This fucking sucks.", "What is this bullshit? I want to hear fucking Sussudio!" and so on and so forth. Who knew Phil Collins' fans were so eloquent in expressing their thoughts on a performance? Although I could certainly relate to their sentiment, like I said earlier, it is their own fault for not paying attention to how the show was advertised.
Phil stayed at the front of the stage for most of the show and didn't move around much which I would assume has do to with his recent surgery. His accompanying band and back-up singers were all solid. Even the backup singer who looked like the guy in Color Me Badd who looked like George Michael did a good job. There isn't much else to say really. While it wasn't ideal, I'm still really happy I got to see Phil Collins perform live in concert at least once.