Phil Collins Isn't Quite Dead Yet

October 18th, 2018

The popular Genesis frontman and drummer Phil Collins made a spectacular return to the 216 tonight with a show that proved, yep, he wasn't quite dead just yet.  Not even partly dead, to  paraphrase another famous '70s British icon. Nonetheless, the singer brought his Not Dead Yet tour to Cleveland, one of a handful of stops on the North American leg of his staccato 2018 schedule.

Having been plagued by a number of maladies over the last several years, the not-quite-retired  singer joked about his condition to a sold-out Quicken Loans Arena crowd. Serious spinal surgery couldn't sideline Collins; although he walks with the help of a cane and delivered the entirety of the gig from a seated position, he proved that he can still pack a wallop in the vocal department.  Approaching his seventieth birthday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee took the audience on a tour through his solo hits as well as a handful of tunes that put him and his Genesis band mates into the shrine on the shores of Lake Erie.

After gingerly making his way to the stage, Collins and his ten-piece ensemble jumped right into his 1984 solo success "Against All Odds."  If there was any doubt regarding his condition, those fears immediately evaporated the moment the tune started.  Although he may look frail, his voice was in top form and remained so for the remainder of the two-hour performance.  Offering up such early-set hits such as "Another Day In Paradise" and "I Missed Again," Collins and company knocked it out of the park.

His band, a combo of great backup musicians, features the great Leland Sklar on bass; a quartet of backup singers; a four-piece horn section; and two percussionists: One of them being his own seventeen year-old son, Nicholas, who took over behind the kit for his ailing father.  A degenerative nerve condition has left the former Genesis frontman the inability to properly handle the sticks, while his spinal surgery makes it difficult for him to kick the pedal drum.  The younger Collins performed swimmingly, abling his dad to concentrate on the vocal duties.

 

The set list was filled with jewels that, quite frankly, add up to one heck of a resume.  Responsible for many of the late 1970s and '80s most popular tunes, Collins helmed the mix tapes of a good part of the middle-aged crowd that was there tonight, and their constant approval reinforced that fact.

Adding a hit from the Disney flick "Tarzan," he brought he crowd full circle with "You'll Be In My Heart."  He asked backup vocalist Bridgette Bryant to share duties on the 1985 film White Knights theme song "Separate Lives."  While her powerful vocals may have overshadowed Collins, his voice was pitch and note perfect. 

Bringing son Nicholas and percussionist Richie Garcia to fill out a beat box/percussion trio, it showed that while Collins may not be able to clutch a pair of sticks or bang on the foot pedals, he still has that rhythm.  Their ten-minute drum battle segued right into a dynamic version of "Something Happened On The Way To Heaven."

Not wanting to rest on his laurels, the ensemble pulled out all the stops on "In The Air Tonight," one of his early '80s smashes.  

Completing the trip down memory lane with "You Can't Hurry Love," "Invisible Touch" and the Philip Bailey tune "Easy Lover," the outfit closed out the night with a very uptempo version of "Sussudio," complete with New Year's Eve streamers exploding into the first ten rows.  The onstage-for-one-song-gone-for-the-next horn section, Harry Kim and Danny Fornero on trumpet duties, George Shelby on sax, and Luis Bonilla on trombone, gave the proceedings the oomph that put this show over the top, making it one of the better shows that's hit the North Coast this year.  Gotta mention Daryl Stuermer's lead guitar work: His relationship with both Collins and Genesis goes back to the mid 1970s; he's played on the majority of the Genesis discography and his presence tonight was a pleasant surprise. 

After making their  getaway bows, the band returned for a phenomenal anthemic version of "Take Me Home."  Lasting for nearly ten minutes, full of calls-and-responses, the Gaelic-influenced encore (or was it African?  It was hard to place the melody), brought out the horn section, sans instruments, to sing backup.  The whole band, all fifteen of them, tore the roof off the still-being-renovated arena in an incredible denouement to a triumphant return of one of the most beloved vocalists of the last forty years.

Let's hope we haven't seen the last of Mr. Collins.

 

 

Review and Photo by Brian M. Lumley
 

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