Phil Collins’ self-imposed exile has ended and despite what a great many wisened heads will tell you, he has a lot to offer. Once a figure of sustained ridicule over everything from his tax affairs to his fabled divorce fax, the flow of ire quickly bled into his musical output but you can take that criticism and burn it. Yes, it’s cheesy and at times a bit overly sentimental, yes, his take on homelessness reeks of lip-service and even if he is the biggest wanker on the planet (he isn’t) these songs are too good to be ignored.
Walking onstage with the help of a walking stick decrying his “fucked” leg, Collins spends the night perched on a stool with his band dotted around him. He briefly explains his lengthy absence and decision to return to live performance before offing ‘Another Day in Paradise’. A bold statement of intent from the former Genesis man; as if to say here it is, possibly his biggest hit being the first to air. Done. His voice, one of the most distinctive and easily recognisable in popular music, sounds extraordinary and, sadly unlike the fleshy carapace it originates from, shows no signs of ageing.
A couple of mid-tempo ballads settle the crowd before the first of the night’s two Genesis songs are exhibited. ‘Follow You Follow Me’, a choral melody made of hooks sets ripples across the crowd as people start reminiscing. It’s hard to hear these songs and not be reminded of the days of 80’s FM radio being the soundtrack to literally everything. Again, Collins inextricably yokes his musical legacy with people’s memories as members of the crowd turn to mouth “Oh I love this song” to one another.
What you can only perceive to be a running gag Collins ‘forgets’ to introduce his 16-year old Son Nicholas after naming each of the other 14 members of his touring band. The reaction is huge and well deserved when his name is called out. Collins’ son he may be, but the lad is a drummer of remarkable quality. Effortlessly hammering out Collins’ own beats he makes it all look so easy. His big moment, the hair-raising 11 drum hits on ‘In the Air Tonight’ warrants a spotlight and is dutifully honoured with one.
‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, ‘Invisible Touch’, ‘Easy Lover’ and ‘Sussudio’ bring the gig to a close as you would expect, with pockets of people shedding all self-consciousness and just going for it. Drinks flying, handbags strewn to the floor and arms in the air, this is a celebration of Collins’ music without a shred of thought going to what is considered cool or, *shudder*, relevant. A brief encore gives us ‘Take me Home’ and a huge swell of affection for the man once dubbed ‘the most hated man in rock’. He does not deserve that title, the music should speak for itself and it really does.