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Collins' wit guides a 30-year tour of Genesis' favorites

Except this old man was standing on stage, his camera pointed the wrong way. Phil Collins was taking photos of ... the audience?

"Enough of the phone gag," Collins eventually told the crowd.

But Collins, the iconic front man for Genesis, was a prop-wielding master on Tuesday night at the Garden. He entertained the crowd while snapping photos. He tapped a tambourine on his head, his elbow, his knee and his toes. And he dueled with Chester Thompson in a drum duet that stole the show.

Collins the entertainer -- a worthy companion of Collins the vocalist and Collins the drummer -- made Tuesday's performance a show to remember. Rare is the musician whose wit matches his voice, but Collins is blessed with both.

The set list was a carbon copy of the sheet music the band has been using for its previous shows on this current North American tour. Expect more of the same during tonight's show at Giants Stadium. The band played 23 songs during the 2½-hour set, borrowing some songs from the group's 1976 album "A Trick of the Tail" and some from 1991's "We Can't Dance."

"Any old people here tonight?" Collins asked the audience during one break in the show. "That's a good thing because now it's time for some very, very old songs. Some of these songs were written over 30 years ago when some of us had hair.

"Dark hair."

Then Collins (he's completely bald now), Michael Rutherford and Anthony Banks -- along with Thompson and Daryl Stuermer -- charged into "In the Cage," the start of a four-song run that featured songs they had written before the pop bug bit them.

They had a tricky assignment, trying to please both two very distinct sections of their fan base. Yes, the boys played "No Son of Mine," "Land of Confusion" and "Invisible Touch." Sure, they found room for "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" and "I Can't Dance." But they left out "In Too Deep" and "That's All" -- a pair of pop hits that once helped the group climb up the pop charts. Older fans groomed on the band's progressive rock era likely left the show more satisfied than younger fans.

Not that the old songs were bad. "Afterglow" was great. "Home by the Sea" had a shot to be the best song of the night until its instrumental legs carried it for too long a run.

Of course, this doesn't count Collins' duel with Thompson.

It was vintage Collins, the entertainer. You just hope someone in the crowd took a snapshot of it.

© The Record, By Mike Kerwick

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