Walking on stage with a stick and performing the show sitting, the singer was embraced as only an everyday 100 million-selling superstar can be.
Of all the rediscoveries in rock and pop, Phil Collins must be the most unlikely. Long derided for being as cool as a singles night in Godalming — David Bowie referred to his mid-1980s nadir as "my Phil Collins years" — the former Genesis drummer was by the 1990s a symbol of all that was wrong with British pop: dull, blokey and obsessed with divorce.
Yet in the Noughties he became a favourite of the rap world, then a semi-ironic fashionable name to drop and finally a rehabilitated artist lauded for his sleek melancholy, lyrical directness and tropical aspiration. At the Royal Albert Hall rappers and fashionable people were notable by their absence, but Collins, 66, was embraced by the middle-aged audience in a way only an everyday 100 million-selling superstar can be.
He has also been bashed about by the years. Walking on stage with a stick after a back operation in 2015, and performing rescheduled gigs after June dates were cancelled following a nasty fall on his way to the bathroom, Collins performed the concert sitting.
This meant the action happened around him, and his voice was good enough but not remarkable, as evinced when the backing singer Amy Keys purred about Collins for a duet of Easy Lover and frankly put him to shame. Over two and a half hours, however, he did prove something remarkable: whether we like it or not, we all know his songs.
"I know I said that I wouldn’t do this any more, but I changed my mind," said Collins, before going into Against All Odds. After all these years it was still irritating to have a multimillionaire telling us to "just think about" homelessness on the 1989 hit Another Day in Paradise, but you had to warm to the singer as he led an extremely tight band, featuring his 16-year-old son Nic on drums, through the lonely One More Night.
© The Times, by Will Hodgkinson
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