Phil Collins may have become something of a punchline for some wannabe comedians in recent years but the speed with which tickets were snapped up for his first concert dates in a decade underlined his enduring appeal, perhaps along with an admiring curiosity that - as his autoboiography, which this tour is named after, states - he's Not Dead Yet.
Tickets for his Echo Arena appearance, the only UK gig outside of his sold-out dates in London, were snapped up like proverbial hot cakes, as were five sold-out shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London (which reportedly all went in 15 SECONDS), a 65,000 capacity show at Hyde Park and dates in Paris and Cologne.
The former Genesis frontman has kept a low profile in recent years but announcing the live tour back in October last year stressed how, although now 66 years old, he had rediscovered his passion for music and performing.
And, despite walking slowly onto stage with the help of a cane, that quickly became very evident to all those who had waited so long to see him sing live again.
Getting himself comfortable on a chair, Phil said: "I know I said I'd never do this again. But the truth is, I've missed you. The only thing that's going to be slightly different about tonight is I've got to sing sitting down. I know you'll miss my dancing but I've had a back operation and my leg's f****d. We're still going to enjoy ourselves whatever."
And enjoy themselves, the jubilant Liverpool crowd most certainly did.
Fittingly for a man who 'retired' from music in 2011 and has had well-publicised health problems, he began with Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now), one of the seminal tracks from his mid-80s pomp as a solo artist, the decade when he racked up more UK top 40 singles than any other artist and was the only performer to appear on both sides of the Atlantic during the historic Live Aid concerts in 1985.
There was no let up in the solo hits, as there's never likely to be with a man thought to have sold in excess of 150 million records in a stellar career now stretching into its fifth decade, with Another Day In Paradise, One More Night and Wake Up Call delighting the crowd who didn't take much persuading to get out of their seats and dance in a way their hero was renowned for while on stage and no doubt would still have loved to if his aching limbs permitted.
It all began of course back with Genesis and he paid a touching tribute to his old buddies ahead of launching into Follow You Follow Me, saying: "About 400 years, I was in a band. We're all still great, great, great friends which is lovely. Old, but friends."
And that's how Phil's music feels to those who love him, like catching up with old friends.
From wistful and sometimes haunting ballads such In The Air Tonight and Separate Lives to poptastic irrepressibly optimistic numbers like Can't Hurry Love, Invisible Touch and Easy Lover, his tracks have been the soundtrack for many people's lives with a back catalogue offering a kaleidoscope of choice to suit virtually any mood.
While the old bones may be creaking a touch, Collins' voice remains as strong and versatile as ever though it almost cracked a touch with emotion during a beautiful version of Ready Or Not, during which he was accompanied on the piano by his 16-year-old son Nicholas, who for the rest of the evening was tearing up the drums in much the same manner as his old man did back in the day. A chip off the old block indeed.
He finished his set with a rousing version of Sussudio, complete with acapella audience ping-pong at the end, before returning to the stage to give an admittedly off-the-wall encore of If You Love Me (Really Love Me) - a song from his childhood originally by Edith Piaf (Hymne à L'Amour) and first recorded in this country by Vera Lynn, which he suspects even at that early aged informed much of the way he would go on to write love songs - and a final, triumphant Take Me Home.
He told the crowd: "I was dubious about doing any of this again, seriously, but tonight you've helped restore my faith in.. ability. You really have."
If Phil's faith might have wavered in recent times, the heartfelt reaction of all those lucky enough to be present showed theirs hadn't, nor ever will.
- Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)
- Another Day In Paradise
- One More Night
- Wake Up Call
- Follow You Follow Me
- Can't Turn Back The Years
- I Missed Again
- Hang In Long Enough
- Separate Lives
- Only You And I Know
- I Don't Care Anymore
- Something Happened On The Way To Heaven
- You Know What I Mean
- In The Air Tonight
- Can't Hurry Love
- Dance Into The Light
- Invisible Touch
- Easy Lover
- Hymne à L'Amour/If You Love (Really Love Me)
- Take Me Home
© Liverpool Echo
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