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Phil Collins at United Center, Chicago

Too many superstars perform so often that they oversaturate the marketplace and play to diminishing returns, but that hasn’t been the case for Phil Collins thus far this century, who outside of his "First Final Farewell" Tour in 2004 and a brief Genesis reunion in 2007 was essentially missing in action (outside of a mini-Motown tribute).

In other words, such infrequency could allow fans to extend forgiveness if that retirement wasn’t exactly permanent, and once the United Center announced he’d be back, all age groups quickly snatched up tickets and appeared to genuinely miss the progressive/art rock drummer turned singer and enormous pop star.

Granted, seeing Phil Collins in 2018 is much different than those aforementioned outings and practically a lifetime away from anything that came earlier. Those who haven’t kept up with his appearance might have been surprised to find the 67-year-old looking considerably older and walking tentatively with a cane before pulling up a chair, leaving the drum sticks behind and adapting his old adage of "I Can’t Dance" quite literally.

But Collins self-deprecating sense of humor remained, not only with this "Not Dead Yet" outing and autobiography title, but it also popped up in all the right places prior to the pensive opener "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)." Yet more importantly, his voice was in generally dependable shape outside of the lowering that comes with age, not that anyone was complaining as the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer checked off one hit after the next given the fact he’s recorded nothing original since 2002’s forgettable "Testify" (and in the case of Genesis, 1991’s mammoth "We Can’t Dance").

Front half standouts in the nearly two-hour occasion included the socially conscious ballad "Another Day In Paradise," the bustling horns of "I Missed Again," plus the double shot of group sing-a-longs "Throwing It All Away" and "Follow You Follow Me." All the while, he was backed by an enormous screen that burst with cheery colors and vintage clips, alongside an exceptional band featuring longtime Genesis sidekick Daryl Stuermer, plus Collins’ 17-year-old son Nicholas on drums and periodically piano.

Following a proud "Father To Son" moment with just the pair performing the reflective rarity "You Know What I Mean" at the keys, Nick returned confidently to his primary spot, who along with Stuermer’s chilling solo, ensured everyone could feel it coming "In The Air Tonight." And from there, it was off the races with The Supremes’ "You Can’t Hurry Love," "Dance Into The Light," Genesis’ "Invisible Touch," "Easy Lover," "Sussudio" and all of the vibrancy, brass and splash that moved over 100 million records.

However, it was hard to blink back the tears as the compass reached "Take Me Home," both at face value for its sentimental message and because it could quite realistically signal the legend’s last hurrah. Then again, Collins comebacks and Genesis reunions have occasionally occurred even after insisting the opposite, always giving faithful a cautious optimism, bolstered further by an evening where the main man was indeed alive and ready for at least a little something more to happen on the way to heaven.

Review and photos by Andy Argyrakis

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In the Air Tonight - Phil Collins - Chicago 2018 Timothy Wachowiak

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