Rock ‘n’ roll is the music of youth.
Phil Collins is not young anymore, and he looks older than his age. Collins, 67, ambled on stage with the help of a cane at his Monday, Oct. 8 "Not Dead Yet Tour" show at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. He spent most of the night sitting down in front of the stage while singing his well known hits.
"I’m going to be sitting down tonight for most of the time, you know, don’t be alarmed," said Collins at the beginning of the show. "It’s a back, foot (blanked), but we’re going to have a good time."
A good time was had, thanks to Collins’ cheeky defiance of his frailties.
But before the good times, there was a stark admission as framed by set opener, "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)." Collins laid it out bare with the band behind a curtain. He’s no longer the rock lion who morphed from a sultan of skins on drums in Genesis to the king of MTV in the ‘80s.
Here, Collins appeared small, feeble and diminished. His health problems have included a dislocated vertebrae.
But rock ‘n’ roll is transformative, and once the music played, and the hits were rolling, Collins seemingly transformed into his past self. It helps that his voice is still in fine form, supple, and with plenty of power.
It also helps that Collins knows how to work a stage, even when he’s seated in one place for most of the night. It was a funny thing, but Collins almost appeared to move from one side of the stage to the next, even as he was stationary.
Collins actually did get up a few times. He moved to the back of the stage to get a closer view of a drum solo by his 17-year old son, Nicholas Collins, and percussionist Richie Garcia. The two came off to join Collins on a trio of percussion blocks, which segued into "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven."
Collins also walked, with his cane, over to the piano where son Nicholas played "You Know What I Mean." That was followed by "In the Air Tonight," where Nicholas aced the famous drum roll.
Collins stood for the entire dirge-y "In the Air Tonight," which helped underscore the song’s mood.
The music of Collins is broadly rock ‘n’ roll, but its DNA has bits of jazz, British music hall and R&B in it, too. The jazzy "I Missed Again" had a sweet and easy pocket with a velvet punch. "Easy Lover" is a sprite R&B romp, which afforded Collins bits of fun interplay with his backup singers who came up front to lightly chide the frontman.
This is Collins first tour of the United States in 12 years and it comes at an opportune moment. His music, solo and with him as Genesis’ frontman, is undergoing a bit of a resurgence in the Yacht Rock movement, and a video of a deer apparently playing the "In the Air Tonight" drum roll has more than two million views on YouTube.
Upcoming concerts include Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Prudential Center in Newark.
While Collins’ body might be diminished, his spirit is stronger than ever. Considering the obstacles he’s facing, the show was an inspiring triumph.
Phil Collins Oct. 8 Philly setlist
Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)
Another Day in Paradise
I Missed Again
Hang in Long Enough
Throwing It All Away
Follow You Follow Me
Can’t Turn Back the Years
Who Said I Would
You’ll Be in My Heart
Something Happened on the Way to Heaven
You Know What I Mean
In the Air Tonight
You Can’t Hurry Love
Dance Into the Light
Take Me Home
© Asbury Park Press, by Chris Jordan