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Phil Collins at the Mission: Who said no jacket required?

Phil Collins at the Mission. From the opening chords of Against all Odds to the fading notes of Take me Home, he was captivating Phil Collins at the Mission. From the opening chords of Against all Odds to the fading notes of Take me Home, he was captivating John Cowpland

He was always something of an unlikely rock star, Phil Collins.

In the age of Simon Le Bon, George Michael, Sting and other dashing lead men, Phil always resembled a bus conductor or the bloke on the til at the fish and chip shop. But his talent was undeniable, and as anyone around in the eighties will know, his music was ubiquitous.

Collins's talent is undeniable | John CowplandCollins's talent is undeniable | John Cowpland

Possibly, and even by his own admission, too much so. By the end of the decade his name was synonymous with middle of the road pop.

But with time, and reassessment, and with the benefit of a wonderful autobiography in Not Dead Yet, he is now rightly seen as the master songwriter and producer he always was.

He might have hobbled to the stage, but there's still plenty of power in his small frame | John CowplandHe might have hobbled to the stage, but there's still plenty of power in his small frame | John Cowpland

It helps, too, that he is beguiling and self-effacing in equal measure.

Never more so than when he hobbled on to stage at the Mission Concert on Wednesday night.

"What kind of f...ing weather do you call this?" he asked the 25,000-strong crowd, after taking to a swivel seat, centre stage.

The Mission Concert is a civil affair these days. Less Glastonbury, more Antique Roadshow | John CowplandThe Mission Concert is a civil affair these days. Less Glastonbury, more Antique Roadshow | John Cowpland

"I could have stayed in England for this. Thank you all for coming. I know you had a choice. I know what I'd have done," he said, drolly, gazing up at the pouring rain.

From the opening chords of Against all Odds to the fading notes of Take me Home, he was captivating.

No small feat for the little hunched figure who struggled to walk and looked far from capable of singing with any sort of power.

It rained on and off. The crowd was a sea of disposable ponchos and fluorescent glow sticks.

The days of widespread inebriation are a thing of the past at the Mission concert. Gone are the days of people arriving with kegs and wheelbarrows of grog in tow.

Today it's a more civil affair, less Glastonbury and more Antique Roadshow.

Which is not to say it's not a party - and Collins delivered that. Hit after hit after hit. Another Day in Paradise, I Missed Again, Easy Lover, SussUdio.

The highlights were Follow You, Follow Me, accompanied by a video collage of a young Collins and his Genesis bandmates, and In the Air Tonight.

When the latter began you could see groups of people peeling away from queues for food and back to the crowd in order to witness that momentous bit of drumming, now forever associated with a gorilla and Cadbury.

His band, featuring his 17-year-old son Nicholas on drums, was outstanding, and for those like me who were never great Collins fans but who grew up with his music, it really was a pleasure seeing him perform.

Back surgery and foot problems may have taken their toll, but there's plenty of life in the 68-year-old Collins yet.

© Stuff, by Marty Sharpe

Video

Phil Collins - Drums and Percussion / Something happened on the way to heaven Ian Sinclair

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