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Collins fans don't get their Phil

Brian Killian/WireImageJackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Smokey Robinson -- a Mount Rushmore of soul -- won't have to squeeze together to make room for Phil Collins.

As much as Collins tried on their style at Roseland Wednesday night in a show featuring Motown hits, soul classics and the occasional funk tune, it was a bad fit for the former drummer and lead vocalist of Brit prog-rocker Genesis. Great tunes from the American songbook, including "Dancing in the Street," "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and "Going to a Go-Go" should have lifted the crowd up to dance. Instead, people scratched their heads.

"I came to hear Phil Collins, and I got a wedding singer who looks like Col. Klink," said Queens mailman Tom McCabe, 47, referring to the dimwitted bald commandant from '60s TV sitcom "Hogan's Heroes."

Collins' show would have been a total disaster if it weren't for the heat generated by the crackerjack 19-piece band that included five backup singers and three members of the original Funk Brothers (Motown's famous house band). Still, it's not the first time Collins covered Motown -- or the last; he's working on an album of these covers. He had a No. 1 hit with the Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love" in 1982.

There was something in the air, and whatever it was took away the rock-star swagger you'd expect from this veteran performer. He was stiff and unsure. Part of Collins' problem may be due to nerve damage to his hands that's made drumming impossible. Recently Collins told Rolling Stone: "The first time I picked up the drum sticks after my neck surgery, they flew across the room because I couldn't grip them. When I play, I've had to tape the sticks to my hand. It's like wearing a condom. It's very strange. It really cramps your style."

Fans might have appreciated Collins' soul side more if he had included a couple of his own songs, like "In the Air Tonight" or "Sussudio," but he didn't.

He was able to loosen up by the end, reclaiming his rock-star self on the Temptations' "My Girl," but it was too little, too late -- like a big slice of cake after a bad wedding.

© NYPost, by Dan Aquilante

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