Phil Collins and the band played a concert recorded for broadcast by BBC Radio 2 on 6th November 2002. Three hundred lucky prize winners plus family, friends and guests attended. Sneaking through a back door your intrepid cub reporter managed to snatch a few quick photos. Here they are, plus a brief report on the event.
The La Scala Theatre is a small, unprepossessing joint at the corner of Pentonville Road and the Caledonian Road - just round from the Kings Cross Thameslink station. Seen better looking places - hardly the Albert Hall or MSG. But never mind, for tonight it is hosting the hottest ticket in town - an exclusive 'private' performance by Phil Collins and his boys and girls. The concert is to be recorded for broadcast by BBC Radio 2 (16th November) and the lucky audience is made up of 300 souls who were fortunate enough to win tickets and the usual assortment of 'men in suits', friends, hangers-on, record company types, etc. Oh yes, and Phil's family, amongst them mum June, lovely wife Orianne and little Nicholas, the most recent addition to the Clan Collins.
The performance is due to start at 8pm and, in the moments before, confused members of the audience wonder round the three bars and the standing-only auditorium wondering where best to stand (and why a bottle of Stella cost £3.50? Isn't the Licence Fee enough nowadays?). Throughout this, your correspondent is in something of a panic. He has been summoned to attend by no less than Tony Smith, bearded management mogul, told to bring his digital camera and instructed, on pain of excommunication and worse, to take flattering snaps of the star and his musical mates. The only problem is that, unbelievably, members of the public have assumed all the best positions and seem reluctant to move. I suggest whips and cattle prods but, perplexingly, the crowd control flight case was left back at The Farm somehow. Talk about organisation! You just can't get the managers nowadays.
Enter, stage right, Carol Willis, chief factotum and all-round good egg. Taking matters in hand she approaches a burly gentleman in a black t-shirt emblazoned 'Security (who let all these people in here?)' and asks him to allow the pathetic balding person lurking behind her to enter the balcony so he can take some shots. 'No, family only', comes the terse reply. More panic as minions are sent scuttling hither and thither to locate someone with the right colour laminate who can authorize said request. Eventually, no less a personage than Tony Smith passes by and access is granted.
To some suspicious glances, your reporter slips guiltily into a narrow space behind a line of chairs in which sit Mrs June Collins, Orianne and Nicholas and several other family members (Orianne's mother?). Most suspicious of all is PC's PA, Annie Callingham, who threatens to launch this interloper into the audience below until he manages to gasp "Tony Smith said I could" while Annie engages him in a firm but friendly head lock (we are later formally introduced having only previously spoken on the phone and, yes, everything I have written above is an egregious lie).
At 8 o'clock a dapper Paul Gambaccini grabs the microphone and makes the introductions, a lower form of BBC life having previously made some safety announcement plus a request to turn off mobile phones (the safety announcement seemed to say 'in the event of a fire please stay where you are, you will not notice any discernible change in the heat levels' but maybe I have this wrong). Enter, from rear stage left, PC and some of the gang to tumultuous applause.
Now, these guys know how to dress (as you will see from the attached photographs) and we are dazzled by the fine array of stage apparel which seems to comprise a job lot of black t-shirts and faded jeans. Phil takes to the piano and delivers a heart-felt 'In The Air Tonight'. Cue mass hysteria in the audience - plus a certain amount of concern from yours truly as he can see neither hide nor hair of Mr Collins from his position in the family seats. Bugger - no snaps.
Things improve when Phil bounces perkily centre stage and from then on it's mayhem all the way. I won't bother you with the details of the set-list (don't want to destroy the tension when you listen to the broadcast), suffice to say that everything you would want to hear plus quite a few things you really might not expect are delivered impeccably but in an informal way which adds charm to the whole event. Phil is in relaxed mood, chatting to the audience, reacting with the guys and lady on stage, smiling, bouncing around and singing his socks off. After about 45 minutes he points out that his mum is in the audience. June waves back happily. Phil then announces it's her birthday. Crowd cheer, sing 'Happy birthday to You'. June stands and waves, seriously upstaging son. Son yells, "That's enough of that!" Crowd hoot with laughter, music resumes.
But what Phil and the crowd could not see, was little Nicholas's reaction to his dad's performance. Clapping along (this little guy has serious rhythm) and then slipping off his mum's lap to engage in some dance moves that will have the ladies going wild in the not too distant future. Stand aside dad, the new generation is in town!
After what seemed like 20 minutes but was, in fact, something like 100, the show comes to an end. Phil and the band - and the audience - have enjoyed themselves hugely. Phil has made a somewhat wistful comment about touring, has got the audience to sing large chunks of Sussudio and indulged in some serious 'call and response' scat singing with them (boy, that audience must have rehearsed hard. Where and when did they get to do it?). Everyone, on and off stage, has been reminded just how seriously good this guy is (did we need reminding?) and how much he will be missed if the 'no more touring' statement proves to be true.
A moving, life-affirming, raucous, hugely enjoyable, talent-filled evening. Best thing to happen down King's Cross for many a long year. In short: bloody marvellous!