How Can we Just let you Walk Away
The Royal Albert Hall hosts five nights of Phil Collins’ Not Dead Yet comeback tour. Riddle tunes in to find out what the fuss is about
Review by Andrew Steel
“I won’t be doing too much dancing tonight,” Phil Collins confides to his sell-out audience at the Royal Albert Hall, on the second evening of a five-night stint in London’s most prestigious venue. “I’ve had a back operation. Also, my leg’s fucked.” At 66, Collins is showing his age and the after-effects of alcoholism upon his unexpected return to the stage, seated for the majority in a chair apparently taken from the late Magnus Magnusson of Mastermind. The name of this comeback tour, Not Dead Yet, is almost tempting fate. Over a two-act show though, he assuages these fears with refined élan, with a career-spanning set that is equal turns riotously fun and wistfully tender.
Though initial worries linger over the solidity of his voice after thin renditions of Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now) and Another Day in Paradise, Collins still has enough power to impress on the strident synth-rocker Wake Up Call and the brassy, funky Hang in Long Enough. Augmented by a quartet of backing vocalists and a horn section, it is on his more energetic numbers that he sounds best; the urgent throb of Only You Know and I Know zips along under his growled tenor, whilst Something Happened On the Way to Heaven is gloriously overblown, with Collins’ teenage son Nic crashing the drums behind him (“He’ll start wanting to be paid soon,” his father quips after the 16 year old plays piano on a tender You Know What I Mean.)
The tremulous fragility of his vocals add greater depth to the ballads though too; the resigned croon of Can’t Turn Back the Years is desperately poignant, whilst Separate Lives aches with a world-weary self-regret. When In the Air Tonight arrives, he finds an extra gear and delivers a searing performance that conjures goosebumps. It triggers a final half-hour of feel-good mega hits too – You Can’t Hurry Love, Easy Lover, Sussudio – joyously ridiculous and accompanied by confetti cannons for good measure. Collins has admitted that he came back to live performance because he “simply missed it”; as he barks out the final refrain of a triumphant Take Me Home, with five-thousand people on their feet in unison, it’s not difficult to see why. Not dead yet indeed – and with a potential Genesis reunion for next year teased onstage too, it appears unlikely that Collins intends to go quietly into the twilight.
Enquiries: Phil Collins’s playing Sunday 4th – Friday 9th June at The Royal Albert Hall / www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/events/2017/phil-collins/