Review: Phil Collins shakes Chicago with his wit and hits

Phil Collins and his band take a bow

Against all odds, Phil Collins is back on the road with a North American tour this year, and our longtime friend and Stuck in the ’80s correspondent “Bassnote” caught Phil’s show in Chicago. Here’s his review:

I have to start out by saying I had mixed feelings about going to this show. On one hand, it was my daughter’s first (and probably only) time to see him. On the other hand, having seen the spry Phil of the ’80s many times (with and without Genesis), I felt I was going to be let down by the fact that he would be sitting in a chair the entire show. It was true that Phil was not as active as he was in the past, but his ability to keep an audience entertained had not waned a bit.

Phil hobbled out on stage to his chair to start the show. Smiling to the eager crowd he spoke how happy he was to be in Chicago – a city he had spent much time in the past. He addressed why he had to sit in his chair: back surgery, nerve problems, and his foot was “f—ed.” However he assured everyone that we were all going to have a good time.

Collins started the music with “Against All Odds.” The band was behind a curtain and only their shadows could be seen throughout the song. He followed it up with “Another Day In Paradise.” The songs were in lower keys and he wasn’t hitting any of his high notes, but he still sounded good.

Phil really started to hit his stride with back-to-back Genesis songs – “Throwing It All Away” and “Follow You, Follow Me.” The latter song accompanied on the three large screens by a montage video of Genesis, including some Peter Gabriel era clips. He was on a roll after that.

Dipping into his post ’80s catalogue, Phil brought the crowd to its feet with “You’ll Be In My Heart” from Disney’s “Tarzan.” I have to admit, it was the song my daughter was waiting for the most. Judging from all the teenagers with their parents at the show, I think it was the song a lot of them were waiting for too.

Before the song “Something Happened On The Way To Heaven,” Phil’s son Nick (who has taken over drums for Dad) and percussionist Richie Garcia had a drum duet. The duet became a trio when they moved out front and were joined by Phil; all three playing percussion boxes with their hands. Later Nick would play piano for the song “You Know What I Mean” from the “Face Value” album. That was a nice intimate father/son moment. They shared a warm hug after the song.

The next song was “In The Air Tonight,” and it was as epic as it always was. Nick did his dad proud on the famous drum fills. It was followed by a rousing rendition of “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Sadly, this was the only song played from Phil’s “Hello, I Must Be Going” album.

The last few songs in the regular set were like knock out punches thrown by a heavyweight champ. Phil and the band delivered the best rendition I have ever heard of the Genesis song “Invisible Touch.” Trust me, I have seen Phil do that song with Genesis several times over the years, and it never had the sheer joyousness of this version. They followed “Invisible Touch” with a killer version of “Easy Lover” with two of Phil’s back-up singers filling in for Philip Bailey; one male and one female. Both singers delivered a very soulful rendition of the song, and had fun teasing Phil by rubbing his bald head during their vocal parts. Phil got a kick out of it.

The regular set ended with the song “Sussudio.” Yes, it’s a silly song. Yes, it was overplayed. And yes, we loved every second of it. The crowd sang along gleefully and even took over on vocal when Phil turned the mic to them. Streamers and confetti filled the air as the song came to rousing crescendo.

After a very brief exit from the stage, Phil and the band came back to give an encore of “Take Me Home.” I have to admit the nostalgia swept over me as the crowd sang along to the chorus of the song. It almost felt like 1985 again. I realized after the song ended and the band took their bows, that despite Phil’s physical limitations, it was his personality, wit and (more than anything) his music that had the crowd in a state of elation for two hours. I walked out of the United Center very happy that I was able to share this concert experience with my daughter.

If Phil is playing anywhere near you, I highly recommend going. It is totally worth it.