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Concert Reviews:
Phil Collins shows he's Not Dead yet at Little Caesars Arena

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2019

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DETROIT -- "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Know)" was an apt opening number for Phil Collins on Tuesday night, Oct. 1, at Little Caesars Arena.

Just a few years ago, after all, few would have bet on the former Genesis frontman and multi-platinum solo star (and actor) ever appearing on stage, anywhere, again.

Back in 2011 Collins, racked by neurological issues, retired from performing -- and from music in general. As he told the packed house at Little Caesars in his first area appearance since Genesis played the Palace of Auburn Hills in 2007, "Back operation, s*** happens, foot's f***ed." But he's gradually made his way back to the stage, starting his Not Dead Yet Tour just over two years ago, and while he had to enter and move around the stage with a cane and sit in a swivel chair for nearly all of the two-hour show, and not play drums at all, Collins promised that, "We're gonna have some fun tonight."

He spoke the truth. The two-hour show was a welcome return and a testament to both Collins' engaging, droll personality and the more than 40 years of mostly hits he played -- and to the strength of those 18 songs, drawn from both Genesis and his solo catalogs. Time may not have been good to Collins' body, but it hasn't dulled his voice, which was strong and forceful all night long. His 14-piece band -- including four backup singers, the cheerfully choreographed Vine Street Horns quartet, longtime Genesis and Collins guitarist Daryl Stuermer and hall of fame bassist Leland Sklar -- handed the visual heavy lifting, while Collins' 18-year-old son Nicholas nailed his old man's tone and style on drums, playing with authority and confidence well beyond his years.

The two Collins also combined for one of the night's most touching moments -- a rendition of "You Know What I Mean" with Nick, who chose the song for the shows, playing piano while his father sang next to him ending with a warm hug between the two.

Mostly the elder Collins, dressed in all black and occasionally air-drumming in his seat, celebrated a multitude of past glories -- starting even before the show with a slide show of vintage photos on a scrim covering the stage front. "Against All Odds" and "Hang in Long Enough" took on a bit of deeper meaning as testaments to his perseverance, but the tone was overwhelmingly light as he rolled through the likes of "Another Day in Paradise," "Don't Lose My Number," "I Missed Again," "Who Said I Would" and "Separate Lives," and Collins joined Nicholas and percussionist Richie Garcia for a mid-show duel, playing an electronic touch pad.

The momentous arrival of the iconic "In the Air Tonight," meanwhile even brought Collins out of his chair to deliver the angsty classic. And with Genesis harbored, perhaps permanently, Collins assumed the mantle of carrying the group's legacy, performing an upbeat pairing of "Throwing It All Away" and "Follow You Follow Me," accompanied by a moving video of historic Genesis footage, and, later, a brassy take on "Invisible Touch."

The latter was part of as how-closing bomber's run that included Collins' cover of the Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love," "Dance Into the Light," "Easy Lover" (with backup singers Arnold McCuller and Amy Keys taking Philip Bailey's parts and clowning with Collins) and a romp through "Sussudio" with confetti and streamers covering the stage. The lone encore, "Take Me Home," was bolstered by a stronger Afro-Cuban rhythm and a call-and-response between Collins and the audience.

In that song, Collins purports to be "an ordinary man." But his show Tuesday was nothing short of extraordinary, proof that he's indeed not dead yet and seems to have no plans to be, metaphorically or otherwise, any time soon.

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