REVIEW: Phil Collins gets it done despite showing his age at Chase Center

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Phil Collins

Phil Collins performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Oct. 17, 2019. Photos: Gary Chancer.

SAN FRANCISCO — Phil Collins can still defy expectations.

The rock star who never behaved like one. The prog rock drummer who wrote and sang more pop hits than all drummers from all musical genres since the beginning of time. The MTV star who looked more like the everyday, average bald guy holding up the end of the bar at the neighborhood pub. The vocalist who took Genesis to heights of popularity even the great Peter Cabriel couldn’t.

But when the lights dropped and the 68-year-old British legend hobbled out to the middle of stage at Chase Center on Thursday night, propped up by a cane, it looked like the beginning of an uncomfortable evening. Age catches up with everyone, but not jolly Phil Collins—right?

Well … yes, and no. This run of shows is called the “Still Not Dead Yet” tour, after all.



Collins, of course, is not the musical dynamo he used to be. He didn’t play drums and barely even stood up over nearly two hours. His fans didn’t care and neither did he, and once everyone understood the dynamics of just being in the same (large) room with a musical legend, listening to him sing the songs he made famous, nothing else mattered.

Phil Collins

Phil Collins performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Oct. 17, 2019.

It helped that he was with a locked-tight band whose core members have been with him since dinosaurs seemingly walked the Earth, outside of the fast and fluid 18-year-old drummer named Nicholas Collins, who happens to be Phil’s son. He’s only been part of the band since he was 16. “I was 43,” the older Collins quipped.

Yes, Collins’ voice sounded a bit pinched, but he still has his sense of humor and the aura of a man who not only enjoys himself, but makes it impossible not to enjoy being around him. He started slow, with “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” and “Another Day in Paradise.” His physical issues, which include a surgically repaired back and a bad foot, seemed front and center. Though he promised everyone a fun evening, his initial delivery was dimunitive and he looked pedestrian, even for a guy parked in a swivel chair all night. It looked like the curse of the aging solo act, who sputters out with no one to whom he can defer. Everyone was there to see him, period, despite having 14 other people on stage with him.



But Collins kept rolling through the hits (and there were a lot of them) and things got better. Slowly, the music fought through and the show ended up working pretty well. Collins is still funny and engaging, whether he’s questioning what’s behind the size of the horn section’s instruments or watching the old clips of Genesis on the video screens during “Follow You Follow Me.”

Phill Collins

Phil Collins performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Oct. 17, 2019.

The show’s high point was Collins deferring to Nicholas and percussionist Luis Conte for a wild synchronized percussion duel that eventually saw both of them coming out to sit with Collins and play amplified cajons. It drove the energy up, especially once Collins showed his hands aren’t lagging behind with the rest of his body. Another highlight was Collins bringing Nicholas out to accompany him on piano on “You Know What I Mean,” which Collins said the son requested to be included on the tour.

“He found a song he liked,” Collins said, prompting Nicholas to hold up a single finger. “One song.”



 

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Nicholas returned to the drums and his father found some strength to stand up for a big version of “In the Air Tonight,” through a stage shrouded in purple mist. Collins kept momentum through “You Can’t Hurry Love.” The evening ended with “Easy Lover,” “Sussudio” and appropriate encore “Take Me Home.”

Collins sent his fans home happy through personality and sheer overwhelming weight of hit songs. Whether he can do it again—or once more with Genesis, as he seemed to hint at one point—is anyone’s guess. It doesn’t seem likely, but so is betting against him.

(6) Comments

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  2. Michelle

    Amazing concert. Enjoyed every minute. We loved how Phil gives zero F** about how he appears and just let his music and his voice shine through.

  3. Robin Baker

    I've waited 30+ years to see Phil, and he is DEFINITELY worth the wait! The only other concert I've dreamed of for most of my life is Phil with his band Genesis... I will be praying nightly that the hints he has tossed out there become fact and we get One More Night of Collins, Banks, and Rutherford, and that nothing keeps me from attending the show this time!

  4. Frank TernulloTer

    I don't get it. I have always enjoyed Phil Collins but, if he can't perform at 100% then perhaps the cost of the tickets should be reduced to half price. I've been around too long and dont remember seeing other great intertainers perform at half speed. For those who thought this was the best they've ever seen you need to get out more. Very disappointed.

    1. David

      Why? Is he going to pay his band “half salary”? Are the hotels going to charge him “half rate”? How about fuel for the semis schlepping around his stage equipment? Will that cost him half as much? Your argument is daft. His voice was still fantastic, who gives a shit if he’s not hopping around the stage like he did 40 yrs ago?

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