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The First Final Tourrehearsals


Following an invitation we went to Neúchatel, Switzerland, for the weekend of May 22/23 [,2004].
On Saturday morning we arrived well-rested at the band's hotel. They remembered us and we were invited to breakfast. They seemed happy to see new faces because they had had the same daily routine for two weeks: breakfast, rehearsals, lunch, rehearsals, supper, bedtime.

The rehearsals took place in a gym in Neúchatel that had been rented for three weeks. Inside it was close to a perfect setup, almost as if they were going to play to a big audience that night. The stage was completely built up, the lights were focused, big screens hung behind the stage and the sound was fantastic. We were led to a corner of the gym where we had to stay during the rehearsals. So all the musicians walked past us, until an unobtrusive Phil came by and greeted us with a smile and a „hi“ in his easy-going way. Much time has passed since his last concerts and he seemed very positive and very relaxed, very content.

From noon onwards they rehearsed individual pieces, the first being True Colors. We are convinced that this particular song will be a highlight of the show because Phil is going to perform with his five background singers. Gerald Albright went to a balcony behind the stage and sang this piece. It was very impressive to hear Phil and his band in sync again after seven years. Then they changed some bits in Wear My Hat and Something Happened... before they broke for lunch. The musicians went to separate room for this. Phil, however, opened his laptop onstage, sat down in front of his drum kit and continued working on the whole set. It is really true that he writes down all the details during rehearsals to talk them through with the band the next day.

setlistAt 2pm they began to play the whole concert! Without any breaks, any audience, any applause, but with a sound as if they were playing a sold-out venue. What a unique atmosphere... Phil, Chester and Luis began with a drum piece. A couple of passages from it were lifted from Timbantiocha which Phil played on the 1997 tour with Luis Conte and Ricky Lawson. A fine transition leads into Something Happened... where all the stage lights will kick into action. After that it is the evergreen Against All Odds and Don't Lose My Number. The first more recent piece on the tour is You'll Be In My Heart. One More Night is in the set, as are two pieces from Brother Bear, On My Way and Welcome. Can't Stop Loving You has become a live asset. It brings in all the backing vocalists, which gives the song a very personal note. True Colors will send shivers down your spine. It is a bit different from the studio version but everybody agreed that it sounded much better. It builds on an a-capella version and really brings out the harmonies. True Colors was rehearsed more often than other pieces during these two days. Perfection is the thing...

Come With Me, I Missed Again and No Way Out are new on this tour. Phil's famous In The Air Tonight will be gigantic again – fascinating performance and brilliant light show. Phil walks calmly along the stage, up to the balcony and you wonder whether he will suddenly jump down to his drumkit or miss the cue.

And then there it is, surrounded by white flashes and blue stage lights – full power. Sussudio is the last song of the regular set. According to some comments the list of encores has also been fixed. It's Not Too Late will be the first one. A real treat before he leaves.

I spoke to Phil about this song. He feels very happy with the way it has turned out and with the reactions to it (I would go see the show for this song alone!) After that there will be another brief Drum Thing which leads into the regular closer, Take Me Home (with Phil on congas).

Same producedure on day two. Again they rehearsed a couple of songs, and to my delight It's Not Too Late was one of them. What a great encore – and how different from they way you would imagine it. This time we were allowed to join them for lunch. It seems that nobody can do anything without their laptops these days. There were at least five of them and people chatted via webcam with their loved ones at home, exchanged departure times and hotel reservations and so on. The food (several different menus!) was provided by a catering service they had especially brought in. Rehearsals were scheduled to continue at 2pm. But lo and behold, Phil had the Formula 1 race from Monaco piped onto the big screens, and so we watched the first couple of minutes of the race surrounded by deafening noise. Rehearsals continued with a full set a couple of minutes past two.

Phil's wife Orianne and his son Nicholas were also there that day and watched the rehearsal. Every now and then Nicholas would begin to play the air drums, which looked very good and amused everyone while Phil's dog Jack raced from one side of the stage to the other. It all seemed very cozy and everybody was in a good mood.

Shortly after they had finished the show and changed the dance routine for Wear My Hat Phil made sure that the video material was sent quickly to Arnold McCuller so that he could prepare. They are quite sure that he will return for the North American leg.


A summary?

Difficult... I am still thrilled by what I have seen and heard. I noticed that many songs from the 1990 and 1997 sound similar and are placed at similar positions in the set. I also noticed that they do not play any song of Phil's personal favourite album Both Sides. As on the Both Sides tour, the first half is the slower one while they really get going in the second half. I think the new songs have been incorporated very well. They will please all concert goers. Phil really is a workaholic, yet he appeared to be very much at ease and looking forward to his farewell tour. 


Farewell tour?

I would say, yes it is. When I asked Phil whether he would play my favourite song on his next tour he turned around, looked at me very earnestly and said: „Enjoy this tour. It will certainly be my last.“ Then he turned, vanished behind the curtain and left me slightly shocked. But still, LET'S LOOK FORWARD TO THIS TOUR!

I was very proud to be there, and I urge everybody to see at least one show. I am convinced that this will be his last tour, and Phil smiled thankfully and contented when I said to him the next day: „If you really leaving then be sure: You are leaving with the best show you have ever been on tour with.“


by Andreas Bonder

translated by Martin Klinkhardt


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