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Phil Collins' North American tour 1997


The second leg of Phil’s 1997 world tour will take him to Europe in autumn, but at this point we will look back at the first part of the tour that took him through the United States and Canada. There has rarely been so little publicity about a Collins tour in the media, and the press have probably paid little attention to it. For this reason most of the information provided here came from fans who wrote about the gigs on the internet and listed the tour dates.


REHEARSALS

Rehearsals began in the second half of January 1997 in Lausanne, Switzerland. The band familiarized themselves with the music and the unusual stage setup while the finishing touches were added to the set list. Another rehearsal period took place from 20/02 to 27/02 in Lakeland Arena in Tampa, Florida, USA. The Trip Into The Light, as the tour was called, began on 28/02 with their first show at the Ice Palace in Tampa. 


BAND

When Phil went on the previous tour (1994-5) he replaced some of the musicians in his band. Amongst others, Chester Thompson and Leland Sklar, both old Collins live hands, were replaced. The 1994 band that had done a good job on the Both Sides tour was asked to go on tour with him again in 1997.

Guitar work was, as from times almost immemorable, Daryl Stuermer’s department. Brad Cole embarked on his third stint as Phil’s keyboarder. It was the second time around for Nathan East (bass), Ricky Lawson (drums) and the Vine Street Horns Daniel Fornero (trumpet), Andrew Woolfolk (saxophone), Arturo Velasco (trombone) and Harry Kim (trumpet). The latter had already been a part of the Phenix Horns, Phil’s horn section until 1990, so it was his third tour with Phil. Arnold McCuller had also joined the band for the Serious tour as a backing singer; he shared his job for the second time with Amy Keys.

All these would have made for a full band, but two other musicians came aboard. Luis Conte, the world-famous percussionist, had played in Phil’s big band in 1996 and was hired for the ’97 tour. Flaming Youth veteran Ronnie Caryl had provided some guitar parts on Phil’s current album Dance Into The Light and was brought in to support Daryl live. With this crew of twelve Phil Collins set sail.


STAGE

Phil wanted the stage to be something completely different this time. He wanted to come closer to the audience, and the crowd should be able to see more of the stage and the musicians. Hence the idea for a round stage around which the crowd could assemble. It consisted of two ring-shaped levels at various heights that were linked by a set of steps. In the middle there was also a large elevator platform. Only the drum kit, the percussions and the keyboards had their own place; the other musicians could move freely on the stage. Since the general concept of A Trip Into The Light was about a cruise on a steamer the stage was equipped with lifebelts and sundry other maritime items. The lighting equipment hung from a construction above the stage that resembled an oversized ceiling fan with the rotor blades hanging down a bit..


SONGS

Hand In Hand
Hang In Long Enough
Don't Lose My Number
River So Wide
Take Me Down
Find A Way To My Heart
Another Day In Paradise
Against All Odds
Just Another Story
Lorenzo
Separate Lives
The Times They Are A-Changin'
---
Do You Remember or
You Know What I Mean (not at every show)
Long Long Way To Go or
A Groovy Kind Of Love (not at every show)
One More Night
---
In The Air Tonight
Drum-/Percussion improvisation
Loco In Acapulco (not played after 24/03)
Dance Into The Light
Easy Lover
Wear My Hat
You Can't Hurry Love
Two Hearts
Something Happened On The Way To Heaven
Sussudio
---
The Same Moon or
It's In Your Eyes (not at every show)
Take Me Home


SHOW

Not only did Phil have a new stage, but he also came up with a different course of the show. While he used to follow the pattern of “part one – longish break – part two”, this time it was different. For one thing, the full two-and-a half hours of the show were played without long breaks, and the show had been divided into three blocks.
Block 1 began with the classic opener Hand In Hand and contained many songs from the current album. As far as we can make out the selection of songs for this block remained the same throughout the North American tour.
It was followed by a brief second block of two to three songs where Phil performed more or less alone. He would sit in the middle of the stage on the platform at the keyboards. Daryl and Nathan would accompany him only for One More Night on the guitar and the bass guitar, respectively.
In The Air Tonight introduced the third block of the show. It was followed by the legitimate successor, as it were, to the legendary drum duet Phil would play with Chester Thompson. This new version included himself and Ricky Lawson on the drums and Luis Conte on percussion. This drum trio apparently turned into a drum quartet on four nights when Simon Collins, Phil’s son from his first wife, joined in at another drum kit. We have not found out whether he also drummed on other songs. In this third block another big surprise occurred: Loco In Acapulco from the 1988 Buster soundtrack was played – for the first time in a Collins live set. The song was dropped halfway through the tour for reasons unknown. Sussudio as the last song in the regular set and Take Me Home as the very last song brought on the usual favourable reactions from the audience.
Phil Collins, whose neckerchief made him look like the captain of this round “ship” on its imaginary cruise through the audience, did a great job singing and sat down at the drums seven times: Hand In Hand, River So Wide, at the end of Find A Way To My Heart, in the middle of Lorenzo, In The Air Tonight, the drum improvisation and at the end of Wear My Hat.
The band seemed very well attuned to one another, with Daryl Stuermer’s outstanding guitar solos and Luis Conté’s excellent percussion.
The most remarkable moments of the show were Lorenzo, In The Air Tonight and the drum improvisation. They were surrounded by lots of familiar songs such as Hand In Hand, Easy Lover or Something Happened On The Way To Heaven as well as a Against All Odds in a new arrangement resembling the big band version, songs from the new album and rarities such as Long Long Way To Go and Loco In Acapulco


AT THE END OF THE DAY

All in all it was a good though not particularly spectacular show that is likely to have satisfied everybody in the audience. Most of the audience, at least those who like Phil Collins because they also like Elton John, Paul McCartney and all the other superstars, got what they wanted. The passionate fan who may have hoped for Thru These Walls or The Roof Is Leaking and who is beginning to take a dislike to Take Me Home as the eternal final song may have felt a little disappointed.

Captain Phil sailed through Europe from October to just before Christmas 1997. Read all about the European leg of the Trip Into The Light in our separate tour report.

by Helmut Janisch
English by Martin Klinkhardt


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