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    Of mainstream sets and the hope for more


    So Phil has entered a new phase in his life – the long time of the final tour. He has been touring again with his tried and trusted band since rehearsals at Neuchâtel on the shores of Lake Geneva. According to current information he will continue to tour at least until the end of next year, albeit with some longer breaks in between. To be sure, Phil will not have played his last concert when that tour ends. He would point out at nearly every show that this is going to be his final tour but not his last concert. That tallies with interviews in which he did not rule out single concerts or even some mini tours. The band consists of almost the same people as on the previous tour, the only exception being Chester Thompson who has taken his place at the drum kit back in 2002. Arnold McCuller was absent for the premiere due to illness, but he was back for the second show in Paris. Lamont van Hook did a very good job as his replacement. Leland Sklar plays bass again; this had been  Nathan East’s position during the two preceding tours.

    lightshowThere is no particular theme or motto for the stage this time. It is a simple stage at the end of the venue or stadium that both fits big halls and does not seem puny in open air settings. Only the video screens are much larger open air than indoors; during the show they almost always show what’s happening on stage. There are two levels to the stage, the upper level being only a sort of catwalk. The backing vocalists and the brass section stand here for some songs and Phil also occasionally walks across it. On the lower level there are (from audience left to right) Chester’s drum kit, Luis Conte and his percussion and, Phil’s drum kit where he sits (all to rarely) when required. For In The Air Tonight Phil walks about calmly, but just when he should be arriving at his drum kit he is just so far away from it and one wonders how on earth he is supposed to make it there on time. But then an additional drum kit is elevated behind the stage lit by a bright white light, Phil sits down just in time and off goes the thunderstorm of light and sound. The stage has an altogether cold and metallic look, and the backdrop consists of a big screen on which animations are shown (in quite a low resolution). These consist of, amongst others, a rainbow for True Colors, two hands moving towards each other for Come With Me, bits of the goold old I Missed Again video or the name of the city in which they were playing. The last bit, however, did not always work. In Vienna, Austria, the writing read neither “Wien” nor “Vienna” but “Wein”, and in Berlin, one could briefly read “Stockholm” (where they had played the day before) before the writing faded. “Berlin” failed to appear, though, and it seemed the person in charge of place names just forgot to enter the new name. In Milan, one did almost not notice that this was the premiere. The band has obviously rehearsed very well – no wonder with Phil’s perfectionism.

    As had been announced, the set list hardly changed throughout the European tour. On My Way was dropped after the second show, and it was only played again on the fourth to last show in Lisbon. Apart from that it seemed they had hit on just the ideal set. For special occasions Always was added as the first encore, e.g. in Stuttgart because it was the last show in Germany, and in London because Phil’s whole family and his mother were in the audience (and it was their all-time favourite song, according to Phil). During the next to last show in his new hometown of Geneva he could not finish It’s Not Too Late and shed some tears – it was apparently too emotional a song for him since the song has some bearing on his own family. The final show of the tour took place at the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival. A couple of new songs such as The West Side, Lady Madonna and Inside Out were rehearsed in the days leading up to this event, so one would have expected them to be played in Montreux, but it was just the same old set list. Europe became a mass farewell, with capacity crowds in all stadiums and even the biggest indoor venues.

    Let us shift the scene. Phil Collins in North America. For quite some time this is not the home game he enjoys in, for example, France and Germany. To be sure, he still is very popular in North America, but he does not draw audience as large as during his … But Seriously tour. The effect, however, shows more in record sales than in concert attendance. Soon after the tour had been announced the gigs in New York, Toronto, Montreal and Philadelphia were sold out; extra dates were arranged for New York and Philadelphia. The other shows sold well, but were rarely sold out.

    The soundchecks back in Europe indicated that Phil would change the set list. He did, but in a rather unexpected way. Inside Out and The West Side did not make it, but Phil surprised everybody with another song – Misunderstanding. With its strong brass sound it was a very groovy song that made everybody happy, particularly the die-hard fans. This song was celebrated everywhere. One should remember that Misunderstanding was Genesis’ first really big hit in the USA. The rest of the set list remained mostly the same, with No Way Out soon being dropped.

    Phil’s Farewell Tour through North America brought him back to many places where he enjoyed enormous success both solo and with Genesis. Audiences in Montreal, a Genesis stronghold,  are always euphoric when a member of the band plays there. Milwaukee, Daryl Stuermer’s hometown, was quick to celebrate him, and “back in N.Y.C.” and its dignified Madison Square Garden people went crazy two days in a row. As in other places, so in New York did Phil spread some hope that he might return once more with Genesis (“I’ll be back, see ya”). Every night was an emotional tour de force due both to the deluge of ballads and Phil’s intention of bidding farewell. Collins gave the (normal) audience what they wanted and left died-in-the-wool fans rather disappointed. The show was perfect, the musicians are amongst the best in the world, but some may have hoped he would play the odd odd song, You Know What I Mean perhaps or I Don’t Care Anymore or The West Side. The Both Sides album was completely ignored, too.

    The tour has not yet reached its end. In 2005 Phil will tour the “rest of the world” and it remains to see if he varies his set list some more. All that remains for fans in Europa and the United States is to say thank-you for the tours and numerous shows … and the hope for Genesis. Because hope is the last thing to go…


    by Volker Warncke and Christian Gerhardts

    translated by Martin Klinkhardt

    photos by Roxan Carle (7-16) and Helmut Janisch (1-6 and light show)



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