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Mario Giammetti
Random Hols Website Special
The Last Domino? Tour

After several weeks of rehearsals Phil Collins embarked on his new tour on April 01 in Utrecht, The Netherlands. He also played four nights in Germany – in the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund (on 15/4, 16/4, 18/4 and 19/4). The tour continued until December 1994 with the final shows taking place at the Wembley arena, London.

The stage follows the images from the video for We Wait And We Wonder. It looks like a backyard in a working-class area. A drab steel construction (with large flickering letters spelling HOTEL, a shack made of corrugated iron, dented trashcans, stray cat, wooden boards (one of which is a keyboard), newspapers and cardboard coffee cups – all of this enhances the design. Phil has replaced almost his full band for this tour, so only few old hands can be seen on stage: 

Arnold McCuller (backing vocals),
Brad Cole (keyboards)
Daryl Stuermer (guitars).
Amy Keys has replaced Bridgette Bryant and sings the backing vocals with Arnold; Nathan East (known from Eric Clapton shows and as the co-writer of Easy Lover) takes over bass duty from Leland Sklar. The Phenix Horns are replaced by the Vine Street Horns (founded by ex-Phenix Horn Harry Kim), and last not least there is a new drummer who has taken over Chester Thompson’s part (though some may be sorry that Chester is not part of the tour anymore). 

Why all these replacements? Phil cites his album as the main reason: “Both Sides was a completely different album, and I wanted this to be reflected in other areas, too.” The show is divided into two parts by a break of some 15 minutes. The first half presents a calm, contemplative Collins, mainly with (six) songs from Both Sides, so it is dark and melancholy. The other side is far more colourful both in the songs and the light show (which is excellent); this is where it is all happening. If you took a close look across the stage you may wonder where the second drum kit is. Ricky Lawson’s drum kit is clearly visible, but Phil’s familiar drum kit is nowhere to be seen. The answer is revealed at the latest when Phil enters. He comes out of the shack in his good old Say It’s Alright Joe outfit, takes off the hat and the coat and sits down behind a collection of old drums, buckets, hoses and other junk. Then he picks up his drumsticks and off we go – the heap of junk turns out to be a drumkit or, as Phil likes to call it, his ‘rubbishkit’, which has a peculiar but interesting metallic sound. After a brief solo a second set of drums can be heard as another man appears in the spotlight on the stage to the right and above Phil, a dark-skinned man wearing dark sunglasses: Ricky Lawson. It is the beginning of a drum duet of the unusual persuasion: Phil plays on his rubbishkit, Ricky drums on his chest and thighs where body-triggers (electronic drum plates) have been affixed. During the applause the rest of the band come on stage and off they go with two classics, I Don’t Care Anymore and Don’t Lose My Number. After that Phil welcomes the audience and proceeds to play two songs from Both Sides. The perform Everyday with Phil on the piano and hundreds of burning lighters and sparklers in the audience and Survivors. Phil then gives a little speech in which he points out that he is collecting money for the homeless on this tour, too, and asks for a donation. Volunteers from a local charity organization to help the homeless stood in the lobby before and after the show with buckets collecting donations. During the next song they also go through the audience, and the obviously play Another Day In Paradise. Phil, Arnold McCuller and Amy Keys sing and stand around a burning barrel as if they were homeless people trying to warm themselves up. After that it is Can’t Find My Way, one of the new songs, and then I Wish It Would Rain Down, which was only played during the first two shows in Dortmund but dropped altogether on Monday (read on to find out why) and replaced with Do You Remember? on Tuesday. Sparklers and lighters return for One More Night and A Groovy Kind Of Love. Phil’s current single, We Wait And We Wonder, is played, but unfortunately Phil does not play the bagpipes but a single drum next to Ricky’s kit. When he does not sing he drums a marching beat and marches in place with Andrew Woolfork, who exchanged his saxophone for a tambourine in this song. Surprisingly, I’ve Forgotten Everything, the slowest and most solemn song on Both Sides is performed after that. The first part of the show culminates and ends with Both Sides Of The Story.

During the break of fifteen to twenty minutes several things are added to the stage, e.g. the microphones for the brass group; one could also watch  Carol Graham who usually takes care of the band and their wardrobe backstage, hang up some laundry on stage; she was accompanied by a colleague and both were dressed up as laundry-women.

If you waiting too long in the queue at the food and drinks stands and did not hear the gong that announced the second half of the show you will have been angry with yourself because Phil begins the second half of the show in a new outfit with his classic In The Air Tonight. He sings the first half of the song on a roof of corrugated iron on the left side of the stage the shack in the middle moves to the side (almost the whole stage can be moved around) and Phil’s original drum kit appears. So we finally see him at the drums again; it is the second (after the drum solo/duet in the beginning) and last time during the three hours of the show. To make this part faster and more colourful the band continue with Hang In Long Enough.

Amy Keys and Phil then turn Find A Way To My Heart into a duet, and she demonstrates that her voice is as beautiful as she is herself. It Don’t Matter To Me was followed by a treat for all fans of Face Value, for, unlike the previous tours, Phil went back to his roots and played more than just In The Air Tonight from the album: I Missed Again and Behind The Lines were played in a new sound outfit and took the audience back to the old times. Unfortunately he did not play these songs during the Tuesday show (again, the reason follows below). Then it is Easy Lover; as on the 1990 tour Arnold McCuller sings with Phil, but who takes over the second voice besides Phil? There is no second male backing vocalist, and so bass-player Nathan East sings that part. Though he has been singing backing vocals throughout the show with Amy and Arnold, it is still amazing how great his voice is during this song. Before the band is introduced they play Only You Know And I Know and Something Happened On The Way To Heaven. At the end of the band introduction everybody puts on black sunglasses, so the next song must be You Can’t Hurry Love, and as in 1990 they play Two Hearts and Sussudio before the encores. A rain of confetti and streamers descends on the first rows of the audience and the band when Sussudio begins. It looks great for the crowd, but it can become something of an obstacle to the band, for Phil occasionally entangles himself in the streamers and Daryl and Nathan find it difficult to play when the streamers land between their fingers and their instruments until a helpful roadie has freed their guitars and basses. After several minutes of thundering applause Phil returns to the stage. He first sings Paul Brady’s Helpless Heart, one of his favourite songs – and expresses his regret at not having written it himself. This and the song after that, Against All Odds, were performed in Dortmund only in the first two shows; they were dropped for the other two. The traditional finale was, of course, Take Me Home.

At the end of that song the band one by one leave the stage through the door of the shack. In the end Phil sits alone at the front of the stage and sings the final lines of the song with the audience. Then he puts on his hat, hangs the coat over his arm and also leaves the stage. Seconds later he reappears and turns the light switch just outside the shack: The stage light goes out and the house lights come one – Phil vanishes through the door in darkness. A super show has just ended.

Now, why were some of the songs dropped? Phil had a sore throat before the third show [on Monday] show; he decided to go easy on his voice and therefore left out some songs. The fourth show [on Tuesday] was on the brink of being cancelled because Phil’s sore throat had turned into a cold. The show took place, but some songs were dropped, many were played lower than usual or Phil had the audience and/or the background singers take over some parts to protect his voice. His coughs during the breaks indicated that he was not too well.

Hopefully he will not have these problems during the September shows. Despite this positive review there were a couple of not so good things. The sound was not exactly spot-on during the first two day. Phil’s voice clanged occasionally, and it was so loud that some people in the audience had to use earplugs. Another thing was a relative lack of atmosphere in the audience right in front of the stage during the first two shows. Many seats in the first couple of rows were occupied by VIPs who did not feel like standing up and having a ball. The “true” fans, who did not sit in the first rows did not get the opportunity to rush to the front because security were very exact about their job (except during the last couple of songs). The biggest downside was, however that the pit was furnished with seats. Without the chairs there would soon have been a gigantic party in front of the stage.

The VIPs in the first rows were good for one thing, though: Most of them have bought a Platinum Ticket (for DM650, ca. EUR 330) that included admission to the soundcheck and a first row seat. The proceeds from this went to charities for the homeless.

Yes, there will once again be strong opinions about Phil Collins’s show, as there were about the album Both Sides. But each to their own…

By C.M.
English by Martin Klinkhardt