Look, when I found out that I was going to be seeing Phil Collins live in concert… I’ll be honest… I squealed and started dancing in my living room. If I had to compile a soundtrack to my life, this genius would be found in the list more than just a couple of times alongside the memories of my baby brother singing along with I Can’t Dance and declaring it as his favourite song, to never EVER getting tired of In The Air Tonight, even when it featured in nearly every single ad break on the TV. Surely everyone has had a moment with Mr Collins? Dancing to Sussudio and wiping tears away to Another Day In Paradise…
So here we are – Suncorp Stadium on a warm Saturday evening in Brisbane. Phil was due to step out at 8 but has kindly held off to make sure that more people can find their seats before the start of the show. For now, we are treated to background music and a slideshow on the big screen of shots of Phil from across his long and colourful career.
Before long the stadium lights go out and a single white spotlight appears on the pitch black stage – Phil steps into the light, assisted by his cane and half way across throws an arm up into the air, waving out to the crowd. He hooks his cane over the back of his chair and sits down, taking a moment to greet the fans and offer an explanation for his diminished mobility… He does so with a bit of humour which is immediately received well by the crowd and serves well as the ice-breaker – if anyone can inject a feeling of intimacy into a stadium show without having even yet broken into song, it’s Phil Collins.
Against All Odds is the first song, followed by Another Day In Paradise – I’ve just shed my first tear of the night. Phil’s voice is unwavering and still projecting as much emotion as ever.
After Can’t Turn Back The Years, Phil says we’re in for some tracks from No Jacket Required and the band bursts into Inside Out followed by Who Said I Would accompanied by some very appropriately retro neon 80’s imagery on the screens – even more of Phil’s cheeky side comes out during this performance and it’s a treat to see.
Phil takes a moment to lovingly and playfully introduce the entire backing band one by one. Last but not least, we find out that the person who has been expertly keeping the beat behind the kit is Phil’s own 17-year-old son, Nicholas Collins!
A simple starlit backdrop brings the intimacy level back as enigmatic backing vocalist Bridgette Bryant takes a seat beside Collins for a spine-tingling emotional duet, Separate Lives.
Once their duet is over, it’s time for a slightly different one – Nicholas bursts through with powerful drum beats instantly lifting the energy and so begins a drum duet with world-renowned percussionist Mr. Richie “The Octopus” Garcia (as he was introduced earlier by Phil) … This is EPIC! 17 years old?! We’re all watching in awe as this overachiever battles it out with one incredible percussionist for at least 5 mins. Phil sits just back from his primary spot, closer to the drummers, and watches intently and with approval. I’m having a bit of a moment where I’m filled with empathy for Mr. Collins; a musicians loss of ability to play their instrument is like the loss of a limb. But those insane beats take over and I know that, as a parent, that yearning must be completely overshadowed by the tremendous pride he must have in his son right at this moment.
Phil turns back to face the audience and places on his lap a slap-top Cajon. Nicholas and Ritchie grab a Cajon each from their opposite sides of the stage and meet in the middle with Phil for what is one of the most special moments I’ve ever witnessed at a show. It’s simple, but oh so powerful, and Phil shows us that he still has it!
As if that wasn’t moving enough, after Heaven, we have Nicolas moving down from the drum rise to a piano, Phil sitting close beside him. A few gorgeous exchanges of jokes between the two and it was revealed that Nicolas taught himself the piano part for You Know What I Mean and together they perform it perfectly and finish with a loving cuddle before Nicolas resumes his position behind the kit for what could be the smash hit song of the night for everyone in this sweaty stadium – unmistakably the atmosphere builds for In The Air Tonight. The bass is rumbling through my body as Phil moves to the front but this time rests his cane and stands centre stage unassisted, as though given an extra boost from this particular mega-hit.
The rest of the night is like a giant dance party with most fans up on their feet and Phil pulling hilariously cheeky facial expressions, often holding the microphone out into the crowd who honestly don’t need the further encouragement to sing-a-long to Can’t Hurry Love, Invisible Touch, Easy Lover, Sussudio… ear-wormed yet??!
Anyone who tries to tell you that their experience was hindered by Phil being restricted to a chair for a large portion of the evening, mustn’t have allowed themselves to be fully embraced by the music and the passion that was quite literally radiating off that stage. Mr. Collins, thank you so much for tonight, and for your many contributions to the soundtrack of my life. You are a living legend and still well worth seeing live!
Review & Gallery Contributed by Elizabeth Sharpe