Phil Collins's Greatest Live Performances Through the Years
Phil at the Alamo in 2016? You never know...
Image by John Seaborn Gray
Phil's back, baby. In 2011, Phil Collins officially announced his retirement after quietly retreating from major touring some years earlier. To this day, he has not released a new album of original material since 2002's Testify and, aside from a handful of dates in 2010 supporting his Motown covers record Going Back, hasn't performed a major tour since 2007's Genesis reunion.
All that changed last week when Collins told Rolling Stone that he is officially un-retiring and is planning both another tour and a new record. The thing that gets me here is the touring. Being a younger Phil fanatic, I've never had the chance to catch him in concert. The record will probably be typical late-career Phil schmaltz, but the touring should be absolutely incredible, if his decorated past is any indication.
In honor of those upcoming tour dates, let's take a look back at some of Collins's greatest-ever live performances, from his earliest days with Genesis to his final performances before his “vacation.”
1974: “Fly on a Windshield/Broadway Melody of 1974”
Phil was much lauded for his drumming in the early days of Genesis, and he definitely held his own against any other progressive rock or jazz drummers of the era. What made him special right out of the gate, though, was the way he could play with power and restraint. Not only is this one of the greatest tracks from the Peter Gabriel-fronted era of the band, but it expertly showcases Phil's abilities as a drummer. The beat is tasteful yet features complex fills, and he masterfully performs it live here on the tour for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
1977: “Dance on a Volcano/Drum Duet/Los Endos”
By this time, Phil was the front man for Genesis and spent more time singing live than sitting behind the drum kit. He still pulled double duty at most shows, though, showcasing his skills against touring drummer Chester Thompson in an elaborate duel every night.
1980: “Turn It On Again”
Heading into Genesis's pop era, Phil was really stepping into the spotlight by this time. This performance of the hit “Turn It On Again” showcases exactly what would make him a superstar in just a few short years. Also, dig that magnificent beard.
This song was always said to be a strain on Phil's vocals, but he was still killing it even on Genesis's 2007 reunion tour. That being said, probably no performances of the song will ever be as great as the ones on the tour of the same name back in 1984, shortly after the release of the self-titled Genesis record. You can hear Phil's voice crack and strain, but he hits every depraved note of the desperately cloying creeper anthem.
1985: “Against All Odds”
By 1985, Phil was rivaled only by Michael Jackson in the number of hits he was turning out and the incredible popularity he was experiencing. Almost everyone who performed at Live Aid brought his absolute A-game, and Collins was no exception. He played drums in an excellent Eric Clapton performance, but his solo rendition of “Against All Odds” hit the hardest.
1992: “Jesus He Knows Me”
For their 1992 tour in support of the I Can't Dance album, Genesis were a certified arena-rock band, complete with backing videos. Phil never changed, though, showing up looking like your uncle in a T-shirt, jeans and a bad combover. For some reason, this particular track from that era inspired his performances. Any time the band played “Jesus He Knows Me,” Phil was especially animated onstage and passionate in his singing. Maybe he had the spirit in him after all.
1997: “Wear My Hat”
Let's be honest, “Wear My Hat” is a silly song, and hardly the peak of the man's songwriting prowess. Still, this inspired performance from the late ’90s, clearly influenced heavily by Paul Simon's Graceland, is so much fun it's just undeniable.
2004: “In the Air Tonight”
It's crazy to me that the definitive live version of this song didn't come until Phil's "First Farewell Tour" in 2004, a joke that ended up being true since it was the final major tour of his career until now. Perhaps the song's bitterness only ripened with age. In any case, the incredible version on his DVD release documenting the tour far surpasses younger performances. A few more divorces under his belt only served to make this, his greatest solo song, even greater.
2007: “Invisible Touch”
Like Live Aid before it, Live Earth brought out the best in its performers. In his last major tour, fronting Genesis for presumably the last time, Phil resurrected this ’80s classic for a modern audience. Always one of the group's catchiest songs, it's imbued with new life in the new millennium. This performance also notably forced presenter Jonathan Ross to apologize for Phil's use of the word “fuck” on live TV.
2010: "You Can't Hurry Love"
The Motown influence in his years fronting Genesis and his solo work was clear right out of the gate, but "You Can't Hurry Love" being included on his sophomore solo record, Hello, I Must Be Going, was the first time Phil outright professed his love of the genre. It's only fitting that his fantastic cover was resurrected for his Going Back tour, where the performances were made up entirely of such covers. As much as I love this cover and Motown in general, though, I think we're all looking forward to seeing Phil back on tour, performing his own original material.
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