Phil Collins Puts His Showmanship on Display at the Q

Concert Review

We should have known better that when Phil Collins came to Cleveland for a show at Gund Arena in 2004 as part of the First Farewell Tour, it was hardly an actual goodbye. And although health concerns and a desire to spend more time with his family eventually did lead him to announce formally that he was retiring from the road in 2011, he admitted to the assembled crowd at Quicken Loans Arena last night that although he once said he “wouldn’t be doing this anymore, the truth is, I missed you.” And, as the reception from the audience would demonstrate throughout the night, he was equally missed.

You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here.

Walking on stage slowly with the aid of a cane at the beginning of the night, Collins stopped twice along the way to acknowledge and encourage the excitement of the crowd. He told fans that thanks to a back surgery and a foot that’s “fucked,” he’d be sitting down for the performance — something which has been well-publicized throughout the tour. But he promised that the audience would still going to get a hell of a show, and he delivered on that pledge, turning in a set that came in just under the two-hour mark and featured every ounce of energy and showmanship that the legendary frontman has long been known for, both in his solo performances and with Genesis. And even with some key adjustments, he was consistently in good voice.

The first crack of the drums in “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)” revealed a shadowy figure behind a drum kit, and the silhouette of the mystery drummer in action continued to fill the screen behind Collins as the rest of the band began to materialize. The cover fell away at the beginning of the second song, “Another Day in Paradise,” revealing in grand fashion, a 10-piece band (which quickly expanded to 14 as the set progressed, adding a four piece horn section), anchored by the newest recruit, his 17-year-old son Nicolas, on drums. If you’ve seen the YouTube videos, they tell an accurate tale — the young drummer does an excellent job of navigating the style, feel and tone of his dad’s signature sound that’s so instantly identifiable. It’s a lot to measure up to, but he nails it (and that includes the classic drum fill during “In the Air Tonight,” which he handled with ease).

He strutted a bit of his own stuff with a drum solo midway through the set, a moment which evolved into a rhythmic duel with percussionist Richie Garcia, with the duo eventually moving to center stage for a percussive summit as a trio with Collins himself joining in. But it was a tender moment that came later in the show when Nicolas shifted to the piano as Collins told the story of how when it became apparent that his son was going to be the drummer, he was listening to his father’s albums, getting a sense of “what Dad had been up to” all of those years, and he came across a song that he liked. He asked his father how to play it and Collins admits, he didn’t remember. So the younger Collins taught himself how to play it. “It’s a short one,” Collins told the crowd, introducing “You Know What I Mean,” from 1981’s Face Value, “So if you don’t like it, it will be over soon.” But as the pair made their way through the song, it was a touching reminder of the passage of time with Nicolas giving his dad a warm embrace at the conclusion.

The night was like that, heavily packed with both nostalgia and introspective moments. Collins reflected warmly on his time with Genesis, “three or four hundred years ago” and told fans, “We spent a lot of time in Cleveland,” name-checking the Richfield Coliseum. “Ah, the hotels.” That set up a pair of songs from the group, including the second of the two, “Follow You, Follow Me,” which featured a montage of footage spotlighting the different eras of the band.

There were additional Cleveland connections as well — guitarist Daryl Stuermer, a 40-year fixture of Collins’ work, both solo and with Genesis, has a wife from Twinsburg, as Collins revealed, adding that, “I’ll do anything for cheap applause.” And longtime backing vocalist Arnold McCuller, well-known for his own work and touring with James Taylor, is a Cleveland native, Collins proudly told the crowd. McCuller later got his own moment in the spotlight near the end of the night, sharing vocals on “Easy Lover,” the '80s staple that Collins originally sang on record with Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire.

Collins wrapped things up with a pair of songs from 1985’s No Jacket Required with “Sussudio” closing out the main set and “Take Me Home” appropriately slotted as the send-off music and last song of the night. If you missed the show and are up for a road trip, he’ll be in Ohio for "one more night," playing in Columbus tonight at Nationwide Arena.
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