Phil Collins looked a little worse for wear.
When the singer took the stage at Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix on October 15 for the Still Not Dead Yet Live tour, he needed the assistance of a cane to walk to a chair that waited for him in the middle of the stage. He explained that back surgery made it difficult for him to get around.
"That’s not going to stop us from having some fun," he said before launching into the ballad "Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now)."
The Valley's classic rock fans have been spoiled over the last few months with acts that many observers have said should have stopped touring years ago. Paul McCartney played a nearly three-hour marathon set at this same venue back in June. The Rolling Stones stunned audiences at State Farm Stadium in August months after lead singer Mick Jagger underwent heart surgery.
The former Genesis frontman's voice was strong, but he would need some help to get the same results as those performers who preceded him. Backing him up was his longtime guitarist Daryl Stuermer, the four-piece Vine Street Horns, a rhythm section that included Collins' 18-year-old son Nicolas behind the drum kit, and a quartet of powerful backup singers, among others.
Despite this powerful team behind him, the first half of the just over two-hour set fell a little flat. Songs like "Hang in Long Enough" and "Don't Lose My Number," which are bombastic and brassy, are perfect for big arena shows like this, but they failed to rouse and inspire. It was clear Collins wanted to play more of a role in this production. He was always keeping time with his feet, moving his hands about, and playing air drums during the more percussive numbers, but it wasn't enough to draw you in.
This performance felt like a missed opportunity for Collins to use his limitations to his advantage. When he began introducing "Throwing It All Away," a single from his time in Genesis, he joked that the chances of playing a song from his old band that the audience liked "are pretty slim." This could have been his opening to tell the story of why he picked the track along with "Follow You Follow Me." Instead, we were left wanting more from the 68-year-old, who certainly has a tale or two to tell.
But things started to turn around during the second half of the show. The stage turned into a sky filled with stars as Collins and singer Bridgette Bryant dueted on the dramatic "Separate Lives," complete with a tender moment when he placed his hand on her shoulder. Then the drummer walked upstage to watch as his son Nicolas and percussionist Richie "Gajate" Garcia had a drum-off. At one point, Phil's FOMO kicked in and he joined the duo on the cajón.
The beat brought the show back to life. After playing "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven," Collins and his son moved to the piano, where Collins relayed a touching story about sharing his music with him.
"I thought it'd be good if he listened to my old records," he said. "I made him go out and buy them, of course."
Nicolas asked his dad to teach him "You Know What I Mean" from the album Face Value. At the end of the number, they embraced. It was a beautiful moment in a show that needed more of them.
The rest of the concert was an absolute blast that showcased the diversity of Collins' catalog, from Stuermer's ominous guitar during the signature track "In the Air Tonight" to the soulful cover of The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love." The horns (and the f-bombs) blared on "Invisible Touch," and the confetti flew on "Sussudio." Then the singer sat down one last time with the anthemic "Take Me Home."
If this is truly Collins' final tour, it could have ended more triumphantly. But the show still went out on a high note, which is all anyone could really ask for.
"Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)"
"Another Day in Paradise"
"Hang in Long Enough"
"Don't Lose My Number"
"Throwing It All Away" (Genesis Cover)
"Follow You Follow Me"
"I Missed Again"
"Who Said I Would"
"Something Happened on the Way to Heaven"
"You Know What I Mean"
"In the Air Tonight"
"You Can't Hurry Love" (The Supremes cover)
"Dance Into the Light"
"Take Me Home"
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Last Night: Phil Collins' Still Not Dead Yet Live tour at Talking Stick Resort Arena
The Crowd: Collins' catalog spans generations, so they all came for the show.
Overheard: You can't really hear air drums, but they were collectively played by the audience during "In the Air Tonight."
Random Notebook Dump: "The video screen looks like the cover of my old Trapper Keeper," which was written during "Sussudio."