"Finally Not Dead Yet" - The Phil Collins story narrated by Alan Hewitt. Photographs by Ulrich Klemt, Mathias Fengler, Alan Hewitt, Stuart Barnes, Veronique Pelletier. Memorabilia: TWR Archive.
Having in effect retired from the music business at the beginning of the 21st Century, Phil had returned sporadically to perform selected shows (pun intended) during the promotional activities for both the Testify album and the Tarzan soundtrack but it did not look likely that he would return to full scale touring as his ongoing health issues were seen to be preventing this.
Phil being Phil however, he eventually succumbed to the touring bug again with the humourously titled First Final Farewell Tour - another massive affair which ran over two legs between June and September 2004 with the second leg taking in many places seldom graced by artists of Phil's stature which ran from October to December 2005. Essentially the show was another Greatest Hits package with a few lesser known tracks thrown in for good measure in a set which was only just short of three hours in length. No one could accuse Phil of short changing his fans!
It was during the latter part of the tour in 2005, that the rumour mill began to indicate that, far from being his farewell tour, that Phil would soon be reunited with Genesis, especially after he was reportedly seen with the rest of the band AND Steve and Peter at one of his shows in Glasgow.
In this case, the rumours proved to be correct and on 6th November 2006 a press conference was held at the Mayfair Hotel in London at which TWR representatives were present when Phil, Mike and Tony announced their reunion for, as Phil put it, "A Selection Of Shows" in the UK, Europe and USA but which everyone else referred to as the Turn It On Again Tour. Stretched over two legs in the summer and autumn of 2007, the band played to audiences in the biggest stadiums available with a brand new stage and light show.
And that, we thought, was that. Both Phil and Genesis had addressed the issue of unfinished business left hanging by his departure in 1994. And indeed, Phil disappeared from view again to give himself time to attend to help in the raising of his young family which had been the main reason for his retirement from the music business in the first place.
However, as usual with young Mr Collins, he wasn't retired for long. Phil's love of Motown is well known and, like his love of Big Band Jazz was an itch he had to scratch. Having the opportunity to record some of the established and less well known gems from the Motown catalogue was something which Phil couldn't resist and equally as exciting for him was to be able to do so with some of the musicians who had created these classics in the first place!
The album, appropriately titled Going Back was released on 13th September 2010 and had been preceded by a handful of gigs in Montreux, Philadelphia and New York, the latter of which were captured for posterity and subsequently released as the Live From Roseland DVD. The album was also to give Phil his last number one album in the UK - deservedly so, as it is an excellent piece of work. Sadly these gigs were also to be the last that longstanding cohort Chester Thompson was to take part in as the two had a serious falling out during these shows and have not spoken since.
And with that, Phil disappeared off the radar again. Always an inveterate collector, he settled into enhancing and augmenting his collection of memorabilia associated with the legendary Texas memorial, The Alamo, to the point where it was acknowledged as one of the largest, if not the largest collection of such things in the world. Phil was subsequently honoured as an honorary Texan in 2014 when he donated this collection to the State of Texas.
He also became more actively involved in the charitable foundation which he had established at the beginning of the century, the Little Dreams Foundation and occasionally performed short sets at their annual fundraising events but that appeared to be it as far as Mr Collins was concerned.
The physical demands placed on Phil over all his years of drumming finally came home to roost and in 2015 he required major spinal surgery to try and reinforce his spine. As a result of that surgery he acquired a condition called "Drop Foot" which meant that he could not depress his foot fully on to the floor - a condition which it was hoped would improve but which has effectively left Phil using a walking stick and unable to stand for any length of time.
It was as a result of that surgery that the launch of his revamped back catalogue was delayed. The campaign under the title Take A Look At Me Now was scheduled to begin on 6th November 2015 but because Phil was still recovering from the surgery mentioned above, the campaign finally got under way on 29th January 2016 with the release of Face Value and Both Sides. Fans hoping for the addition of B sides etc were to be disappointed, but Phil explained the reason behind the avoidance in the press release at the time…
"I've always been quite proud of my demos and have often made them available as B sides but with a few exceptions I have avoided including those on these collections. Instead I have focused on how nicely the songs developed when played onstage rather than showing how they originated…"
What was most surprising about the series perhaps was the artwork. Rather than simply release the albums in their original sleeves, a new set of images was commissioned, which show the iconic images halved with ones of Phil as he is now - Take A Look At Me Now indeed! A brave step and the results are stunning! The albums, released in pairs at regular intervals over the course of 2016 were all very well received and succeeded in the rehabilitation of Phil's music and career. The set culminated with the release in October 2016 of The Singles, a three disc, four LP set which brought all of Phil's singles together in one package. This was to tie in with the next development in his astonishing career.
In early October 2016 it was announced that Phil was joining Mike Rutherford in publishing his own autobiography and, as usual, Phil displayed a fine line in humour titling it: Not Dead Yet. It was at the press conference for this which took place at the Royal Albert Hall that Phil also announced his return to the concert stage. A decision that, given his ongoing health concerns, took everyone by surprise. Once again, Phil outlined his reasons for doing so in the press release…
"I thought I would retire quietly. But thanks to the fans, my family and support from some extraordinary artists I have rediscovered my passion for music and performing. It's time to do it all again and I'm excited. It just feels right…"
In the first instance, a handful of shows - or as Phil might have said, a "selection" were announced at the Royal Albert Hall in London and at venues in Cologne and Paris. As expected, demand was phenomenal and these shows sold out in minutes of going on sale. A warm up show in Liverpool on 2nd June ensured that your very own editor finally got to see Phil in his own home town after a wait of 41 years!
It was a strange experience seeing these shows. Phil's regular band (minus Chester) were as tight as usual and the show drew on all of Phil's best songs although there were a couple of surprises included as well. Perhaps the biggest surprise however, was seeing Phil's seventeen year old son, Nic taking his old man's place on the drum seat. He certainly did Phil and himself proud and is definitely a chip off the old block!
Seeing Phil however, looking and at times sounding quite frail as he took the stage and sat on a stool was a difficult image to take in. He got better however, and by the time he got to the open air gig at Hyde Park in late June, he was in fine form. His old band mate from Genesis was there too as Mike & The Mechanics were also on the bill but no onstage reunion took place.
The success of these gigs ensured that more were added and eventually over the next two years, Phil toured regularly and extensively in Europe, the USA, South America and Australia and New Zealand along with a full UK tour as well. All to huge popular and critical acclaim - proving that Phil was indeed Not Dead Yet! Far from it!
It was also during this period that the final piece of the rehabilitation of Phil's career fell into place with the release on 29th September 2018 of the Plays Well With Others set. As its title suggests, this one was a compilation of some of the other bands and artists that Phil has either played with or produced over his outstanding career and spanning his entire career from his days in Flaming Youth up to some of his most recent production work, there were some real surprises in collection and it served to demonstrate once again just how versatile Phil is.
By the end of the second US tour in September 2019 fans were ready to expect Phil to retire for real this time - he certainly had earned it! However, other plans were already in place and on 4th March 2020 the second reunion with his old band mates in Genesis was announced for a UK tour under the banner title of The Last Domino? The shows were originally scheduled to take place in November 2020 however the arrival of the Coronavirus Pandemic put paid to that and the shows have been rescheduled again for September/October 2021.
|Recent photographs at the music rehearsals show a frail and tired looking Phil which is quite worrying and given the current situation with his ex wife, Orianne can't can't be helping matters but that is not our concern. As long as Phil feels able to commit to these gigs, and any others which will inevitably follow in their wake if they get the all clear to go ahead and so, TWR will be there to document the band as they play the Last Domino at a venue somewhere near you.|