“Thru these hits” - Phil Collins in concert at the Westfalenhalle, Dortmund on 16th April 1994. Review by Helmut Janisch.
I first heard that Phil would be going on the road again in 1994 at the same time that Both Sides was released in late ‘93. I didn’t really like this album very much for several reasons and I hoped that the concerts would be better. With this in mind, I went to see Phil playing in Dortmund on 16th April. This was the second of four soul-out nights at this venue and once inside you could see the stage set up to look like some seedy city street with corrugated metal “huts” that had metal stairs leading up to balconies and scaffolding. On top of these was a conveyor belt and a neon “Hotel” sign.
At 8.05 pm the house lights went down and during a lengthy intro, Phil came on stage wearing a trilby hat and coat. He looked like the drunk Joe from 1978. He sat down at a drum kit made to look like oil barrels, and started a drum solo during which, Ricky Lawson, his new drummer appeared on the balcony above. On his way down, Ricky used a set of electric drum pads on his body and this intro gradually changed into the beginning of I Don’t Care Anymore and the rest of the band appeared on stage. During this opening song I noticed that the stage sound wasn’t very good; it was far too loud and Phil’s voice sounded strange. Fortunately,. This improved as the show continued.
The next song was Don’t Lose My Number and after this, Phil welcomed the audience in German and told them about the sequence the show would follow. Two songs from Both Sides were next; Everyday and Survivors both of which were played almost exactly as on the record. An appeal for the homeless followed and acted as an introduction to Another Day In Paradise. This was followed by Can’t Turn Back The Years, I Wish It Would Rain Down and One More Night. This latter song was sung in a slightly different way to the album version.
The sixties version of A Groovy Kind Of Love was next and the following three songs were the last Phil would play from the new album during the show. First up was the new single; We Wait & We Wonder, which was much more powerful than the album version. I’ve Forgotten Everything slowed things down for a few minutes before Both Sides Of The Story brought the first half of the show to a close.
During the interval two washerwomen hung up some laundry behind Ricky Lawson’s
drum kit and had a cup of tea on stage! A very long intro that began while the
house light were still on heralded the beginning of the Collins anthem, In The
Air Tonight. As usual, Daryl’s guitar crashed into the song and Phil’s
vocals were as powerful as ever. Of course, the piece ended with a great extended
drum duet which was the only time apart from the intro to I Don’t Care
Anymore where Phil appeared behind the drum kit. Hang In Long Enough followed
and the next song was Find A Way To My Heart, which also included a duet between
Phil and female singer Amy Keys. This was in turn followed by It Don’t
Matter To Me.
After this Phil announced “a couple of old songs from Face Value” which were I Missed Again which was a very good version especially at the end where it became almost a blues/rap version and the Genesis cover Behind The Lines. This was then followed by Easy Lover, with Phil duetting with Arnold McCuller and with one part also sung by bassist, Nathan East. This marked the moment when the crowd would no longer stay in their seats and everyone ran forward to the stage. After the next two songs; Only You And I Know and Something Happened On The Way To Heaven, Phil introduced the band members. This was followed by the 1966 Supremes hit, You Can’t Hurry Love and then by Two Hearts and Sussudio which marked the end of the proper set.
A few minutes later, Phil and Brad Cole came back on stage for the encore. Phil performed a song by Paul Brady called Helpless Heart and then they were rejoined by the rest of the band for Against All Odds and of course, the usual extended closing number; Take Me Home, after which the band left the stage with Phil turning off the lights on stage as he retrieved his hat and coat.
Now, what can I say about the show? The stage set up is interesting and you can see all of the musicians (horn section on the balcony, drums and keyboards on stage risers) very well during the show. The lighting is very good and the players are a very good group of musicians. The backing singers; Arnold McCuller and Amy Keys both have great voices. The new horn section; The Vine Street Horns are playing together as well as the Phoenix Horns ever did. Nathan East is one of the best bass players in the business and Brad Cole performed excellently on keyboards. Ricky Lawson is a very special artist but we will never forget the magical performances of Chester Thompson, who unfortunately isn’t part of Phil’s show anymore. Daryl Stuermer; well, what can I say about him? He’s a legend in his own right and without him a Phil Collins gig wouldn’t be half as good. And the man on the microphone (and this time very rarely on drums) himself? Well, Phil is still a very good performer, singer and actor on stage and who minds that his voice isn’t as brilliant as it used to be?
So, it seems to be a very good show, you might think. If you are a fan of Phil’s hit songs, you’re right. No hit is missing here and everyone who has heard little or none of Phil’s records at home will like 95% of the show because of the hits they will have heard so often on the radio. If you are more a fan of Phil’s less commercial material, then this show might be a little disappointing in musical terms and you will have to go the hard way - THRU THESE HITS!