Phil Collins Big Band - live at the Royal Festival Hall, London, Thursday 23rd July. Review by Phil Morris.
It was not without some trepidation that I approached this show. I wondered how many fans were TRULY looking forward to it? I wondered how many fans were actually GOING? I was certainly dubious about whether I wanted to see such an event. But I decided that I ought to go to one of these shows, how could I miss a Phil Collins tour? How could I form an objective opinion without going? And how could I miss a night of him (almost exclusively) behind the drum kit?
That final question reveals a subject I know a lot of fans have been troubled by: we've seen Phil spend far too much time out front on stage and not enough back where he belongs. Inevitably so, I guess and at least the Dance Into The Light tour was better in this respect than the Both Sides one but it is still a feature of his live solo work which has been a frustration to many.
So, was the balance redressed this evening? In terms of the amount (and quality, of course) of the drumming, certainly but this still misses the fundamental point: the content. I have to admit to not being a fan of big band jazz. I'm sure there aren't many Phil Collins fans who are. I'm also not keen on our old favourite tunes being tampered with. This includes Collins himself re-inventing "Behind The Lines" all those years ago and even The Mechanics' airing of "I Can't Dance" on their last tours. So, to hear often barely recognisable versions of these tracks was always going to cause some difficulty.
The standard of the entire band was clearly very high but I still couldn't get away from thinking about those CDs we've probably all got hidden away in our collections - you know; those orchestral/pan pipes/harp (delete as applicable) versions of most usually - Collins material. Or of that feeling you get when you are in your local supermarket that you somehow recognise the tune that's being piped through to enhance the shopping "Experience".
But I don't want to appear too harsh. There were highlights; the end of "In The Air Tonight" was impressive and "Los Endos" an inclusion about which I was particularly concerned, still let its magic shine through. Oleta Adams' contribution was also of note. I have always admired her voice since she was first brought to the public's attention courtesy of Tears For Fears and it was wonderful tonight. But again; the material - jazz standards - on which it was used just didn't move me.
I must have been in the minority however, the audience (which included Tony Banks, Steve Hackett, John Silver and George Martin) seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, a point Phil himself remarked upon. Maybe they thought they ought to at £45 for the privilege. Even the press reaction was good with The Independent giving the show a glowing review. This is ironic as Collins usually receives poor write-ups and I would have thought a performance like this would have come in for especially severe criticism from the jazz columnists sent to review it, no doubt with a cynical glint in the eye and pencil sharpened for barbed comment. Perhaps he's proved his credentials in this area. I can't help thinking that he will lose a few old fans along the way in doing so. This shouldn't bother him of course, and he's showing himself to be truly progressive.