“It was Twenty Four Years Ago…” - Phil Collins in concert at the POPB Paris and NEC Birmingham 1990. Your editor takes another trip back before his memory starts to fail him. Review by Alan Hewitt. Photos by David Birtwell and Guido Truffer. Memorabilia: TWR Archive.
Yes, yours truly is trying to refresh his failing memory with another look back at some of the TWR adventures of the past. This time I am casting a glance back to Phil’s enormously successful tour in support of his But Seriously album. Funny how this particular adventure saw yours truly encounter somebody else who would eventually become a regular part of TWR but more of him later!
A lightning trip to Brussels for the first show of the European leg of the 1990 tour was followed a couple of days later by a trip to Paris where I was to revisit the scene of both Genesis and Peter Gabriel’s triumphs back in 1987 (subject for another feature perhaps?). Anyway, the Brussels show had given me a fair idea what to expect from Mr Collins and his mini orchestra but even so, the sense of excitement as we entered the cavernous Palais Omnisports de Bercy was almost tangible. Tickets for these shows had sold out months ago and there was a queue of eager fans hoping to get a ticket before showtime - sorry folks no way was I parting with my golden ticket for this one!
The carousel stage set up was the same I had seen in Brussels but it still was exciting when it broke up like a blossoming flower to reveal Phil and the band opening the show with Hand In Hand something of a surprise set opener but one which worked very well. Visually this show was a treat from start to finish with lighting tastefully accompanying the music without overpowering it. Phil took no prisoners as Hang In Long Enough and Who Said I Would raced out of the traps taking the along with them in the sheer exuberance of the performance.
Most of the Fabulous Jacuzzis and The hot Tub Club were present including some new additions including the marvellous trumpet work of Harry Kim and the vocal talents of the “Seriousettes” Arnold Mc Culler, Bridgette Bryant and Fred White who along with Brad Cole who was replacing Peter Robinson on keyboards, did a sterling job throughout the evening’s entertainment and over all this year’s band proved to be the best yet for Phil.
The tempo slowed down a little bit next as the melodic Against All Odds was delivered with all the poignancy Phil could muster. The balance between slow and up tempo numbers throughout the evening meant that both the band and the audience did not peak too early and throughout the evening Phil took the opportunity to introduce the songs in his best French and English for the benefit of the home crowd and the sizeable contingent of Brits which were in evidence throughout!
Don’t Lose My Number was next with some truly excellent performances from all of the band especially Daryl and Chester who were the glue that held everything together. Something Happened On The Way To Heaven and Another Day In Paradise were all delivered with verve and gusto by the band and it was a nice touch during the preamble to the latter when Phil announced that there would be a collection for local homeless charities during the gig. I must admit this was one of the highlights of the set for me with the audience holding up lighters and matches to fill the auditorium with pin pricks of light and probably drive the house fire marshals crazy!
I was surprised buy the next number, as Phil launched into the beautiful Separate Lives which featured an exquisite cameo role for Daryl on acoustic guitar and Bridgette Bryant accompanying Phil to perfection. The audience were just beginning to relax when the Phoenix Horns unleashed the dynamic energy of Saturday Night, Sunday Morning upon the unsuspecting audience followed in rapid succession by The West Side all of which gave the entire band the chance to really flex their collective musical muscles.
We had a few moments’ respite as Phil introduced That’s Just The Way It Is before we were hit with another tempestuous track: Heat On The Street which more than lived up to its name as the band seared their way through it. In keeping with the fairground theme of the show, Phil was a veritable ringmaster who had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand throughout this evening’s performance.
One More Night served as a suitable breather and the serious element of the show was brought back into sharp relief by a dynamic performance of Phil’s anti Apartheid anthem: Colours which did not sound disjointed tonight as it had done on the album. This was followed by In The Air Tonight without which no show by Phil would be complete but the gloom and melodrama was soon burst by a joke between Phil and Chester surrounding a pair of sunglasses and the sum of 2000 francs (remember them, folks?) and You Can’t Hurry Love heralded the beginning of the run in to the finale of the show which took in visits by Sussudio, A Groovy Kind Of Love and Easy Lover which brought the show to its end and the audience to its feet well, those among them who weren’t already up and dancing by then at least!
As usual, Phil had selected an old song to cover and this year it was Cole Porter’s Always a real tear-jerker before Phil exhorted the crowd to Take Me Home with band and audience united in celebrating a superb evening and a positive triumph for Phil and the band.
Then it was on to the coach for the long haul back to Blighty and it was with some surprise that I found out when I arrived home later the next day just how lucky I had been to see this gig as the show for the following day had been cancelled as Phil had serious vocal problems! Professional a she is, no one would have even guessed that he had any problems during the gig itself.
Almost three months later and I found myself back in the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham home to so many memorable gigs by one or more member of Genesis over the years.
An unusual gig this one as it was one at which all three of the founding fathers of TWR attended together scary or what?! Set wise, this was to prove to be pretty much the same show as I had seen in Brussels and Paris but there were a couple of differences. As usual, the balance between up tempo rhythms and slow ballads was maintained as the boys (and girls) in the band ran through Hang In Long Enough, Against All Odds, Don’t Lose My Number and Inside Out to name but a few.
Personal highlights for me tonight had to be Colours and In The Air Tonight both of which had grown immeasurably in stature through live performance. There was even to be a guest appearance by Chester’s son who was introduced as guest percussionist on Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore with the added mention that he was in fact shorter than Phil which was why he was in the band!
All in all, yet another superlative performance from Phil and the band and one which remains vivid in the memory and deservedly so! So, what about this other inhabitant of TWR I hear you cry…? Well, funnily enough the trip to Paris introduced me to the salubrious company of one Mr John Wilkinson whom some of you may know these days from his stints fronting Face Value and latterly Mama small world, innit?