Phil Collins these days is a 66-year-old grandfather who hobbles onto stage with a walking stick due to a condition called 'drop foot'. But he remains a great live singer and huge draw among his army of fans who remember the 1980s when he was the biggest British pop star around.
During that heady decade albums 'Face Value', 'Hello I Must Be Going!' 'No Jacket Required' and 'But Seriously' were smash hits on both sides of the Atlantic, as the Genesis front man racked up more Top 40 singles in the USA than any other artist during the decade and became the only act aside from Paul McCartney to sell more than 100 million albums worldwide both as a solo singer and as a principal member of a band. He was everywhere during that period, selling out stadiums, jetting on Concorde from Wembley to Philadelphia to appear on both Live Aid concerts, starring in films, and winning Grammy and Brit awards, even an Oscar.
Today there remains a huge appetite for his music, especially among 'mid-lifers'. This was shown by the average age of the audience for the And Finally, Phil Collins tribute night at the Platform. My son, a Genesis fan at 19, seemed to be the youngest there. While standing in the queue for the bar I joked with him that at 45, I was probably the second youngest. This was only a slight exaggeration.
An audience of around 120 settled down for the start of the show and onto stage came Chris Hayward. The band's front man settled down behind one of two drum kits then launched into a solo. He was eventually joined by a second drummer, who joined in with what appeared to be a live warm-up. This unusual way to start the show generated polite applause. Then the rest of the band arrived. Two backing singers, bass player, lead guitarist, keyboard player, and the three-man brass section who, as Hayward came out from behind the drums and took the mic, launched into the horns opening of Collins' 1990 top five hit 'Something Happened on the Way to Heaven' to kick off more than two hours of first class entertainment and musicianship.
When Hayward began to sing, his resemblance to the soulful Collins vocals was uncanny. I closed my eyes. It sounded exactly like him. I opened them again. My gaze was grabbed by the brass trio, especially trombone player Tom Lark and saxophonist Sam Adams. Aside from their eye-catching satin shirts, they had a likeable charisma and clear joy for their profession. In between blasts of brass, they swayed, gestured and clicked their fingers in time to the rhythm, beaming at the audience, drawing us in with their enthusiasm. Their little nods and winks to each other and Hayward bordered on cheesy at times but this on-stage camaraderie was nevertheless infectious.
The group moved effortlessly through their set, which was based on Collins' 'first farewell tour' of 2004. Classic solo singles such as 'Another Day in Paradise' and 'Groovy Kind of Love' sat alongside lesser known tracks such as 'Don't Lose My Number' and 'You Can Wear My Hat', which was accompanied by a fun-filled on-stage performance involving sombreros and a fez. There were also a handful of Genesis hits including 'That's All', 'Misunderstanding' and 'Land of Confusion' (much to my son's delight...it's his favourite) and even Collins' number one duet with Phil Bailey 'Easy Lover' with backing singers Rhea Soulsby and Eddie Harper taking turns at Bailey's vocal parts. Band members also showed musical versatility, Lark taking over on bongos at times while Soulsby had a go on drums. When the band donned shades for 'You Can't Hurry Love' quite a few of the audience got up to dance near the stage, others standing to clap along to the upbeat Motown cover and remaining on their feet for the subsequent airing of Phil's hit 'Two Hearts' from the 'Buster' soundtrack.
The highlight of the set for me was the seminal 'In the Air Tonight'. When Hayward moved to the drums to play that famous 'da-dum da-dum da-dum da-dum dum dum!' the hairs stood up on the back of my neck.
After the set came to a close with 'Take Me Home', the audience rose to give the band a standing ovation. Talking to people on the way out, the verdict was unanimously positive. And Finally, Phil Collins are a fantastic band who visibly love what they do and Hayward is vocally as close to the real thing as you can possibly get.