Phil Collins Plays 60’s Motown & Soul @ Roseland, NYC 6/23/10

This being an indie rock/Kanye/black metal blog, there hasn’t been much to report about Phil Collins in the eight years since his last studio album Testify, a critical and commercial dud. I missed its subsequent “First Final Farewell Tour,” which I now regret, because back then he was still physically capable of drumming.

I love Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, and (all eras of) Genesis. I understand the prog-rock band is perceived as uncool/effete/slick/arty/mersh. I’ve read that Greg Ginn started Panic as a rejection to all his friends listening to Genesis. Apparently Lamb Lies Down On Broadway sold really well in Hermosa Beach?

But as a teen I was never into hardcore. Starting with We Can’t Dance and working backwards, I consumed Genesis’, Phil Collins’, and Peter Gabriel’s entire catalogs with a fervor bordering on obsession (also ask me about my rare Sting 7″ collection). At the time my dad was trying to get me into Soundgarden. Instead I was the only kid in my junior high listening to Three Sides Live. Like every day. I have had this original promo poster on my bedroom wall (and now on my fridge) since the early ’90s.

As you know, because we can’t fucking shut up about it, Amrit, Alan Palomo (Neon Indian), and I were fortunate enough to spend time with Peter Gabriel earlier this year (watch the result here). We didn’t talk much about Phil, aside from touching on the gated reverb technique the drummer developed at Peter’s request with engineer/producer Hugh Padgham in the late ’70s. It became Phil’s calling card in ’81. You’ve heard him utilize it in dozens and dozens of ’80s hits, from Frida to Tears For Fears.

Another thing I didn’t discuss with Peter was his absence from Genesis’ Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame induction a few weeks prior. I bought very expensive tickets to attend that black tie industry circle jerk, but never blogged about it because I left for SXSW in the AM. For most of the night I sat in the back of the Waldorf, out of place among the industry’s old guard (Clive Davis, Jann Wenner, et al), waiting for my opportunity to head to the press room to meet Mr. Collins. I was wearing an Invisible Touch t-shirt under my tuxedo, and carrying some Genesis swag. James from e-mailed me from the gaggle: There are a couple of camera guys behind me, suspiciously eyeing your LPs and wondering what you’re doing next to the stage…

But! Next to the stage is where the R&R HOF’s PR liaison told me to sit. They’d said I should go ahead wear the dorky t-shirt, bring an LP to get signed, and that Genesis would grant Stereogum a quick interview.

Of course no one told Phil all of this, so no one introduced me. Hence I came across like a (well-dressed) stalker during a brief exchange in between the band’s stops with Access Hollywood and CNN. I tried to break the ice:

ME: I’m told I should see your son Simon’s band perform in Austin on Friday…
PHIL: Just because you know my son doesn’t mean…
ME: I don’t know him. I was just invited to see him perform. … I’m a big Genesis fan.
PHIL: [Turns away]
ME: A lot of people on the Internet would be excited if I got a photo with you. [Face Value is my Twitter icon.]
PHIL: I highly doubt that.
PHIL: If you see my son, tell him I love him.


But I did get Phil, Tony, Mike, and Steve to sign my “No Reply At All” sheet music. And I will cherish that.

That night Genesis didn’t perform (Phish did “No Reply At All” and “Watcher Of The Skies” in their place). Phil had neck surgery last year and he may never drum again. “My vertebrae has been crushing my spinal cord because of the position I drum in,” he told reporters at the HOF. “It comes from years of playing. I can’t even hold the sticks properly without it being painful.”

So, this September we’ll get Going Back, a Motown covers LP heavy on the Holland–Dozier–Holland songbook. There are only a handful of live shows in support this album. That’s why I left Tame Impala’s first ever NY gig last night and went to Roseland instead. My first and possibly last time seeing Phil perform.

Phil looked healthy if not terribly mobile, and he can still sing. Backed by a huge band all dressed in purple, he played sharp suited ringleader to six backup vocalists, a five-piece horn section, a trio of Funk Brothers (Bob Babbitt, Eddie Willis, Ray Monette), and longtime collaborators Chester Thompson, Daryl Stuermer, Brad Cole, and Leslie Smith. Great musicianship made for a faithful soul revue, but Phil — the guy who wrote the greatest cheesy pop ballads of the ’80 — has never been this schmaltzy.

“Up Close & Personal: Phil Collins Plays 60’s Motown & Soul” returns to Roseland tonight and tomorrow. The room seemed far from sold-out, try your luck at the door if you’re feeling nostalgic. The setlist was pretty much this, though he did throw us one bone during the encore:

Thanks Abbey Braden for the wonderful photos accompanying this LiveJournal post.

Get well soon Phil. Then we’ll do this for real.

Going Back is out 9/13/10 on Atlantic. Here’s a taste: