Phil Collins at the Royal Albert Hall, London - live review

Phil Collins' dismisses the naysayers on his unexpected comeback

The crowd at a prog gig
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

“That’s the only dancing you’ll see from me,” quips 66-year-old Collins after limping onstage, leaning heavily on a cane. He sits at a small table and – except for during the intermission – doesn’t leave it. It’s an inauspicious start, and there’s pathos to seeing how frail the Genesis legend and unlikely pop superstar is now, after recurring serious back problems. He’ll probably never drum again. Yet by the night’s end, he’s the only one not standing. Not dead yet? His first London show in 13 years is thoroughly life-affirming.

A superb band and breathtaking production create a triumph of spectacle while Collins croons away. If he’s tentative on the opening ballads (Against All Odds, Another Day In Paradise), he’s soon back in his old groove for the first of two Genesis numbers, Follow You Follow Me, which he describes as “from 400 years ago”. The screen shows old clips of the cheeky chappie in his pomp. Later, Invisible Touch has everyone punching the air, and the dynamic horn section give I Missed Again and You Can’t Hurry Love a rush of razzmatazz.

The second set is where things really take off. His teenage son Nic, a chip off the old block on drums, moves to piano for a touching dad-and-son rendition of You Know What I Mean. There’s even a lick of prog as the lighting gets broody and the music settles into a strange, swelling murmur. When it reveals itself as In The Air Tonight, the Albert Hall loses its shit. Collins delivers an enormous, atmospheric version.

There’s euphoria in the building after this: relief he’s pulled off this comeback, mixed with fresh awareness of how mighty some of these songs are. The home stretch of Dance Into The Light, Easy Lover and Sussudio jettison any cheese they might carry on record and burst into complex, funky, buoyant life.

He may have been an almost accidental pop star, but that doesn’t happen without a hook or a chorus or two. Roared on by the crowd, he encores with a Vera Lynn cover and a joyous Take Me Home.

A few nights later he injures himself again, resulting in postponements, but he’s soon back up. There’s something uplifting and heroic about this display of evergreen versatility and willpower.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.