There are three signs of a great musician: If they can sing just as well live as they do on their album, if the audience stays until the very end of a performance and if they get a standing ovation coupled with thunderous applause for simply walking on stage.
Phil Collins achieved all three at Nationwide Arena on Friday night.
Even after undergoing major back surgery, Collins chose to go on one last tour because, when speaking to the audience, he said, “I missed you all.” These inviting, comforting words set a happy and carefree tone for the show.
While his health kept him sitting for every song, his position on stage didn’t hinder his performance in the slightest. With hits such as “Against All Odds” and “Invisible Touch,” Collins’ mixed setlist of slower love ballads and upbeat songs had something for everyone. The transitions between songs were short and seamless.
Collins dug deep to his roots with songs from his former band Genesis, such as “Throwing It All Away” and “Follow Me Follow You.” The deafening cries of the audience before, during and after these songs proved some music can withstand the test of time.
If any of Collins’ songs have lasted through the decades, it’s the iconic “In the Air Tonight.” The thunderous percussion echoed powerfully throughout the arena, immediately recognizable across generations.
Equally as powerful was the performance of “You Know What I Mean,” when Collins’ 17-year-old son Nicholas played the piano by his side. Nicholas plays the drums for Collins on tour, and seeing two generations of musicians play a slow, moving song together was a rare and beautiful sight. While Nicholas’ fingers danced across the piano keys, Collins’ voice reverberated and sang of lost, broken love.
Another highlight was “You’ll Be In My Heart,” a quintessential Disney song from “Tarzan” that left audience members with wide smiles.
The music wasn’t the only incredible aspect of the show. His backup singers, guitarists and brass musicians provided a strong foundation for every song. Collins even took time to introduce every member by name, showering each person with compliments and praise.
The bright lights that flashed and burst of color corresponded to different drumbeats and melodies, beaming all the way up to the ceiling. Blues, purples and champagnes washed over the stage and audience and evoked nostalgia for the ‘80s within the older generation in attendance.
When he closed with “Sussudio,” confetti and streamers exploded from above, ending the night with a reminder of just how good of a time everyone had. In fact, people were enjoying themselves so much that no one seemed to leave early.
I went into the concert only knowing Collins from the “Tarzan” soundtrack as well as the sprinkling of songs my parents played on road trips and, of course, “In the Air Tonight.” I was pleasantly surprised, not only with how great a performer Collins is with his unwavering vocals and the passion for performing and music that hummed through his body even when sitting the entire show, but how beloved he is. From adults just beginning their journey into middle-age to those whose hair had long since turned gray, his fans turned up in massive numbers.
Even my Lyft driver to the concert lit up when I mentioned my final destination.
Despite feeling like the youngest person there, I felt comfortable and at ease. Being able to see such an iconic performer was an experience I will never forget. The air at Nationwide Arena was filled with good music, thunderous applause and a feeling that no matter what you go through, some songs and moments will stick with you for the rest of your life.