Phil Collins is a music legend. Between his time with Genesis and his solo work, he has made a huge impact on popular music. Both his voice and his drums, are instantly recognizable.
Unfortunately, Collins has some physical issues now, that have limited his ability to perform regularly and prevented him from playing the drums at all. So, when Collins decided to embark on his “Not Dead Yet” tour in 2017, it was a bit of a surprise that he was hitting the road again.
I’ve never seen Collins (or Genesis) in concert. I missed the last few times he was in Philadelphia. So when a Philadelphia date was announced as part of his North American tour, I jumped on getting tickets.
While I knew Collins would be playing all of his hits, I wasn’t sure if seeing him in concert when he was no longer in peak physical condition would be disappointing. Would Collins performing live while sitting the whole show, live up to the price of the ticket? Keep reading to find out.
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The Wells Fargo Center is home to Philadelphia’s indoor sports teams like the Flyers, the 76er’s and the Soul. It also hosts many concerts throughout the year. If a band is doing an “arena tour” and coming to the Philadelphia area, the Wells Fargo Center is where they will play.
The Wells Fargo Center was built in 1996 to replace The Spectrum, which was where the Flyers and 76er’s originally played. As with many arenas, the naming rights have been bought and sold throughout the years. It started out as the Core States Center, changed to the First Union Center in 1998, changed again to the Wachovia Center in 2003, and finally the Wells Fargo Center in 2013.
The Wells Fargo Center holds around 20,000 for basketball and hockey games. For concerts, depending on the configuration, it can hold an additional thousand or so. The typical set up for a concert has the stage set on the floor in one end of the arena, and either standing general admission or temporary seating on the floor.
Tip #1: As the configuration can change depending on the stage set up of the show, be sure to check on how your specific show will be set up before buying tickets. As an example, we saw U2 earlier this summer. The set up featured a long screen running down the center of the floor section. For that show, optimum seats would have been on the sides toward the back so you could see the full screen as well as the main stage.
The first concert was held at the arena on August 13, 1996. It was a private concert by Ray Charles, with a crowd of around 12,000. Each person in attendance was given a commemorative key showing that they helped “open” the center. The first public concert held there was Oasis on September 2nd of the same year.
Since its opening, the arena has been home to a number of famous (and infamous) shows. You’ll find banners hanging from the rafters acknowledging Billy Joel’s 48 Philadelphia sell outs, Bruce Springsteen’s 56 Philadelphia sell outs, and Pearl Jam’s “10 show” (which I was lucky enough to attend). On December 6, 2002, Guns N Roses was scheduled to visit the arena on their Chinese Democracy Tour. After the openers played, Guns N Roses never appeared, which led to a riot inside the arena that caused $30-40K worth of damage.
Tip #2: Like many venues, security getting into the Wells Fargo Center has increased over the years. Note that the lines to get through security can be quite long. Give yourself ample time to get in and get seated. Ladies – do yourself a favor and don’t take in a handbag unless absolutely necessary. It just slows down the line.
Tip #3: If you are looking to hang out before the show, just walk over to XFINITY Live. There are several places to grab food and drinks, including Victory Beer Hall and PBR Philly. There are great little areas to sit outside (including several fire pits if the weather is chilly), play corn hole, or just hang out with friends.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
If I tried to cover Phil Collins’ entire career, this post would be so long no one would read it. The man is a legend. His career has spanned nearly 50 years, including his time in the band Genesis and his solo career. Collins hit his peak in the 1980’s. He had more US Top 40 singles during the decade than any other artist.
Born Phillip David Charles Collins in 1951, Collins grew up in London. He began playing the drums at age 5 and spent his childhood as an actor. In 1970, he joined the band Genesis as their drummer. When Peter Gabriel left the band in 1975, Collins took over lead singing duties.
By the early 1980’s, Collins embarked on his solo career. His first solo album – Face Value – was released in 1981, and included his monster hit “In the Air Tonight”. Collins quickly followed up with his second solo album in 1982 – Hello, I Must Be Going.
Even with a successful solo career, Collins continued to make music with Genesis until 1996, when he decided to leave the band to focus on his solo work. Collins formed his own band – The Phil Collins Big Band – and released his sixth solo album – Dance Into The Light – shortly after leaving Genesis.
In 2000, Collins became partially deaf in one ear due to a viral infection. It didn’t stop him from continuing to make music and perform. That included a reunion tour with Genesis in 2006.
While Collins has definitely slowed down over the last 10 years or so, he doesn’t seem to be able to give up making music and performing completely. In a bit of a jab to fellow artists who seem to go out on endless “farewell” tours, Collins hit the road in 2005 and 2006 with his “First Final Farewell Tour”.
While Collins officially “retired”, he continued to stay busy, including writing his autobiography called “Not Dead Yet” in 2016. The release of the book was followed by Collins announcing that he was hitting the road one more time with his Not Dead Yet tour. The tour kicked off in Europe in 2017, followed by dates in South America earlier this year. Collins has now brought the tour to North America this October.
I was so excited for this show, I made sure we were in our seats a little before the 8:00 p.m. scheduled show time. There wasn’t an opening act, so I didn’t want to take a chance of missing any of the show. The big screen behind the stage featured a slide show of photos of Collins throughout his career, which was fun to look at while waiting for the show to start.
At 8:24 p.m., the house lights went down and “Souareba” by Salif Keita began playing. As the song wrapped up, Collins took the stage. Walking with a cane, he slowly made his way to the chair that was positioned at center stage for him.
Collins greeted the cheering crowd, and joked that if he had a dollar for every time he’s said “Good evening Philadelphia”, he’d be a rich man. He also said that he realized we all had a choice of where to be, and he appreciated that we all chose to be there with him. Collins then went into his powerhouse ballad “Against All Odds”.
As Collins moved into the second song – “Another Day in Paradise” – the backdrop raised to reveal his band and back-up singers.
Collins’ band was a group of amazing musicians. It also included a horn section that came out for several songs throughout the night, including “Missed Again”, which is one of my personal favorites.
After a few more songs from his solo work, Collins joked that about 300 – 400 years ago, he was in a band called Genesis. Collins talked about the band playing Philadelphia in the early days at places like the Tower and the Spectrum. He joked that he was going to do some Genesis songs, but with all of the songs that they had recorded, the chances of him doing the one each of us wanted to hear was unlikely. The two Collins picked were “Throwing It All Away” and “Follow You Follow Me”, which was accompanied by some great pictures and video footage from the Genesis days on the big screen.
As the show was going on, I mentioned to my husband how young the drummer looked. Let’s face it. Being the drummer for Phil Collins has to be a little intimidating. Not only are you backing up one of the greatest and well-known drummers in popular music, but you have to play some of the most iconic drums ever on songs like “In The Air Tonight”. Well, turns out this particular drummer has even more pressure on him, because it’s Collins’ 17-year-old son. I can just imagine the dinner table conversation…. “Son, you can go out on tour with me, but don’t screw up my songs”.
There was no worry of the younger Collins screwing up the songs. He was phenomenal. In fact, Collins’ son was featured in a drum “trio” with the other percussionist in the band and Collins himself. The drum solo moved to the front of the stage, featuring the elder and younger Collins pounding out beats on a drum box.
The absolute highlight of the show for me was “In The Air Tonight”. That’s one of those songs that everyone knows. Personally, I thought I would never hear it live, so hearing it during the show actually gave me chills.
The show ended with a party atmosphere, as Collins and his band played “You Can’t Hurry Love”, “Dance Into The Light”, the Genesis hit “Invisible Touch”, “Easy Lover” and “Sussudio”. The majority of the capacity crowd were out of their seats dancing and singing along. Collins appeared to be having a great time, particularly on “Easy Lover”, where he was having fun going back and forth with his back-up singers.
Speaking of Collins’ back-up singers, they were fantastic and added a lot to the show. I was particularly impressed with Bridget Bryan who sang “Separate Lives” with Collins. That duet was another “goosebumps” moment.
After a short encore break, Collins wrapped up the show with his classic hit “Take Me Home”. Typically at an arena show on a Monday night, you have a good chunk of people who try to beat the traffic and walk out before the encore song. Not at this show. I only saw a handful of people leave. The seats were still full when the house lights came back up.
A few years ago, I adopted the personal mantra of #JustBuyTheTickets. With the passing of music legends like Prince, George Michael, Tom Petty, Chris Cornell and others before their time, I really believe that you should take the opportunity to go see legendary artists when you can. That was what I set out to do with Phil Collins. It didn’t matter if the show was good or bad. I wanted to cross him off my bucket list.
My reward was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. You’ll have to check back at the end of the year when I do my annual concert awards (see below to the link for last year’s awards), but my guess is that when all is said and done in 2018, this concert is going to rank near the top.
Collins is playing a limited number of dates in North America throughout the month of October. He heads to Australia and New Zealand in January and February. Catch this show if you can! You can find more information on upcoming tour dates at www.philcollins.com.
Set List (click on any link to buy the song directly on Amazon): Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now), Another Day In Paradise, I Missed Again, Hang In Long Enough, Throwing It All Away (Genesis song), Follow You Follow Me (Genesis song), Can’t Turn Back The Years, Who Said I Would, Separate Lives, You’ll Be In My Heart, Drum Trio, Something Happened On The Way To Heaven, You Know What I Mean, In The Air Tonight, You Can’t Hurry Love, Dance Into The Light, Invisible Touch (Genesis song), Easy Lover, Sussudio Encore: Take Me Home
Are you a Phil Collins fan? Have you seen him solo or with Genesis in concert? Tell us about it! Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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