Genesis opened The Last Domino? tour on Sept. 20 in Birmingham, England and the majority of discussion since then has revolved around the diminished capacity of Phil Collins as a performer. He walks with a cane, sits in a chair, and bares little resemblance to the dynamo responsible for leading the band into the pop stratosphere following Peter Gabriel’s 1975 departure.
While all of the above is true, it’s indicative of where we’re at as a society that people have chosen to dwell on the negative at a time when we should all be grateful that he remains willing to put the work in. Empathy was one of the first casualties of the social media age, and, if Jack Dorsey has a heart, I’m sure it grows three sizes every time someone uses his platform to disparage Collins for no reason other than he doesn’t sound exactly as he did 40 years ago. I’ve bore witness to plenty of shit shows through the years from artists supposed to be in their prime and what the 50-year pro delivered inside KeyBank Center Saturday night was anything but.
Stepping onto the stage shortly after 8:15 p.m., the band tore through “Turn It On Again,” “Mama,” and “Land of Confusion” just as they did back in 2007, which set the table and allowed Collins to find his vocal rhythm before delving into more complex arrangements. What he lacked in range was compensated for with bawdy asides and a palpable sense of pride every time his son Nicholas crushed another drum fill, so there was never a moment where it felt as if he shouldn’t have been out there.
A sizzling suite of “Home by the Sea,” “Second Home by the Sea,” and “Afterglow” segued into an acoustic segment that saw “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” played as we’ve never heard it before, but, as much as I adore both the song and the album from whence it came, the absence of bombast definitely dampened its effect to some degree. That lull didn’t last, however, as the instrumental mastery of Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, and Daryl Stuermer on “Firth of Fifth” and “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” nearly had me convinced that spending $50 on a concert shirt could be a justifiable offense.
The evening’s homestretch culled from 1986’s “Invisible Touch” and 1991’s “We Can’t Dance,” two albums which lay out a very distinct line of demarcation when it comes to fan appreciation. While both have their moments, the former’s material has actually taken on a certain poignancy in light of Phil’s ongoing marital discord. His earnest balladeering on “Throwing it All Away” was moving and his snarling on the title track was appropriate given how Wife No. 3 continues to fuck his life up on a daily basis, so I can honestly say that I enjoy the later stuff more now than I ever have before.
If you allowed the headlines to steer you away from this show, that’s too bad. To paraphrase what Phil beautifully sang during “Fading Lights” earlier in the set, we all knew that some time we would reach the final page in The Book of Genesis, and, unfortunately for us, that time is now.