Traveling to the nation's capital to see a concert is not something I would do for any live act except Phil Collins. Many lifelong Phil fans who have had the opportunity to see him live in his prime say that their time and money would not be worth the effort now that he is unable to stand for prolonged periods of time or play instruments. I reply to that by saying that I have never stood or played an instrument in my life, but if I could sing like Phil Collins, none of that would matter.
It certainly made no difference in the quality of the show that the 67-year-old rock star produced at the Capital One Arena to a packed house of more than 23,000 fans. My wife and I sat in the $94 nosebleed section four stories up, feeling like the two most privileged people there, just to be in the building. We have seen many shows by many high-quality acts, but the two hours offered by the incomparable performer and his fantastic band was one of the most exciting shows we have ever seen in our lives.
His touring band included his 17-year-old son, Nicholas, filling in for his dad on the drums and sounding every bit like the powerhouse percussionist his father had once been. His guitarist of four decades, Daryl Stuermer, and his bassist of more than thirty years, Leland Sklar, helped ensure the Phil Collins sound was not lost with age. The Vine Street Horns, which were most notably used on Collins’ 1996 album, Dance Into the Light, were a driving force behind the success of the show.
Collins performed the title track from that album as well as such high energy numbers as “Hang in Long Enough,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Something Happened On the Way to Heaven,” “I Missed Again,” and “Sussudio,” which kept the audience on the edge of excitement. Another surprise addition to the setlist was “You'll Be in My Heart,” Collins's Oscar-winning hit from the Disney animated film Tarzan.
Speaking of surprises, the highlight of the show came midway when, after Nicholas Collins performed his amazing five-minute drum solo, Phil himself, who had not publicly played the drums in about eight years, joined with Nicholas and percussionist Ritchie Garcia in an incredible drum trio tune, pounded out on the back of guitars and wooden crates. I was in awe that I actually had the opportunity to see him play the drums. It may not have been as he could once do, but it was proof that he still had the beat of the drum in his blood. It was a moment worthy of blurry eyes.
Collins also paid homage to his fifty year partnership with Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks in the legendary rock group Genesis by performing three of their more popular songs, “Throwing It All Away,” “Invisible Touch,” and “Follow You, Follow Me,” during which a montage of Genesis’s best video moments played across the giant arena screen.
Bridgette Bryant and Amy Keys, two beautiful and talented backup singers that I remember from the Going Back show, were on hand to perform with Collins on such duets as “Easy Lover” and “Separate Lives.” A particularly touching duet featured Collins singing with son Nicholas on the piano to “You Know What I Mean,” from his 1981 debut solo album, Face Value. A personal favorite, it was one of the lesser-known tunes offered in the nineteen-song setlist, but equally as adored by die-hard fans like me. Phil Collins could not turn out a song that I wouldn't know by heart. The people in the seats next to me were impressed that I knew the song and they didn’t. Other lesser-known songs included the rousing, horn-driven “Who Said I Would” from No Jacket Required, and the ballad, “Can't Turn Back the Years” from Both Sides.
Of course, no Phil Collins set would be complete without such standards as “In the Air Tonight,” “Against All Odds,” and “Another Day in Paradise,” the latter of which was written nearly three decades ago when Collins was passing through Washington DC on tour and noticed all the homeless people along the streets. The powerful song resonated with my wife and me as we saw the same thing during our trip. He closed the show with his trademark finale hit, “Take Me Home,” which was met with the last of many standing ovations during the night.
Collins made no effort to hide his physical impairment, which had no bearing whatsoever on the quality of his voice and the audience remained eternally grateful for his efforts. For my wife and me, my lifelong hero turned what would have otherwise been a miserable trip to Washington DC into an unforgettable memory that would have been forever regretted had it been missed.
The fact that I didn't go to the Genesis performance in that same venue eleven years ago remains one of the biggest regrets of my life is a testament to this. I also regret then I didn't do more to try to meet him when his assistant led me into the now extinct Roseland Ballroom in New York City eight years ago. I had a copy of my book A Real Life Fairy Tale, in which I detailed my New York City adventure, signed and ready to present to him just in case. It didn't happen even by a long shot. Nevertheless, it was an unforgettable and incredible experience. Had he been in his prime, he could not have achieved a better goal. He made us forget our troubles entirely for those two hours.
I was very thrilled to see many people of all ages eager to see Collins at the Washington show. Many came from our area, including people from such cities as Roanoke, Charlotte, NC, and Goldsboro, NC. I was especially refreshed to meet one man who flew in from Indiana with his wife to attend the show. He had seen Collins before and said he was just as good that night as he was in his prime, which helped me to affirm that my trip was worth it. October 7, 2018 will be a day forever etched in my mind as one of the happiest memories I've ever had.