By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
Midway through his headlining set at the second-annual Dreaming on the Beach gala Friday night (3/11), Phil Collins looked out from the stage at the packed house of The Fillmore Miami Beach. It was his first concert in almost six years – the all-important baptism of his recently announced comeback. “It’s great to be back,” he said.
Everybody said “Amen.”
Considering the gala/benefit premium of the tickets, the sold-out show was a good sign. More prophetic was the adoring reception of his fans as the singer took them on a too-brief flashback, beginning with five of his solo hits – from the smooth, slow start of Another Day in Paradise to the singalong of Take Me Home.
Wearing an open-collared white shirt and black vest over gray slacks, the 65-year-old Collins was a slightly discomfiting sight ambling onstage with the help of a walking stick due to a temporary effect of major back surgery. But it didn’t lessen the impact of that one-of-a-kind voice, which soared on Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now), the de facto theme song of this night’s appearance, and a devastating version of the eerie In the Air Tonight. With his teenage son Nick on drums, Collins belted it out as if he really had been waiting for this moment all his life.
Backed by a seven-piece band, the singer closed with two covers, the Temptations’ My Girl and a Clapton-like reggae version of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. The finale featured a chorus of Little Dreamers, the young artists boosted by the Little Dreams Foundation, the benefactors of the night’s proceedings. The charity founded in 2000 was launched in Miami two years ago by Miami Beach residents Collins and his wife, Orianne.
The show also featured performances by the 2016 Little Dreamer Artists, Alvaro Soler, Diego Torres, DJ Irie and original Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm, of whom Collins said in his introduction, “I wish I had written some of [his] songs.”
Before the concert, Collins’ comeback had largely consisted of a major reissue of his remastered and expanded solo albums, as well as talk of new music, a tour and an autobiography.
PHOTO: Greg Carannante
Earlier: Phil Collins has been waiting for this moment
The Phil Collins comeback will take a giant leap Friday night as the pop megastar of the pre-Internet era performs for the first time in five years, headlining a gala concert in Miami Beach to benefit his Little Dreams Foundation.
“Well, I’m a little bit back, I’m not completely back,” Collins says. “There’s always a little bit of trepidation when you launch back into something you haven’t done in a while, but I’m looking forward to it.”
The five-time Grammy-winner announced at a press conference in Hollywood last week that he is coming out of retirement and returning to music. The comeback, however, may be influenced by its second syllable, as a temporary numbness in his right foot following major back surgery is causing him to walk with what he calls “a stick,” as well as keeping him from his famous perch behind the drum kit.
Nonetheless, he’s personally involved in a major reissue of his solo albums – remastered, expanded and featuring brave new cover art that substitutes photos of the now 65-year-old Phil for the originals’. (Of those eight releases, four were major hits that together sold 24 million copies just in the United States and spawned seven No. 1 singles.) And talk of new music, a tour and an autobiography is, yes, in the air.
“I’m committed to do a show in Switzerland in June, and my manager and I are … discussing tactics, put it that way,” he says.
“It’s not like I don’t enjoy it, you know, I love it – it’s part of what I’ve done all my life. It’s just really finding a way to do it that keeps a balance between real life and professional life.”
Keeping that balance, he explains, has been a major reason for his absence from the scene. But his move to Miami Beach last year changed everything.
“To be quite honest, up until a year ago, maybe less, I would have said no to this idea, because my world revolved around seeing my kids regularly and they lived here and I spent time in either Switzerland or New York. When they moved here, my obligation to stay in their lives meant traveling. So touring was right out the window as far as I was concerned.
“But now we’re living together, and now there’s a possibility of doing some shows, and them coming to see me – you know, it’s a normal life and I don’t have to consider all that traveling.”
As it turns out, his sons, Nicholas, 15, and Matthew, 11, have played a big part in their father’s comeback. “They’ve both been very active in prodding me toward doing something new, whether it be writing songs or doing some shows. So, they’re the ones that have, you know, just pushed me.”
The elder son, in fact, is playing quite an active role. “I’ve got my son Nick playing drums with me on some of the songs at the end of the show Friday night, and that feels great to have him on board,” Collins says. “Also I’ve got my friendly faces standing behind me. I’ve been playing with these guys for 20 years, if not more. Daryl Stuermer goes back to the Genesis days.
“I’ve got the bells-and-whistles band – half a dozen singers and a four-piece horn section, and the other guys – and then I’ve got the unplugged band. So Friday’s show will be a mixture of unplugged and heavier stuff. It’ll be about an hour of the songs everybody seems to know and like.”
Also on the bill for the second-annual “Dreaming on the Beach” concert at The Fillmore Miami Beach are Álvaro Soler, Grammy-nominated singer Diego Torres, DJ Irie, original Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm and the 2016 Little Dreamer Artists, some of whom are flying in from Switzerland to perform.
The Little Dreams Foundation was founded in Switzerland by Phil and his wife, Orianne, in 2000, to fulfill the dreams of young aspiring talent in sports and the arts who don’t have the means to achieve their goals. Two years ago its Miami launch expanded the foundation’s international reach, which has ranged from equipping a soccer team of orphans in Zimbabwe to helping Cooper City’s Emily Taylor Kaufman. She’s only 11 but she’s already performed in South Florida for six years, including 13 musical theater productions and singing the national anthem at Marlins and Striker games.
“There are lots of different stories,” Collins says. “Whenever I watch a Little Dreams video of things that we’ve achieved and lives we’ve touched, I get really kind of emotional about it. God bless Orianne, because she really has an energy for this. I help when I can but it’s her driving force that keeps this thing going.”
Second Annual Little Dreams Foundation Benefit Gala, 8 p.m. Friday (3/11) at The Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater, Miami Beach. For more information or tickets, call 305-951-2757 or visit www.ldf.cc or livenation.com.
Click the link below to listen to In The Air Tonight (Live) by Phil Collins https://open.spotify.com/album/1d3ElF1a0oIira63rpQz2H