DVD Review: Phil Collins "Going Back: Live at Roseland Ballroom, NYC"

DVD Review: Phil Collins "Going Back: Live at Roseland Ballroom, NYC"
Eagle Vision
All Access Review:  C+

In the news recently for his on-again, off-again “retirement from music” saga and an acknowledgement that he’s felt the barrage of slings and arrows flung his way from Genesis worshippers who wanted him to be Peter Gabriel, rather than the mega pop star he became, Phil Collins must have taken a great deal of comfort in shutting the recording studio doors and remaking the Motown and soul classics he’s always adored from afar for his 2010 album Going Back. Never one to hide his affection for the songs of his youth, Collins turned The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” into a blue-eyed soul winner in 1983, scoring a #1 hit for the drummer turned pop crooner. So, it’s hardly surprising that he would follow Rod Stewart down this well-worn path and do a credible job of it … at least on record.

For the 26-track, 126-minute concert DVD “Going Back: Live at Roseland Ballroom,” Collins enlists the aid of Motown’s revered house band, the Funk Brothers, four strong male and female background singers and a powerful horn section to bring the spirit, and many of the songs, of Going Back alive onstage. The results are mixed. Lush and vibrant, the music is stellar, with bright, solar-powered horns, rich backing vocals and Chester Thompson’ drums providing thick support and full-bodied drive to the sublime rush of Daryl Stuermer and Funk Brothers Eddie Willis and Ray Monette on guitars that make “You’ve Been Cheatin’” flow like a river and “(Love is Like a) Heatwave” emit warm rays of sunshine. And Collins delivers gracefully nuanced vocals on the aforementioned “You Can’t Hurry Love” and bittersweet readings of Stevie Wonder’s “Blame it on The Sun” and the set closer “My Girl.”

Unfortunately, it is Collins who, on occasion, doesn’t rise to meet the soulful musical surge going on behind him. From his stiff, slow movement around the stage, it is clear Collins is not physically up to the task. Once a charismatic live performer, it almost seems to pain Collins, who reportedly has suffered from health problems in recent years, to walk, much less dance. Bled of the emotion Collins brings to “The Tears of a Clown” and “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone,” his weak vocals turn “Going to a Go-Go,” “Too Many Fish in the Sea” and “Nowhere to Run” into anemic, pale caricatures of once great soul and R&B charges up the hill for Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, The Marvelettes and Martha and the Vandellas. Watching the interview with Collins that accompanies the DVD, plus the rehearsal footage, there’s no doubt Collins loves and cherishes this material. His work on the arrangements is meticulous and smart, and as he says on the DVD, if he looks over at the Funk Brothers and sees them smile, then he’s done his job. And one wonders what he would do with it were Collins 10 or 15 years younger. 

Perhaps it’s best that Collins takes some time off. A few years away from business might re-energize the singer and allow him to polish these musical diamonds to a lustrous glow. As a celebration of the universal appeal and of Motown’s most incredible songs, this concert is infused with joy and, for the most part, a fun, loving ode to one of music’s finest ages. It’s just a shame that Collins doesn’t always seem in the mood for a party.

-           Peter Lindblad

Official Site: Phil Collins

If you are a fan or collector of Phil Collins or Genesis memorabilia be sure you visit the Backstage Auctions Online Store, you never know what treasures you will find. 

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