Night after night on his comeback tour, singer, songwriter, drummer, producer and actor Phil Collins has introduced his show to the audience by simply saying he has missed them.
He was not joking – after postponing two shows of his Royal Albert Hall series until November due to an injury, Phil decided to keep the celebration going with more live dates, including a show at Sheffield Arena, 23 years since he last played the venue.
Injury has forced Phil to stop drumming and he retired from performing for more than 10 years before returning – seated.
“It took just a few moments on stage and singing with the fans to convince me this was the best idea I’ve had in years,” says Phil of his return. “There’s so much love and so much fun.”
Speaking from his home in Miami, Florida – “I live here most of the time” – he says: “I think I realised by stopping, which is what I said I’d do, I was losing something out of my life, something that was quite important.
“My kids warned me about it – they encouraged me back into it.”
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One of the most successful artists of his generation, with more UK top-40 singles than any other artist of the 1980s, Phil came to prominence first as drummer and then as frontman of Genesis, making his solo debut with 1981’s album Face Value, containing hit single In The Air Tonight.
Further hits include Another Day in Paradise, Against All Odds (Take A Look at Me Now) and One More Night, as well as number ones Easy Lover, You Can’t Hurry Love and A Groovy Kind of Love,
With more than 100 million record sales to his name and number one albums the world over, the 66-year-old Londoner is a music legend in the truest sense of the word – even if he has not always the most popular person at the height of his success.
Reports of tax avoidance and heated debates with journalists did not help – earning savage reviews of his records – while his almost ever-presence on TV and radio and in newspapers, coupled with a less-than-endearing attitude, he admits, turned people off him and his music.
Rock historian Martin C Strong wrote Phil “truly polarised opinion from the start, his ubiquitous smugness and increasingly sterile pop making him a favourite target for critics”.
But absence makes the heart grow fonder and Phil’s return has been almost universally praised.
“I have done some things I wouldn’t do again,” he says, “but if you go away for a while and come back, people feel they can review their opinions and look at things from a different angle.”
Phil made his live return at an event for his own Little Dreams Foundation last year, before performing two of his biggest hits at the opening of the US Open tennis, inspiring him to announce his first headline tour in a decade.
“I thought I would retire quietly,” he says, “But thanks to the fans, my family and support from some extraordinary artists I have rediscovered my passion for music and performing.”
And the family connection is kept close with teenage son Nick on the drums for the tour – with the clearly proud father on hand to offer drumming advice if his son ever wants any.
The clearly proud father says: “We talk about music all the time, he’s got his own band. He’ll ask me how did things happen, what was it like – he’s very inquisitive – but I don’t force anything on him.
“It was a hard call for the tour – I didn’t want to look at the band and see them thinking I was pushing him in. We had a week’s rehearsal to see how everybody felt, how he coped because he was playing with some world-class musicians, and everyhonh gave the thumbs-up.”
Phil Collins’ Not Dead Yet: Live tour comes to Sheffield’s Fly DSA Arena on Friday, November 24. For more information visit www.philcollins.com
For tickets, see flydsaarena.co.uk