Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 1, 2003)
During the Eighties, Phil Collins emerged as one of the biggest names in pop music. Both with Genesis and on his own, Collins topped the charts much of the time with band records like Invisible Touch or solo records such as No Jacket Required.
And then the Nineties came, and Collins hit a rockier road. Oh, he didn’t vanish completely, but except for his successful soundtrack to Disney’s Tarzan, Collins failed to make a tremendous impact on the charts. All of his Eighties albums got into the top ten, Collins’ Nineties solo releases failed to crack single digits.
1996’s Dance Into the Light failed to even enter the top 20, as it peaked at 23 in the US. The tour behind that album shows up on Live and Loose In Paris, a concert filmed in 1997. Staged at the very end of the trek in December, this DVD includes 15 tunes from the performance.
Only three songs from Light show up on the disc’s truncated presentation. We get the title track along with “Lorenzo” and “Wear My Hat”. Otherwise, the songs span various periods of Collins’ solo career. From 1981’s Face Value, we find the hit “In the Air Tonight” and “Hand In Hand”. “Against All Odds” emanates from the soundtrack from the 1983 film of the same name, and “Easy Lover” comes from a 1984 collaboration with Earth, Wind and Fire’s Phillip Bailey on the latter’s Chinese Wall.
When we get to 1985’s smash No Jacket Required - the definitive peak of Collins’ solo career – we discover “Don’t Lose My Number”, “Long Long Way to Go” and “Sussudio”. Also from 1985 we get the single “Separate Lives”. 1989’s ...But Seriously presents “Another Day In Paradise”, “Hang In Long Enough” and “Something Happened On the Way to Heaven”. Apparently “Timbantiocha” is a Collins original that never appeared on a studio release or single. The DVD’s setlist totally omits anything from 1982’s Hello! I Must Be Going and 1993’s Both Sides.
I liked Collins well enough back in the day to see him in concert twice. I took in shows during his 1985 and 1990 solo tours. I also went to a Genesis concert in 1987, but I preferred Collins as a solo artist. While not a great live performer, he gave his all and put on a fun and lively show enhanced with his ebullient personality.
That side comes through reasonably well on Loose, though the performance’s location probably restricted his chattiness. As Collins played in front of a French crowd, I expect he limited his jokes and didn’t gab as much as he might during a US or UK show. In addition, the DVD may have cut some of his between-song patter in the interest of time. Although I couldn’t find a full setlist for the Paris shows, Collins averaged about 28 songs per night, so clearly the disc doesn’t represent the entire original performance.
Since Collins originally made his name as a drummer, fans will be happy to note that he hits the skins for a few songs. He does so during parts of “Hand In Hand”, “In the Air Tonight”, “Timbantiocha”. In addition, Collins adds some percussion to “Lorenzo” and plays piano during “Long Long Way to Go”.
Directed by veteran David Mallet, Loose provides exactly the kind of presentation I expect from him. Efficient and effective, Mallet covers the action well but the video never rises above that level. Mallet is basically the “Old Reliable” of the filmed concert world. You won’t get anything fresh or innovative from him, but he gives you a clean and accurate representation of the original event, which seems fine with me.
The same workmanlike feel comes across during the show itself. The band present a lot of good performers, some of whom worked with Collins for years prior to this tour. They mesh together well, and while none of them stand out from the crowd, they support each other nicely and create a cohesive and tight ensemble.
Collins himself seems a little more subdued than I remember. Whether he grew more introverted on stage over the years or if the editing of the program simply removed some of his antics I can’t say, but he didn’t come across as tremendously lively. Still, he did loosen up as the concert progressed, and the last few numbers show him in higher spirits.
Overall, I’d classify Live and Loose as a good but not great performance from a good but not great musician with some good but not great songs. I don’t mean to indicate that I see Phil Collins as a mediocre musical entity, but he remains somewhat bland overall, and this show doesn’t appear likely to win him new fans. However, those with even a passing interest in Collins’ music should get a kick out of it, for it presents his work in a positive light.