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Jim Yukich
Phil Collins

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Stereo
Not Closed-captioned

Runtime: 160 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 11/11/2003

Disc One
• Multiple Camera Angles for All 13 Songs
• Tour Programme
• Photo Gallery
• “The Stage” Text and Photos
Disc Two
• Multiple Camera Angles for Nine Songs
• Documentary
• Photo Gallery

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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Phil Collins: Serious Hits ... Live! (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 2, 2004)

Shot in 1990 during his eight-month, 127-concert tour, Serious Hits... Live! finds Phil Collins at the end of an amazing run. Collins dominated the charts in the Eighties but would not achieve that level of consistency in the following decade. How he’ll end up when the first ten years of the 21st century concludes remains to be seen, though at least Collins will go out on his first tour in seven years in 2004. (Apparently Collins suffers from hearing damage that makes live performances more difficult for him.)

Serious Hits lets us revisit Collins as he toured behind 1989’s ...But Seriously album. A generous performer, Collins does 24 songs in this 160-minute concert. The various numbers span all four of his solo albums as of 1990 as well as some miscellaneous other tracks. From 1981’s Face Value, we find “In the Air Tonight” and “Hand in Hand”, while 1982’s Hello, I Must Be Going! produces “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “The West Side”. Off of 1985’s smash hit No Jacket Required, we locate a remarkable seven of its 11 tracks: “Sussudio”, “One More Night”, “Don’t Lose My Number”, “Who Said I Would”, “Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore”, “Inside Out” and “Take Me Home”.

Off of the then-current ...But Seriously, we discover another seven numbers: “Another Day In Paradise”, “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven”, “Hang In Long Enough”, “Do You Remember?”, “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”, “Colours”, and “That’s Just the Way It Is”. A few odds and ends finish the set. “Against All Odds” comes from the film of the same name, while “Separate Lives” appeared as a single in 1985. “Easy Lover” comes from a guest spot Phil did for Philip Bailey’s 1984 album Chinese Wall, and both “Two Hearts” and “A Groovy Kind of Love” stemmed from 1988’s Buster soundtrack. Lastly, “Always” covered an old Irving Berlin tune.

Since Phil didn’t want to do any Genesis material, obviously the set required all his material to come from the Eighties. Nonetheless, it seemed imbalanced since it skewed so heavily toward the latter half of the decade. All but five of the 24 songs came from 1985 or later, and “Easy Love” just barely made the cut-off; Chinese Wall hit the shelves at the end of 1984. Yeah, Jacket and Seriously were successful albums, but it would have been nice to hear more from Phil’s earlier records.

Still, it becomes hard to quibble with the hit content in the show, though a few moderately well known numbers fail to make the cut. For example, we don’t find 1982’s “I Don’t Care Anymore” or 1989’s “I Wish It Would Rain Down”.

How much one enjoys the material clearly will depend on your affection for Collins. I remain a pretty low-level fan. I grabbed this DVD because it sounded like a good representation of his better-known material, and the various extras also made it appealing. I also remembered Collins as a fun live performer, so the set seemed interesting.

The “fun” part only gets partial credit here, as Phil does his best to be a buzz kill throughout the show. When the crowd gets rowdy prior to “Colours”, he chastises them that there’s not time for that. He then reads a solemn declaration about the lack of freedom of speech in South Africa. On its own, that’s fine, if somewhat condescending, but unfortunately, Collins offers more than a few similar moments throughout the show. Apparently Phil decided that he needed to devote a concert to educating his audience about rather obvious subjects. I mean, by 1990, did anyone not know that South Africa was a repressive state?

It’s all very well meaning, of course, but Phil just can’t pull it off with any sense of aplomb. Springsteen can do this kind of thing, as can Bono, but Phil is more of a goofy showman. That means his stabs tend to seem forced and self-conscious.

Despite those missteps, most of the show works fairly well. Phil indulges in a few too many extended instrumental moments. The combination of “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” with “The West Side” really meanders, though the peppy “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven” helps redeem things.

Much of the show comes across fairly well. No one expects grand theatrics from Collins, but he still presents himself as a fairly genial master of ceremonies, despite the public service announcements. Actually, he holds a stage surprisingly well and manages to offer a strong focal point.

Don’t take my earlier comments to indicate that Phil never lightens up during the show. Indeed, the portion from the band introductions through the end offers virtually non-stop fun and frivolity. Much needed fun and frivolity, I might add.

Jim Yukich directs Hits with a minimum of fuss and muss. A pretty average production, the DVD replicates the concert with reasonable effectiveness. It eschews quick cutting or gimmicks and seems like it demonstrates a logical focus much of the time.

It suffers from a lack of flair, though. While I don’t care for self-consciously flashy concert programs, this one tends to plod at times because it feels like a rote production. The cuts and angles never become terribly inviting or involving. The DVD documents the show with reasonable accuracy but not much spark.

In the end, Serious Hits... Live! stands as a good but unremarkable document of a good but unremarkable performer. Phil Collins is a likable composer and musician but not someone who inspires much passion. Hits demonstrates his various strengths and weaknesses and seems like a decent examination of his music.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Phil Collins: Serious Hits... Live! appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. An erratic picture, much of Hits looked fine, but a mix of concerns left it with an average grade.

Sharpness varied. Close-ups seemed nicely detailed and concise, but shots that went farther out than that started to encounter problems. Definition faltered to different degrees with those images, largely because the presence of jagged edges made them look rough. The farther the camera pushed out, the more prominent these became, and they could offer some distractions. A little shimmering popped up as well, though I noticed no signs of edge enhancement. A smidgen of digital artifacting occurred, but not much, and otherwise the program seemed free from source flaws.

Via clothes and lighting, Hits presented a pretty broad and lively palette, but the DVD only managed to achieve moderate success in regard to the replication of these tones. At times, the various colors looked nicely bright and vivid, but they also could come across as somewhat muddy and messy. Colored lighting often seemed a bit too dense and runny. The clothes fared better, though since the lights affected them, they remained erratic. Blacks were fairly deep and firm, but low-light shots tended to seem a little too dense. Shadow detail appeared acceptable but no better. Ultimately, Hits was a decent but unexceptional picture that merited a “C”.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Serious Hits... Live! fared better but didn’t quite live up to standards. The soundfield seemed well executed, though. As one might expect, most of the audio stayed in the forward channels. They displayed good stereo imaging and spread the music smoothly across the front. Various instruments seemed appropriately placed and meshed together cleanly. The surrounds added crowd noise mostly, but some mild instrumentation also occasionally appeared back there to give the track a nice sense of dimensionality.

For the most part, audio quality was good, but those elements didn’t seem great. Vocals usually sounded reasonably natural and distinct, but the track suffered from a little too much faux arena reverb, which left the singing a bit hollow at times. Most of the instruments seemed well replicated and accurate, with the main exception of high-end material. Horns displayed a rather choppy and sibilant sound, and cymbals sometimes followed suit. Bass response appeared good but unexceptional. Low-end seemed fairly deep and warm but didn’t add tremendous life to the package. Overall, the audio appeared somewhat above average but not by a lot.

While the concert itself didn’t give us the greatest form of presentation, Serious Hits... Live! presented a nice collection of extras. The coolest aspect of the package stems from all its multiple camera angles. While sets like the Stones’ Four Flicks offer this option on only a smattering of songs, 22 of Hits’ 24 tracks presents the choice. (Only “Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore” and “One More Night” lack the choice; you also can’t switch angles during the extended band introductions.)

The cameras used change from song to song; helpfully, the DVD includes a diagram that displays their locations and indicates which ones get featured in each track. Invariably, one of the two angles focuses on Phil, so you could watch him for almost every second of the show if desired. The other angle varies between Phil and different band members. This is an extremely cool addition to the set and makes viewing the show a much more interesting and interactive experience.

Other than the multiple angles, the key attraction on DVD Two is a documentary. It lasts 24 minutes and 30 seconds as it mixes show clips with comments from Phil. He chats about band rehearsals, reworking some of the songs, reactions from crowds in different countries, and his plans for the future circa 1990. It’s a dull program. Collins’ remarks reveal little, and we see many, many concert snippets. Since we already own the entire performance, these become redundant.

DVD One tosses in a nice extra: a stillframe replication of the 1990 tour’s programme. We flip through the pages just like we were reading the original tour book, and this is a fun piece. In addition, both DVDs One and Two feature separate galleries. Disc One’s includes 16 photos, while Disc Two’s presents 17 shots. These offer a moderately interesting roster of concert pictures.

Another piece exclusive to DVD One, The Stage tells us about the show’s rigging. This feature combines photos and text to educate us about the topic. It’s short but informative.

A consistently entertaining performer but not one who ever approaches greatness, Phil Collins puts on a typically professional show during Serious Hits… Live! The concert indeed includes many well known songs and though it drags at times, it usually marks an interesting and enjoyable affair. The DVD presents mediocre picture with decent but unremarkable audio. The disc doesn’t feature a long roster of extras, but it comes with very extensive use of alternate angles, which adds a lot of value to the package. Overall, this isn’t a great concert DVD, but it represents a nice documentation of Phil Collins’ work.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6086 Stars Number of Votes: 23
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