NEW YORK — * In a summer dominated by megatours, it might have seemed that a tour by Phil Collins wouldn't have been one of the hotter tickets. Onstage at a recent performance at New York's Madison Square Garden, the singer nearly admitted as much. ``I realize you had a choice,'' he said. ``Thank you for choosing us.''
He needn't have worried. The tour has been a smash, and it sold out every New York area performance (six shows in all). The fact that it was his first tour in years certainly didn't hurt. By now, this physically unassuming, unlikely rock star has a vast library of solo hits, probably dwarfing the efforts of his group, Genesis.
Collins's drumming, one of the most powerful in rock, is merely a sideline nowadays. He starts out the show with a few minutes of soloing, but he quickly abandons the skins for his powerful opener, ``I Don't Care Anymore.'' From there, the nearly three-hour show, performed on a set that resembles an urban rooftop, proceeds through both a generous helping of his new album, ``Both Sides,'' and his seemingly inexhaustible supply of hits.
The first half is quieter, since it concentrates mainly on new material that is largely composed of somber ballads. The singer has taken on homelessness as his special cause, and right before singing his latest hit, ``Another Day in Paradise,'' he took the opportunity to hawk copies of his new video, the proceeds of which will go to charity.
With the addition of a horn section, the second half picks up steam, with powerful versions of ``In the Air Tonight,'' ``It Don't Matter to Me,'' ``Easy Lover'' (transformed into a rave-up, complete with choreography), ``You Can't Hurry Love'' (during which the entire band donned black sunglasses), ``Two Hearts,'' ``Against All Odds,'' and ``Take Me Home.'' Several songs, especially the annoying ``Sussudio,'' are vastly better in concert than in the recorded versions. Throughout the show, the self-effacing singer kept up a comic commentary about his wealth and his personal life. When he tried to get physical, he merely proved true the title of one of Genesis's most popular songs: ``I Can't Dance.''