This concert Blu-ray sees Phil Collins take his superb new album "Going Back" into the live arena. Filmed in June of this year in the intimate surroundings of New York's famous Roseland Ballroom, this is a real chance to get up close and personal as Phil Collins faithfully recreates the soul and Motown classics that he loved as a teenager.1. Intro: Signed, Sealed, Delivered
I first became aware of Phil Collins during the early '80s with the help of MTV. At that time, Genesis, the band for which he performed as lead singer and drummer, was moving away from their progressive roots to create a more mainstream rock sound with albums like Duke and Abacab. Concurrently, Collins was putting out solo records that found him outperforming Genesis on the pop charts with notable songs informed by the end of his marriage like "In the Air Tonight" and "I Don't Care Anymore". Each endeavor peaked in popularity during the mid-'80s as his No Jacket Required (1985) went platinum 12 times and Genesis' Invisible Touch (1987) went platinum six times.
When he was at his most popular, I began to lose interest in his work. Most of the electronic pop of NJR didn’t appeal to me, and though I enjoyed Invisible Touch, the increasing pop sounds were becoming so prevalent I wasn't surprised when I had little interest in the songs off their follow-up We Can't Dance (1991). Yet, even when he wasn't making music I cared for, I always liked him. He was personable and exhibited good sense of humor in interviews and music videos. Liking him so much makes it that much more difficult to review this work, which is poor on his part at times.
Collins played three nights in June 2010 at New York City's Roseland Ballroom to showcase Going Back, a collection of Motown and soul covers, three months before it was released. This Blu-ray is culled from those nights. A very talented ensemble, many of whom performed on the album, backs Collins. The most impressive members are guitarist Eddie Willis and bassist Bob Babbitt of The Funk Brothers, the studio musicians who performed on many of the original recordings. Also on hand is another well-known Detroit session guitarist, Ray Monette; six back-up singers, one of whom also plays the vibes; a five-piece horn section; a percussionist; a keyboardist; and Genesis touring band members guitarist Daryl Stuermer and drummer Chester Thompson.
The concert starts as the band brings out Collins to Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." He launches into "Ain't Too Proud To Beg". His vocals sound flat and he sounds no different than any decent karaoke singer. The energy picks up with "Dancing in the Street" thanks to the dynamic female singers. About 12 minutes in, Collins finally talks to the audience and explains what's going on in regards to his impending album. The band starts "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and they sound very good and funky. Unfortunately Collins' voice just doesn’t have the soul needed to sing this. "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer," a song I don't know, is the first one where the arrangement sounds like a Phil Collins song as opposed to a Motown. It's a ballad about heartbreak and could do well on today's charts.
Regrettably, things go off the rails with "Jimmy Mack". The main problem is it's a woman's song. Of course, many songs aren't gender specific and words like "he" and "she" or "guy" and "girl" can be and are switched without ruining the meaning of a song. However, this is different. "Jimmy Mack" is about woman asking her boyfriend Jimmy about when he's returning to town because she's about to get together with a local fellow. Collins' version is about a guy asking his buddy Jimmy about when he's returning to town because Jimmy's gal is coming on to him.
The ballad "Blame it on the Sun" finds Collins again taking ownership of a song and delivering one of his better performances. In fact, throughout the set it’s the lesser-known songs like "Ain't That Peculiar" and "Too Many Fish in the Sea" that finds him performing at his best, almost as if his reverence for the classics limit him. It's demonstrated again as he closes the main set. " In My Lonely Room" is a good fit while his vocals on "Take Me In Your Arms Rock Me A Little While" and "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" make the songs no better than average and have you thinking about where the originals might be in your collection.
During the encore, Collins finally gets to "You Can’t Hurry Love," his first #1 UK/ Top Ten US hit, and he should have ended the evening right there. Instead, the final number is "My Girl." He does a decent job with it, but the slower tempo ends the show out on a lull.
There's no doubt Phil Collins loves the songs of American R&B and soul, as many people rightly do. He talks about growing up listening to them in the liner notes and their influence is evident in his work, such as working with Earth, Wind & Fire's brass section The Phenix Horns and a number of covers he's recorded. Unfortunately, his desire to honor the artists of his youth was much more than his ability to do so well. If he had cut the 26-song setlist in half to focus on his strongest performances, he would have delivered a more satisfying concert.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Eagle Rock Entertainment brings 'Phil Collins - Going Back: Live at Roseland Ballroom NYC' to high-definition on a BD-50 Blu-ray disc housed inside a standard blue keepcase. The disc boots up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. The Blu-ray is region free. Liner notes are by Phil Collins.
As is standard with Eagle Rock Entertainment concert Blu-rays, the video is presented in a 1080i/ AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and delivers a very crisp and clear picture devoid of artifacts to distract the viewer from the performance.
Many fine details are evident, giving fans an up-close seat to the show. Textures seen include the stubble on Collins' head and chin, the dress sequins, and the ripples of fabric in the curtain. The staging of the musicians helps contribute to depth in the picture.
The colors are vibrant, especially the red curtains that line the back of the stage, which provide a great contrast for the band's purple jackets and the ladies' purple sequined dress to pop out. The blacks, such as Collins' suit, are solid. Under the white lights, the brass instruments shine, except for those with brushed metal.
The audio is also the Eagle Rock Entertainment standard of DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and LPCM 2.0. The DTS track is very good at transporting the viewer to Roseland with its immersive, defect-free audio.Collin's vocals come out the front center channel and can be faintly heard through the rest of the surround system. The music never affects his clarity, demonstrating a well-balanced mix of elements. Babbitt's bass work is outstanding throughout and might be some of the best I have heard in a concert Blu-ray, especially when out in front on "Papa Was a Rolling Stone". The disc also delivers a good high end when the keyboards are set to sound like string instruments.
The extras have subtitles available in English, German, Spanish, France, Italian, Dutch, and Portuguese.
Although a very good presentation on Blu-ray, the appeal of this passion project is likely to be limited because Collins' vocals fall short a number of times. To be fair, many others would have just as tough a time tackling these classics as Collins does. While he does well with a few selections, and the band sounds great, there are too many average performances to make 'Phil Collins - Going Back: Live at Roseland Ballroom NYC' worth sitting through for 98 minutes. For hardcore Phil Collins fans only.