Phil Collins Live at the AccorHotels Arena, Paris.

What better way to finish TeamCB’s annual pilgrimage to Hellfest than with a stop off in Gay Paree for an extremely eagerly awaited appointment with a true legend. When Phil Collins announced his continuing not-being-dead with a string of dates across Europe we were ready and waiting when the tickets for the UK dates went on sale. We were still ready and waiting a few minutes later when they had all sold out.

Still, owing to the dubious joy of secondary ticketing sites and the fortuitous timing a couple of tickets for one of the Paris shows were secured.. ok, at a stupidly inflated price but hey, that’s the joy of modern times and dealing with profiteering bastards.

Phil Collins though, this was going to be worth it.

It’s fair to say the trip from Clisson to Paris didn’t go entirely to plan owing to a substantial crash somewhere ahead of us on the motorway which meant that a leisurely drive became a sweaty hell on wheels and the planned “stop and freshen up” at the hotel didn’t work and we instead had to drive straight to the concert. So there was the beautiful people of the fashion capital of the world, and somewhere in the middle two dusty, sweaty buggers who hadn’t seen running water for a week and were wearing clothes that could charitably be described as looking lived in…

And probably smelling died in.

Still, nice to not have a ton of camera gear to lug about.

The AccorHotels Arena is a stunning venue, a grass covered pyramid on the banks of the Seine with some of the nicest venue staff we’ve met. Even the policemen outside with the big f*cking guns were smiling and happy to pose for selfies with two sweaty tourists.

We held our breath as we approached the ticket scanners, given the Vaigogo saga in getting the bloody things and the fact that everything else that day had gone wrong. There was a massive sigh of relief when the scanner went beep and we were in !!

A slideshow of photos of Phil throughout his career played on the big screen as the venue filled up and on no time at all the house lights went down and a solitary spotlight picked out a chair in the middle of the stage. Now I thought the beautiful people of Paris would be oh so cool and reserved but when the wee, old, bald man limped on stage supported by a walking stick, the place erupted. The noise was deafening, even after a weekend with one ear pointed to the speaker stacks at Hellfest. The atmosphere was electric and as Phil took his seat this was already clearly going to be something special.

The first thing we learned was that Phil speaks French, but as we don’t that wasn’t much bloody use. He had a brief chat with the crowd, slipping into English to explain the need for the chair.. “This leg is Fucked, but we’re here and we smile”. Whatever ailments may be afflicting him, it hasn’t effected his voice and a note perfect Agains All Odds got the two hour sing-along underway. The stage lights came up to reveal the obligatory array of backing musicians but all attention was on the main man who was clearly frustrated at not being able to run around like he used to.

We were treated to some more picks from his back catalogue, still barely understanding a word in-between, until we picked out the phrase “Notre group Genesis” which we DEFINITELY understood. This upped the intensity in the room as Follow You, Follow Me took us down memory lane, accompanied by snippets of Genesis videos (and Phil with hair) on the big screens.

Follow You, Follow Me? That’s prophetic. Twitter wasn’t even invented back then.

Phil has assembled an amazing backing band to accompany him on the tour. The Vine St. horn section gave proceedings a bit of extra fizz, and it was great to see legendary bassist and wizard lookalike Leland Sklar laying down the funky bottom end. He’d also enlisted long time compatriot (30 years with Genesis, never actually in the band) Daryl Stuermer on lead guitar but there was one particular member of the band that everyone seemed to be excited about.

When Phil introduced the cast he went through everyone except the drummer. When the introductions were completed and he prepared to move onto the next song a lot, and I mean a lot, of boos ran round the crowd. This was followed by the sound of thunder as thousands of dainty Parisienne feet were stamped, making the whole building shake. Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything quite like this. Phil suddenly seemed to remember that he’d missed someone out, and his introduction of his 16 year old son Nic behind the kit got one of the biggest cheers of the whole night.

After Only You Know And I Know Phil announced an intermission for peepee (must be a French term). A tout le monde peepee, no less. For the beautiful people this meant a trip to the champagne trolley for a small and probably very overpriced glass of the French fizzy wine.

After the intermission things began to ratchet up a notch or two. Nic Collins emerged from behind the kit to play piano on an emotional, stripped back version of You Know What I Mean which saw him and his dad picked out by single spotlights on an otherwise dark and empty stage. Straight after that Nic returned to his perch behind the kit and sent the place over the edge with the iconic drum intro to In The Air Tonight.

The Genesis connection was highlighted once again with Invisible Touch before the main body of the gig was brought to a close with, predictably, Sussudio which literally got the place bouncing.

The whole place.

Everyone.

An encore was demanded and, of course, delivered and as we left the venue with the last notes of Take Me Home still ringing in our ears there was total CB accord, that had been brilliant. We’ve caught a few legends in massive, overpriced venues in the past year or so but this was up there with anything else we’ve experienced.

Not Dead Yet ? We should bloody well hope not !!!!