Phil Collins – Live at Montreux (2012)

Photograph by Norman Watson

If somebody told me, before a 1996 concert, that Phil Collins was going to be performing “Los Endos” — the closing track from 1976′s A Trick of the Tail, Genesis’ first project after Peter Gabriel’s departure — I would have been thrilled.

That there were also a smattering of additional solo and band hits of note, including “In the Air Tonight,” “Against All Odds,” “That’s All” and “Invisible Touch,” would have been gravy, right? There’s even a deep cut on the concert bill — “The West Side,” from 1982′s Hello, I Must Be Going.

Then, the lights go up — and Collins is sitting at the drums. So far, so good, right? Not so fast. He’s behind a full big-band amalgam, featuring David Sanborn on saxophone and Quincy Jones gesticulating wildly as conductor.

Wait, what?

This is the startling bonus material found on Live at Montreux, a 2-CD live document due on May 1, 2012, from Eagle Rock Entertainment, recorded by Collins in 1996 at the legendary jazz festival of the same name. Well, it’s “legendary” if you want jazz. Not so much if you’re forced to endure prog and pop songs reformulated into new ring-a-ding swingers. Then, it’s just weirdly transfixing.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett talks about collaborating with Chris Squire, the deep impact of Bach and a lasting passion for his old band.]

The nadir — so stunningly, indescribably inappropriate that I actually watched it two times in a row — can be found on “In the Air Tonight,” originally this stark nightmare-scape from Collins’ underrated 1981 solo debut Face Value. An especially bawdy — and I’m giving you that he’s typically bawdy — Sanborn blasts his way through the lyric, following it word for word with a spittle-flying ferocity. The result is something that sounds like elevator music being played a back-alley tweaker.

And this is coming from somebody who actually likes David Sanborn.

OK. That’s Disc 2 of Live at Montreux, you say, something that follows a main program from 2004 featuring Collins’ conventional band — hey, there’s longtime Genesis touring member Daryl Stuermer! — playing just about every one of his hits. In fact, there’s 25 tracks on that disc alone. There’s “Sussudio” and “Two Hearts,” and there’s “One More Night” and “I Missed Again.” There’s “Easy Lover” (though duet partner Philip Bailey is sorely, sorely missed) and “Separate Lives” (Marilyn Martin, not so much), and there’s “Another Day in Paradise” and “Don’t Lose My Number.”

I’ve got to be honest, though. Even Collins’ spirited take on “In the Air Tonight” from the ’04 Montreux appearance (embedded above) — is there a more famous drum fill in the history of rock? — couldn’t completely erase from my mind the car-wreck images of Sanborn, goose-honking away on the big band version.

Stick with Disc 1.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.