After piling up hit singles over three decades, it is easy to forget that Phil Collins is a superlative drummer with a unique sound. Fortunately, the former Genesis frontman's percussion skills -- as well as his many other facets as an entertainer -- were showcased during an exhilarating two-hour gig.

After piling up hit singles over three decades, it is easy to forget that Phil Collins is a superlative drummer with a unique sound. Fortunately, the former Genesis frontman’s percussion skills — as well as his many other facets as an entertainer — were showcased during an exhilarating two-hour gig.

Show opened with one of its most riveting moments: the customary drum duet between Collins and Chester Thompson, enriched by the addition of Cuban percussionist Luis Conte on congas and timbales. Conte added some tasty Afro-Latin touches to the mix, but it was the interplay between Thompson’s rock-solid rhythm and Collins’ predilection for melodic tom-tom fills that generated passages of unusual beauty and sophistication.

What followed was a never-ending parade of hits, from the punchier numbers off his first three solo albums to the gentle fare from Disney movies such as “Tarzan” and “Brother Bear.” Often dismissed as a corny pop balladeer, Collins deflects that criticism with the soulful craftsmanship beneath the hyper-romantic chorus of “Against All Odds” or the addictive eight-note piano line of “Another Day in Paradise.”

Collins used his acting skills to add drama and imagination to “In the Air Tonight” (perhaps the best tune he has written) and the “Duke”-era Genesis nugget “Misunderstanding.”

The singer’s expertly coordinated band — which included a four-piece brass section and six backup vocalists — added to the fun with goofy dance moves and silly routines.

Collins’ spectacle can be a little too cute for its own good at times, but the man’s sincerity and willingness to poke fun at himself are hard to resist.

Phil Collins

Staples Center, Los Angeles; 16,000 seats; $95 top

Production

Presented by Clear Channel Entertainment and Nederlander Concerts. Reviewed Aug. 31, 2004.

Cast

Band: Phil Collins, Daryl Stuermer, Chester Thompson, Harry Kim, Arturo Velasco, Luis Conte, Brad Cole, Leland Sklar, Daniel Fornero and others.
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