Last year, during Genesis' Turn It On Again Tour, I travelled to such exotic places as Hartford, San Jose and Sacramento to see them, but I still remember the first time I travelled out of town (out of state no less!) to see Phil Collins.
This was in 1994, in support of the album "Both Sides". The album didn't do as well in the States as Phil's prior releases - it was darker and more introspective and sounded the least like what casual fans of his expected. And the darker, more introspective, and unexpected nature of the songs is probably the reasons why it's one of my favorite albums of his.
On that tour, he played The Great Western Forum in Los Angeles on two nights, and I'm sure I must have gone to one of them, even though I don't remember it. But I do know that about a week prior to his L.A. dates, I saw him at the Grand Garden Arena at the MGM Hotel on July 30. I don't remember how or why I decided to see him in Las Vegas. I hadn't been visiting Las Vegas much back then, and I certainly wasn't travelling to see concerts or shows. I do remember that I had mentioned wanting to go to a friend, and she was coincidentally going to be in Las Vegas with her family that same weekend, and she wanted to see him too, so she suggested that we go to the concert together. I said ok, but that I was going to be wanting the best tickets available, so if there weren't two good seats together, I'd be buying two separate seats, and I was going to keep the better seat. She knew how much I liked Phil, even back then, and I wasn't about to have a conversation with her anyway during Phil's concert, so she agreed. I did end up getting two separate seats, about 4 rows apart but in the same section, with the closer seat on the aisle, so I was going to take that one.
I ended up driving out to Las Vegas with a different friend, and we hung out except for the night of the concert. She spent the evening doing her own thing, and I met up with my other friend for dinner before the concert. When we walked into the arena, we found and took our respective seats. I looked around, and I remember thinking it was a pretty good seat. I was at a level where I had a good view of the stage - not too high, not too low - and I was relatively close. And I was on the aisle, so I had a little more room.
The tour had travelled west in the States, and I had been following the tour and reading reviews on a Phil Collins mailing list, so I knew how the concert would proceed. When the concert started, the house lights went off and the lights on the stage went on, as well as moving spotlights everywhere, and then Phil started singing. I knew from reading the reviews that he would appear at the top of the arena somewhere and then make his way down to the stage. As everyone looked around for him, I finally saw him - he was making his way to the stage via the aisle right next to me. Oh my goodness. How amazing was that? It took him maybe 30 seconds to get to me. As he was walking down, people were patting him on the back or touching his arms, which he probably expected since he was walking among the general audience. In that 30 seconds, I had to think about what I was going to do. Was I going to touch his arm or pat his back? Could I touch him at all? Normally, that would be rude, and I'm not prone to being intrusive to celebrities, but this was a case where it would be totally acceptable. My mind raced in those few seconds, as he sang and came closer and closer. And ultimately, I couldn't do it. I was a stranger to him, and it wasn't like I was introducing myself and shaking his hand, and even though he was presenting himself for the opportunity for strangers to touch him, I couldn't do it. I don't regret it - I don't see that it would have made any difference in my life if I *had* touched him. But just having him walk down the stairs RIGHT NEXT TO ME was the thrill that couldn't be topped.
It was a great concert, and I had a great time. After the concert, the friend and I talked about the concert a bit, and then she went back to her room and family. I was too wired to go back to my room or go to sleep, and I just wanted to relive the concert in my head, so I tried to find somewhere just to hang out. I remember that trying to find somewhere just to sit - not gamble, not drink - at the MGM that Saturday night was near impossible. I think I eventually found somewhere, though I can't really remember much else. The next day as we were driving home, I know I talked off the ear of the friend that I'd driven to Las Vegas with, and she very graciously indulged me by asking questions and actually being interested in everything, and I do mean *everything*, I was telling her about the concert. She said it was actually fun to listen to how excited I was as I told her the stories.
I did see Phil at the Grand Garden Arena again, this time during the "First Final Farewell Tour" in August of 2004.
But I will never forget the feeling I got when I first saw him and realized he was going to be coming down my aisle on the night of July 30, 1994.