Rock icons have long peppered history with legacies that carry on to this day.
One of the most beloved icons is and always will be Phil Collins.
Not only has the English drummer singer-songwriter been widely successful, but he’s also a true staple in anyone’s musical diet—with classic hits that we come back to time and time again. Collins most notably performed in the band Genesis and also entertains a widely popular solo career. There are some who even revere him as the “Godfather” of popular culture. This multi-talented man had a vision, and there’s no denying his widespread influence, forever etching himself in music history.
Choosing one song is difficult, but”In The Air Tonight” remains a highly praised hit.
An international success, “In The Air Tonight” has arguably been one of Collins’ best known and most loved songs ever.
With haunting lyrics, an ambient atmosphere and a highly-memorable drum solo, Collins created a world of his own. The song was released as the lead single off of Collins’ 1981 debut solo album Face Value. It went on to become one of his best-known hits, and perhaps even his signature song. Musically, the drums have been referenced as some of the sleekest and most melodramatic in history. Undoubtedly, Collins created the template for all eighties drums to follow.
While the studio version creates a perfectly haunting atmosphere, there’s nothing like the experience of a live performance.
So it’s no surprise that this performance from June 2004 in Paris, France is even better than the original!
The performance was filmed and released on DVD as “Finally…The First Farewell Tour,” a full concert release.
This song appears as the very first song on the second disc, and it does not delay in making a memorable entrance. As he readies himself for a moody blue stage, electronic synth-pop sounds work to generate a true vibe.
As the familiar beat begins to play out, the audience swells with cheers and applause at the sight of Collins entering the stage.
Equipped with a headset, he fearlessly commands the entire arena, belting out the well-known lyrics.
As he moves into the first chorus, the audience receives him in revelry, clapping in unison. He reminds us of the ever-moody and dramatic monologue we’ve all come to know and love:
“Well if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand
I’ve seen your face before, my friend, but I don’t know if you know who I am
Well I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin
I know where you’ve been
It’s all been a pack of lies.”
It’s no surprise that there has been speculation around the meaning of this timeless classic.
Urban myths and tales surround the lyrics of the song, claiming that there is a dark backstory.
Many have gone on to claim that a young Collins once watched as a man drowned another man, but he was too far away to help. While the theme may present itself as somewhat macabre, Collins has gone on to debunk any myths surrounding it.
In a BBC World interview he claimed:
“I don’t know what this song is about. When I was writing this I was going through a divorce. And the only thing I can say about it is that it’s obviously in anger. It’s the angry side, or the bitter side of a separation. So what makes it even more comical is when I hear these stories which started many years ago, particularly in America, of someone come up to me and say, “Did you really see someone drowning?” I said, “No, wrong.” And then every time I go back to America the story gets Chinese whispers, it gets more and more elaborate. It’s so frustrating, ’cause this is one song out of all the songs probably that I’ve ever written that I really don’t know what it’s about, you know.”
But one thing everyone can agree on is that his live performance is something to behold. Better than the original? We think yes!
Ready for an experience? Check out this classically chilling version in the video below!
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See It Live
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