The DVD Phil Collins-Going Back: Live At Roseland Ballroom, NYC is proof that a passion for songs doesn’t necessarily mean they should be included in your repertoire. Yes, Motown is part of Collins’ roots, which he makes sure to tell the audience during the course of the two hour show. But his decision to record his versions of these classics was a misguided one. Sure, songs like "Jimmy Mack", "Heatwave", and "Ain’t Too Proud To Beg" were part of the reason Collins became a musician. If he could do them justice, this project would have merit. But Collins doesn't have it in him to make this happen. Hiring The Funk Brothers (Bob Babbit, Eddie Willis, and Ray Monette) to be part of his band was not the key to giving the project integrity. He would need more than the original players to make this work. He would need to channel a good helping of their soulfulness, as well.
Collins cuts an odd figure up there on the Roseland stage. Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and silver/gray tie, he looks more like a mortician than a pop singer.
Unfortunately, too, Collins performance is hardly dynamic; his vocals for the most part are bland and uninspired. His stage patter is limited to explaining the reasons behind the project and introducing his band. Good thing he gives the musicians multiple shout outs, since it is his band and backup singers that give this show its energy.
Only once during the performance does Collins triumph. His version of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" is nothing short of brilliant: a dark, moody, haunting rendition that hits the mark perfectly.
The real problem here is that, except for this single shining moment, the presentation smacks of Vegas schmaltz. These songs deserve a whole lot better treatment than Collins’ by-the-book vocalizing. He would have been better off putting his energies into an album’s worth of new material instead of hauling out these disappointing cover versions.