"Here I am," British rock star Phil Collins told a handful of reporters Monday night at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv. The former Genesis drummer and solo singer will play Monday night at the city's Bloomfield stadium in front of a crowd of some 15,000 fans.
Collins's visit was doubtful just last week when he came down with a cold and postponed two concerts in Prague for a later date. But his voice is okay now, and the man behind such hits as "Sussudio," "In the Air Tonight" and "Another Day in Paradise" said he was excited to be here and give Israeli fans a show to remember.
"From my point of view, this tour is a series of firsts," said Collins about this leg of his First Final Farewell Tour. "Except for some [places in Europe], this is my first time in a lot of the cities... A few years ago it wasn't possible to play in many of these places."
Before coming to Tel Aviv, Collins rocked Beirut on November 5. He is next headed to Dubai.
"The Middle East route is one that has been trod often in the past, and, should the calm in the region remain, it will again become a popular route," producer Shuki Weiss told The Jerusalem Post.
"It would be nice if the Middle East would become part of the rock route," Collins agreed.
"The show in Beirut was wonderful and the show in Tel Aviv will hopefully be as wonderful," said the rock-pop musician, who now also dabbles in jazz and has scored a number of Disney soundtracks.
"Unless people have seen me play abroad most people here have no idea what they're going to see. It's really a great show."
While asked a number of politically charged questions, Collins instead said, "I'm an entertainer. I'm not here to preach politics."
In answer to questions shot at him, Collins said he was not afraid to be here. He noted that he was not continuing on to the Palestinian Authority areas because he 'was not invited.' He also mused that he doesn't understand what all the fuss is about in the region.
"To me there are no boundaries," he said. "We had to stop at Larnaca from Beirut to here. I don't get it but those are the rules. I wish it wasn't like this ... I think it's a shame, that's all."
"You can see Phil Collins's visit as an opening of gates for other musicians. Tel Aviv is safer than in the past few years, and if this continues more artists will want to come here," said Weiss.
The top cities in the world in which to catch concerts include London, New York, Toronto and Sydney. "Tel Aviv could be on the list. Until five or six years ago, I'd say it was one of the main places artists wanted to perform.
If Tel Aviv were in North America it would already be at the top of the list," Weiss told the Post. "Again, so long as the political situation remains calm, people will continue to perform here. When I'm in contact with musicians, they only ask about the safety here. They already know Tel Aviv is a hopping city with a great culture beat." Although titled a 'farewell' tour, Collins told reporters this is not the end of his run on stage. He said this will be his last large-scale tour because he wants more family time, but foresees showcase concerts in the future. "I won't ever give up performing. It's who I am. And I love it," he said.
Phil Collins plays Bloomfield Stadium at 20:00 on Monday in Tel Aviv. Tickets, NIS 360 to 420, are still available at all ticket agencies.
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