The Columbus Symphony Orchestra (CSO) keeps its ear to the ground looking for ways to keep a modern audience engaged and this weekend’s In the Air Tonight: A Symphonic Celebration of Genesis & Phil Collins did just that.
The symphony performed under the guidance of Stuart Chafetz, Principal Pops conductor of the CSO. Chafetz is a seasoned drummer who understands the intricacies of the legendary drummer/frontman’s tunes making him the perfect fit.
Chafetz was animated and captivating, complemented by the flashy suit he wore to honor the avant-garde style of Genesis and Collins. The audience stayed engaged with Chafetz the whole night, and its excitement was palpable when he would take the half-lap around the stage to sit at his drum set. When “Sussudio” was performed, the chorus was changed to “Stu-Stu-Studio” to recognize the conductor.
A pair of vocalists, Aaron Finley and Brook Wood, hosted the evening at Chafetz’s side, both with a decade of experience performing in New York City, and the performance was balanced between the pair. Some songs featured no vocals, however, such as “One More Night” and “Throwing It All Away.” As a secret superfan of Invisible Touch, the latter was the highlight of my night and I wish I could listen to the sax-heavy instrumental version on loop for the rest of the year.
Fans of Collins and Genesis’ poppier songs surely left the evening satisfied, as the setlist favored recognizable hits over more abstract or prog-rock installments from their respective discographies. Keen jokes about mistiming the drum fill in “In the Air Tonight” demonstrated the organizers’ awareness of their audience.
From a perfectly bitter “I Don’t Care Anymore” to an energetic “Abacab” and “Don’t You Lose My Number,” each track was executed with precision by some of central Ohio’s best musicians. “Take Me Home” gently wrapped up the evening before an encore of Collins’ “Two Hearts,” which had the audience out of its seats and moving around the Davidson Theatre.
The venue was intimate, comfortable and resonant for this performance. Tastefully lit with enough bright or dramatic colors to complement the music’s tone, it was easy to stay engaged and hear every note.