Review & Photography by Manny Manson
A night of ‘Prog’ mastery might not be to everyone’s liking, but the closer the night came the more I found myself looking forward to it. I’ll confess now that I’m not the biggest Genesis fan out there, in fact I’d say that when they became three, they lost their way a little as Phil Collins, as good as he might be is definitely no Peter Gabriel.
Thankfully this was going to be a night pre those ‘pop’ years, and in so, something that I could at least relate to in part. I had listened to the early albums at school thanks to a fellow room-mate (yes, I was at boarding school), we’ll call him Harry Hernia, if you’re reading this buddy, I hope you and the family are well. Harry was a devote Genesis fan and later he also had a liking for the Police, band not force.
If we’d been down to the TV room or into the kitchen to make tea and toast, we’d often go back to the ‘Dorm’ and Harry would be lying on his bed with ‘A Trick of a Tail’ or ‘A Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’ playing out, and as good room mates we’d hurl stuff at him and generally mess with his listening pleasure.
Several years on, 40+, I find myself waiting to see Mr Steve Hackett who, I hope, is going to take me for a trip down memory lane.
The first set we have a selection of some of his solo work, a great selection drawn from the numerous albums he’s thrown out since the Genesis days. It’s also a good time to see what sort of pictures can be had. Starting off with ‘Clock – The Angel of Mons’ off the 1979, ‘Spectral Mornings’, with its tick tock intro and almost film like score, to wet the appetites of the crowd of mainly aging old men, we see classic Hackett, stage centre caressing his instrument as the tune flows effortlessly from his fingers. Behind him, his collection of ‘musos’ for this tour wait on his subtle commands as he constructs each aural masterpiece much to the delight of the crowd.
He follows this with ‘Held in the Shadows’ and then it’s back to 1979 again for ‘Everyday’. ‘The Devils Cathedral’ from the new album ‘Surrender of Silence’ brings us to the set ender ‘Shadow of the Hierophant’, from that 1975 master piece ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’. Unfortunately, Amanda Lehmann isn’t with us tonight so we don’t get her stunning lyrics.
Throughout the set we are treated to a spectacular light show, always something to behold but tonight the Lighting chap has his work cut out as each song has a unique light pattern, timed to work seamlessly and to enhance the pleasure of each track. A great job although a bit better lighting on Mr Hackett would have sealed the deal.
Hackett has place himself centre stage, not in a big-headed way but as a link between both sides of the stage. Surrounded with what seems like every foot pedal in the shop, he deftly controls the layout of each song, this is a songwriter making sure the songs are given a true hearing. His guitar, for most of the night is a stunning looking Gold Top, you’d be forgiven in thinking it was the typical Gibson Les Paul affair but it is in fact a Fernandez complete with Tremolo bar for some whammy excitement, and boy does it sound sweet.
No distortion, this isn’t a hard rock band, the sound is pure with each note hanging in the air as Hackett, weaves his spell on the already mesmerised crowd, quiet throughout, but standing to cheer and applauded after each song.
Hackett has surrounded himself with a stunning group of musicians, Nad Sylvan is of course on vocals, why would you go anywhere else. This guy’s vocals suit Hackett’s song writing perfectly. His understated delivery is precise, capturing the essence of Hackett’s hand, as they build each song before going off to explore the instrumental greatness that surrounds him, at which point Nad either sits down or for the longer passages, simply walks off stage. Priceless stage craft from this old lovie, he is easily Gabriel’s or Collin’s equal in his poetic delivery of this ex-Genesis guitar maestro’s lyrics.
The second set see’s us back in familiar territory, this is the ‘Seconds Out’ segment and for a large part of the crowd, the big draw for tonight’s show.
Starting off with that Gabriel Classic, the one of him famously dressed as the disfigured, deformed creature, ‘Squonk’. It merely tells the tale of this legendary, hemlock forest dwelling mystical beast, covered in loose skin and warts, who hides itself away due to its ugly appearance, spending most of its time weeping mournfully, and reputed to have the ability to dissolve into a pool of tears and bubbles when confronted only to pass on its contagious misery. Again, Sylvan’s voice conveys the excitement and misery of this fine song. And although the first in the second set firmly remains my favourite of the night.
‘Carpet Crawlers’ with its heavy metaphoric lyrics follows and then the descriptive narrative that is ‘Robbery, Assault and Battery’. As in all early Genesis material, it feels like the lyrics were written more as a poetical short story with the music being weaved around the narrative, afterwards, but then isn’t that the recipe for ‘Prog’ in general.
‘Afterglow ‘sees an almost orchestral back sound as King, Reingold and Townsend deliver a sublime back drop for Hackett to weave a subtle guitar whilst Sylvan’s voice, sublimely, delivers another, outstanding lyrical delivery, what a voice.
‘Firth of Fifth’ carries on with King, looking for all the world like Neil Tenants father, tickles the ivories, delicately, at times, in the introduction to the song before Sylvan chimes in again in his now controlled fashion, sounding like the best parts of Collins and Gabriel rolled into one great voice. Hackett’s delicate use of the ‘Whammy bar’, howl’s as he divebombs us into a delicious Alto Sax passage provided by the man at the front, Rob Townsend; who then proceeds to instigate a hand clap.
Hackett has stood back, clapping along, smiling at the proceedings, as the song slowly builds, he joins in with a fluid, ‘hammer on’ filed solo complete with right-handed fret tapping.
With him stood centre stage he show his mastery as we all hang on every note, each dripping with gold as he shows us why he is so damn good, Blundell thus far unmentioned, is holding it tunefully tight with his voyages around the vast kit in front of him, never over playing, after all it is Prog. Sylvan jumps back in to bring the song to its untimely end accompanied by King on the ivories. A huge crowd pleaser as they are on their feet before its finished.
‘I Know What You Like (In Your Wardrobe)’ follows with its narrated introduction and crowd sing along to the hook, the light show is simply stunning as the band put this tune through its paces, Hackett obviously enjoying it as he sings along.
Townsend is out again, this time with a big bendy Tenor sax as he plays seemingly random notes, Hackett is smiling and laughing at him, he sits on the drum riser looking around with a huge smile as Townsends some what Jazz inspired solo shows how a sax solo sounds, as he and Blundell on drums have an impromptu jam session, Sylvan with tambourine in hand intervenes briefly and then we get a jam between Hackett and Townsend who, eventually, admits defeat and leaves the maestro to blow the cobwebs away with a devastating display down in the dirty end, right hand again playing up the neck, he was doing this back in the early 70’s way before a lot of the more popular ‘axemen’ had got out of their cots. Another crowd standing moment.
We’re getting warmed up now, Hackett has moved over towards Reingold as Sylvan starts up with ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’. Reingolds simply stunning bass cuts through amidst the rising cacophony of sound, lights are dancing around the venue as this bouncy tune gives way to ‘Musical Box’ I have to admit at getting a bit lost here as it would seem they only play the closing section to this 11minute song. Partly down to my unfamiliarity to the tune. Reingold is now seated as he plays a rhythmical part for Hackett to solo over delicately at first as the song builds as this to a climatic release of orchestral sorts with a whammy bar trill thrown in for good measure
‘Suppers Ready’ with Hackett sat, acoustic ringing out, we slowly wander through this song of epic proportions. A whole side of the 1972 break though album ‘Foxtrot’ started as a kind of follow up to Musical box, originally starting out as a tune called Willow Farm, they decided to take it outside the norm and give the listener something they weren’t expecting. And what a cracker of a song for it. Superbly orchestrated the song romps along through several distinctive passages filling the crowd with delight, there’s a chap in front who must have visited a pharmaceutical outlet prior to the show such is his demonstration of joy, he’s back in a smoke filled, cushioned room full of long haired hippies passing round delights to enhance their enjoyment, he’s not sat still all evening, and is amongst the first to his feet to applaud.
‘The Cinema Show’ rolls into ‘Aisle of Plenty’ to finish the night off. With yet more stunning lighting sees a myriad of stun stars flashing from behind, the obligatory smoke reflecting the light as it cascades across the set. Hackett’s guitar is sounding distinctly Eastern as Sylvan gently sings the opening of this great song. Such a controlled delivery from this slightly eccentric looking vocalist, again multi-instrumentalist Townsend delivers a flute passage to challenge Ian Anderson.
Hackett’s fingers yet again are running like little pink maggots across the neck of his guitar as he deftly weaves a tune alongside Townsend on Alto sax, Reingold has now gotten a double neck as he first bashes a bass line and then follows it up on the 12 string guitar as the sax and Hackett’s guitar jam it out, in fact Townsend sits down on the keyboard riser. Kings repetitive keyboard work has been faultless throughout. Classic Steve Hackett, as he wanders around effortlessly playing, not needing to stomp on any boxes during the quieter moments of his works, he brings the song to is conclusion and ultimately the set.
With a humble form of farewell the band leaves the stage amidst cheers for more. Having learnt from years of gig going, you never leave until the house lights come on, so far, they had remained off. I’d checked out the set list from previous nights, so I knew we had a little bit more to go to complete the already great night.
After a quick wet and a wipe with a cloth, the band come back on to rapturous applause.
We start back with the stunning track from ‘Trick of the Tail’, the tune ‘Dance on a Volcano’ has some of the crowd re-seated as the band commence through this song of try and failure, with its references to blue and green crosses, a nod to nerve gas shells from WW1, certainly seems out of context or is the song about peace and warfare, looking after the planet or the planets ultimate demise, in any case we better start doing it, right?
Craig Blundell gets a chance to show how good he is behind the kit. As a budding drummer myself, this guy is simply off the chart. His timing is chronographic as he belts out syncopated rhythm’s interspersed with delightful riffs on the toms, and the many cymbals adorning his kit. With arms flailing like an octopus, it’s obvious where Animal got his playing style from. A stunning break from the proceedings.
Finishing the night off we have ‘Los Endos’ an impromptu exploration of guitar sounds and aural imagery which no doubt delight those pharmaceutical enhanced members of aforementioned crowd.
For this everyone who can, is standing. The aisles are blocked as grown men play air guitar and ‘dad dance’ to this sonic delight of guitar, sax and drums. It’s obvious Hackett has enjoyed the night as he brings it all to an end with a squealing, repetitive whammy bar driving dive bomb attack and a huge smile.
A simply stunning night and one I’ll remember for a very long time. Hackett is simply ridiculous with a guitar in his hands. No sound is out of bounds to him as he ply’s his craft.
Stand out has to be the opener ‘Squonk’ for its back story based on a tale of woe and sadness, a song I’ve loved since reading and understanding the lyric years ago, Awesome.
The night has been a voyage down memory lane. As I find myself writing my review, it has become increasingly harder to put words together due to the memories, hearing these songs again for the first time in 40 plus years, have evoked.
Music has a magical way of tying itself to memories, both good and bad, and tonight has been great on all fronts.
Mr Hackett, I salute you and the band, a great night!