Steve Hackett – Hammersmith Apollo 29th November 2019
I must admit that despite being a Genesis fan for over ten years, I had never seen Steve Hackett live before. This was something I had wanted to do for a while, but I was concerned that it would be all instrumental and the songs would not be the same. When I found out he was playing one of my favourite Genesis albums in full in one of my favourite venues, I thought I had better give him a chance, so I got a circle ticket quite high up in the venue for this sold out show on the last night of the UK tour. The question I wanted to answer in this review, is was it worth seeing him live? Let’s find out.
I had never done a meet & greet before. It is not something I had any interest in as I had always believed that it is better to meet your heroes by chance rather than through payment. As it only cost about forty pounds to meet Steve Hackett and I had met him before at a Marillion show a couple of years ago, I decided to experience it for myself. It was nice to get a proper photo with him, he signed a couple of cd inlets for me and I gave him a business card, but it is not something I would do again if it was too expensive and we actually spoke a lot more a couple of years ago when I met him for free. In saying that Metallica can charge around four thousand pounds for a meet & greet and that is certainly a rip-off.
After hanging around in the foyer for a bit, chatting to a few people (including a member of the film crew) and meeting Genesis’ early non-musical sixth member Richard Macphail, I took my seat high up in the circle and awaited the show.
The first half was songs from 1979’s Spectral Mornings and his latest solo album ‘At The Edge Of Light’ (one of my albums of the year) while the second half was the whole of ‘Selling England By The Pound’.
The band consists of Steve Hackett (guitar & vocals), Nad Sylvan (lead vocals), Roger King (keyboards), Rob Townsend (sax, flute, percussion, keyboards & vocals), Jonas Reingold (bass guitar, twelve string & vocals) and Craig Blundell (drums & vocals). He was also joined by his brother John Hackett on flute for a couple of songs.
The show opened with ‘Every Day’, the first song on ‘Spectral Mornings’. There was then a bit of stage banter from Hackett that we would have to sit through the later stuff before we got to the Genesis album in the second half. The band then launched into the amazing ‘Under The Eye Of The Sun’ from the new album. The sound was a little quiet during the first couple of songs but there was nothing wrong with the musicianship and it is one of my favourite songs from the new album.
There were another two songs from ‘At The Edge Of Light’. These were ‘Fallen Walls and Pedestals’ and ‘Beasts in Our Time’ before the remainder of the first half was songs from ‘Spectral Mornings’. I would have liked to have heard more songs from the new album, but the three songs were got were lovely and you cannot play everything when you have three albums to represent.
‘The Virgin and the Gypsy’ is a low tempo folk song with acoustic guitar, synth pads but almost no drums apart from Craig Blundell holding a shaker. It was the first of two songs to feature John Hackett on flute and a very beautiful performance from everybody.
‘Tigermoth’ is a ghost story of two pilots who were shot down during the Second World War. It is eerie and dark and a much heavier contrast to the previous song.
The title track from ‘Spectral Mornings’ was next. Steve Hackett dedicated to somebody who said it was his favourite song, but I forgot the name. It is a beautiful instrumental piece and one that has inspired many guitarists.
I was expecting the koto to come out on the next song ‘The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere’ but was pleasantly surprised that it can be played perfectly on acoustic guitar. A very short instrumental but no less important for that.
As it is my favourite song on ‘Spectral Mornings’, I had been looking forward to finally hearing ‘Clocks - The Angel of Mons’ live for a long time. The ticking of the introduction was augmented by percussion and bass pedals. This was the highlight of a very strong first half and that is saying a lot. I thought Craig Blundell’s drum solo in the middle was amazing and there is no doubt he is one of the world’s best drummers. I have always believed that you can’t have a prog gig without that mighty drone of bass pedals and a drum solo from a world-class drummer.
After a short twenty-minute interval, we all took our seats again for the second half. As the album is well known to many and all the songs were played in sequence, I do not need to go into detail about each song, but I will mention a few of the highlights of the performance. Nad Sylvan can surely sing and his voice is as close to Peter Gabriel as anyone else can get. I also really enjoyed the jazz improvisation during ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’. It gave the song a new dimension as it is only around four minutes on the album. ‘Dancing with the Moonlit Knight’, ‘The Battle of Epping Forest’ and ‘The Cinema Show’ were also flawless renditions of three of the longest songs on the album but a special mention must go to ‘Firth of Fifth’ which was the highlight of the whole album performance and got its own well-deserved standing ovation.
After ‘Selling England By The Pound’, there was a much-deserved standing ovation before the band went into ‘Déjà Vu’ (written by Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel during the Selling sessions but not released on the album) and ‘Dance On a Volcano’ from ‘A Trick Of The Tail’. The latter was from the first Genesis album recorded without Peter Gabriel as lead singer and proved that Nad Sylvan can sing the Collins songs just as well as the Gabriel songs. A short encore followed with a new version of ‘Los Endos’ the closing song on ‘A Trick Of The Tail’.
It had been a wonderful evening and despite never having seen him live before, I now know what I had been missing for so long as that I had better try and see him live again. To answer the question from earlier in the review, the answer is yes. Genesis may never reform but while Steve Hackett is performing with wonderful musicians, we have the next best thing and as close to the albums as it is possible to get.