Steve Hackett's Genesis Revisited
Thursday 4th October
The Royal Festival Hall, London
Some might say that it must be a reviewer's dream not only to attend a gig without a support band, but also to review a gig where the Prog genre dictates that you only get to see ten or so songs at most! Well last Thursday night's Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited gig at London's Festival Hall was a case of a dream come true - an evening of outstanding quality rather than quantity, spanning the ex-Genesis guitarist's rich musical career.
This was the third night of his eight date UK tour, and as Steve rightly said in his introduction, "We have a slightly bigger band than usual tonight!" Step forward Nad Sylvan (vocals), Roger King (keyboards), Rob Townsend (clarinet, flute and keyboards), Gary O'Toole (drums) and Jonas Reingold (bass and guitars) plus a 41 piece Heart Of England Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Bradley Thachuk, thrown in for good measure! Understandably, the jury was out for the Genesis fans present as to the choice of such a sterile/classical venue plus the possible orchestral dilution of some of their treasured classics. Indeed the setting was so different to London's Lyceum Theatre back in 1971 as some Festival Hall late arrivals annoyed us Proggers by making their way to their seats well after this gig had kicked off!
Anyway, rightfully taking centre stage, Hackett effortlessly opened with 'A Trick Of The Tail's' delightful 'Dance On A Volcano', in immediate harmony with Townsend's clarinet, with the baton wielding Thacuk already leaping around in the background and the pony-tailed Reingold meaning business on his multi-necked guitar. O'Toole's driving drums heralded Hackett's instrumental 'Out Of The Body' from his 2015 solo album 'Wolflight', which nicely led straight into another instrumental - the power and depth of the Philharmonic never being more evident than on 'The Steppes' - from another solo album 'Defector', released way back in 1980 - with both Townsend's clarinet solo and the booted and suited O'Toole's pounding drumming embellishing its mystical feel.
King's spine-tingling keys from Genesis's 'Selling England By The Pound' on the classic 'Firth Of Fifth', saw the larger than life Sylvan continue to step very nicely into Gabriel's very large size 9's, although Hackett's guitar solo had to be seen to be believed, complemented by another stand-out clarinet solo by Townsend. "Still love lots of these songs" Hackett enthused. "So do we" came the reply from the cheap seats. "Cheques in the post" Steve replied as he continued with another from 'Selling England By The Pound', in fact its beautiful/magical opening track 'Dancing With The Moonlight Night', Nad's a cappella intro setting the scene as Hackett picked up the pace with another guitar masterclass. Steve's acoustic flamenco intro on 'Blood On The Rooftops' from 'Wind & Wuthering' not only reminded us that there was indeed a regenesis after Gabriel, but also O'Toole's cool vocal whilst tubthumping (how do they do that?) brought back glorious memories of said Mr. Collins. 'Shadow Of The Hierophant', from 1975's 'The Acolyte', wrapped up the first half, and if any song affirmed the natural synthesis of the band, the orchestra and the venue, then this was it. Joined by Amanda Lehmann, the fusion of her delicate vocal, the power of both the band (particularly Reingold's bass) and the orchestra, and some great lighting, produced a spellbinding ending to a splendid first half - of course, the silver Proggers as well, are always grateful for a comfort break!
After the interval, they returned with another brace from 'Wind & Wuthering' - namely the oriental flavoured intro to the instrumental 'In That Quiet Earth' - a real opening loosener - melded with 'Afterglow' - Hackett's distinctive opening riff leading the way for Sylvan to dispatch it with another class vocal. Indeed, talking to Nad afterwards about dealing with the conflicting vocal styles of both Gabriel and Collins, Nad said that he just interprets things his way - making it his own. Well, on the evidence, Sylvan certainly keeps these songs alive and kicking. Hackett then introduced 'Serpentine Song' from his 2003 album 'Watch The Storms' - Steve reminiscing about family times spent by Hyde Park's lake - particularly fitting as his flautist brother John made it a family affair on this moving number with Amanda joining in again on some really delicious vocal harmonies. The opening to the instrumental 'El Nino' from last year's 'Night Siren' always has me thinking of Jeff Wayne's 'War Of The Worlds'. Not at all a criticism, more the fact that it immediately smacks you round the chops, even more so given a 41 piece orchestra, with O'Toole's bouncy drumming keeping tabs with Hackett's out of this world fret work.
Hackett then sat down with his acoustic guitar - cue the defining moment of the evening and the final song. Indeed if any track totally defined 70's Prog then I defy you to find anything more poignant than 'Supper's Ready' from their album 'Foxtrot'. It really has everything. The combination of Hackett, Sylvan, Reingold (guitar) Townsend (flute), O'Toole, King and Thacuk's orchestra, in the early construction of this masterpiece, was truly breathtaking. The audience of course then chipped in in unison shouting "A Flower", before it was "All Change" as they all took us to that promised land with THAT mesmerising keys solo from the exceptional King before Hackett and Sylvan left us with tears of joy with THAT outro! It was indeed the mighty one. Well worth dining out on. 26 minutes of perfection. So, how on earth do you find an encore to follow that? Well 'Nursery Cryme's 'The Musical Box' made a good fist of it - guaranteeing that the faithful hit the long road home as merry old souls after a wonderful night of good old Prog. Suffice to say, that in the end Thacuk's outstanding orchestra and the excellent venue did indeed complement Hackett's outstanding trusty musicians and music. It was truly immense. And despite the promise of a live DVD (the gig was filmed) and the fact that Steve returns with his 'Selling England By The Pound' tour in November 2019 - I can't wait that long! See you then at The London Palladium tonight!