Wednesday 12th October 2022
Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London
Legendary former Genesis guitarist and 2021 WRC Best Prog Performance winner, Steve Hackett, completed his Foxtrot at Fifty + Hackett Highlights 25-date UK tour at London's Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith on Wednesday night. The bad news was that a holiday double-booking faux pas (as Mark C. put it in his review), meant that my regular partner in crime on our annual Hackett pilgrimage was absent, although the good news was that Mark, bless him, had taken in the Southend Cliffs Pavilion leg, on his tod, the week before, resulting in my usual levels of anticipation being heightened even further following his glowing review. Thanks mate, although how do I follow that?
Indeed, a week ago, whilst Mark was neatly folding his special edition Rush t-shirts into his suitcase, I was having a pint down our local, when the unmistakeable voice of a certain Mr. Collins filled the air. "I love Genesis" said our delightful barmaid Sheila. "I'm seeing Steve Hackett next week" I piped up. "Who?" was not the totally unexpected response. "You know - 'Foxtrot' - 1972 - 'Supper's Ready?" I pursued. Cue another blank look and the put down line - "Well, you are a lot older than me!" Harsh, but true. Fast forward to tonight and chatting before the gig with two Genesis fans, Simon and his mate, who admitted that they didn't really know much about Steve's solo stuff, however the lure of hearing this classic fourth Genesis album in its entirety was too good to miss. How right they were. Suffice to say that this tried and trusted 'Genesis Revisited' format of previous tours such as 'Wind & Wuthering' and 'Seconds Out', covers all the bases, hence yet another full house tonight.
As expected, part one was a whole set of solo material from Steve (guitars, vocals) and his regular band consisting of Roger King (keyboards), Jonas Reingold (bass, vocals), Nad Sylvan (vocals), Rob Townsend (sax, flute, keyboards percussion, vocals) and Craig Blundell (drums), that was identical to the Cliffs Pavilion set list, albeit with the delightful deviation of additional special guest (and Hackett's sister-in-law), Amanda Lehmann on vocals and guitar.
Spread across the vast Apollo stage, backed up by an equally impressive light show, the band, initially excluding Nad and Amanda, opened with the instrumental loosener, 'Ace Of Wands', from Steve’s first solo album, 1975’s ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’, with impressive multi-instrumentalist Rob already to the fore. "How are we doing London?", asked Steve, despite the 72 year-old then quite understandably, given the rigours of this 25-date tour, forgetting where they were the night before! With Halloween approaching, and taken from the first of his two lockdown albums, 2021's 'Surrender of Silence’, all that was missing from Roger's spooky intro on 'The Devil's Cathedral' was some manic laughter, although Nad did eerily appear, disappear and reappear with some devilish vocals, complemented by some sinister sax from Rob.
As Steve put it, it was now time for Amanda to join the "Boys Club", as the band reeled off two classics from his third solo album, 1979's 'Spectral Mornings', the first being the emotive title track that saw Jonas playing twin necked bass, followed by my personal favourite from the first set, 'Every Day', with not only its Genesis feel a joy to behold, but also some beautiful backing vocals plus Steve and Amanda's outstanding extended twin-lead dual guitar harmonies to boot. Eat your heart out Powell/Turner Gorham/Robertson!
Another from 'VOTA', the unusual time signature of 'A Tower Struck Down', originally recorded with some chaps named Rutherford and Collins, amongst others, ended with an equally gripping solo from Reingold, and a very apt 'Smoke On The Water' snippet from The Flower Kings bassist. The penultimate 'Camino Royale', from 1983’s ‘Highly Strung’ album, saw Hackett on the money with a rare, but great lead vocal, plus yet another awesome sax solo from the ace up his sleeve, Townsend. They closed out the first set with 'VOTA's tour-de-force, 'Shadow of the Hierophant', given the presence of Lehmann, this time in its entirety, that grew and grew into such a forceful crescendo, of which Blundell's drumming had to be seen (and heard) to be believed. Just make sure you catch Craig with his other band, Frost, when they play London's Islington Assembly Hall on Thursday 1st December. So, all in all, a brilliant first half and still 'Foxtrot' to come!
The video that accompanied our aforementioned review at Southend, amusingly captured a very frustrated fan trying to film 'Foxtrot' opener, 'Watcher Of The Skies', as fellow punters returning late to their seats, blocked his view! Suffice to say the queues tonight were mainly for the Gents, but most returned in time for King's effortless intro to this Genesis classic, as Sylvan's red eyes shone in the darkness standing on his plinth. As well as his outstanding voice being a perfect fit for 'Genesis Revisited', Nad also has a real presence as a performer, even without Gabriel's props and costumes, very fittingly raising his telescope at the end of this iconic song, towards the sky. Indeed, some may have detected a touch of Collins from the Swedish hybrid on 'Time Table', that also saw Townsend doubling up on keys, as the band (excluding Lehmann for the second half) continued to perfectly recreate and perform the wonderful 'Get 'Em Out By Friday', followed by 'Can-Utility and the Coastliners', which saw Reingold swap his bass for a second guitar.
Time for Steve to step up to the solo acoustic plate and play 'Horizons', a masterful performance, where you could have heard the proverbial pin drop, before Foxtrot's final pièce de résistance, and in my humble opinion, one of the most definitive Prog tracks of all time, if the not the best, 'Supper's Ready'. This was the real pinnacle of the night and to a man they absolutely nailed this 23 minute plus monster, with Hackett's obligatory extended solo rounding off the performance of this classic album, voted sixth best album of all time in Prog magazine. Suffice to say the tear of joy running down the side of my face said it all. Cue a fully deserved standing ovation, band introductions from Steve, a loving dedication to his wife Jo, but best of all, a cuddle with his dear Mum who movingly made her way to the front of the stage. A feel good end to a feel good evening.
It couldn't get any better? Could it? Well yes it did! After the Hackett faithful finally reclaimed their composure, joy of joys as the band returned for King's keyboard intro to yet another classic, 'Firth of Firth', a very welcome bonus from 1973's 'Selling England by the Pound'. Finally, Craig Blundell's very powerful solo segued very nicely along with the return of Amanda Lehmann and her trusty red guitar, into a closing flourish of a merged 'Los Endos/Slogans'. As we made our way home happy via Hammersmith tube, we reflected that's Steve's extensive solo back-catalogue is now as big as his Genesis work, which is a nice problem to have. Whatever his 'Genesis Revisited' project brings to the table on its expected return next year (any chance of a bit of 'At The Edge Of Light'?), we can't wait! Indeed, as that well known adage goes - 'I Know What I Like ....'