Steve Hackett

Monday 3rd October 2022

Cliffs Pavilion, Southend

I find myself in the unfamiliar territory of the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, for this years Hackett pilgrimage: after a holiday faux pas of near-Withnail proportions (booked a week of sun and completely overlooked the fact I had a ticket for Hammersmith), I starting panicking when I thought every other reachable venue was whilst I was away, before I managed to redeem things with what turned out to be a quite chilly and blowy evening in Essex.

Tonight was scheduled to follow the delightfully proven format of a set of Hackett solo material followed by a classic Genesis (for ‘classic’, read ‘when Steve was with them’ ) album in full. After 'Wind & Wuthering' and 'Seconds Out', tonight we are invited to celebrate the 50th (!) anniversary of 'Foxtrot'.

I’ve long held the thought that 1972 was THE year for me, music wise. Although (slightly) too young to have enjoyed it at the time (unlike our esteemed editor), if I had to stick with one year for the rest of my days, this would be the one (have a skim through the album charts for that year if you don’t believe me). But, even amongst a year of absolute treasures, 'Foxtrot' is one of the jewels in the crown (apologies for the mangled metaphors), and not just because of you know what.

But before all that, there was a whole set of solo material to enjoy.

No band changes, so Steve is joined by Roger King (keyboards), Rob Townsend (blowy things, tappy things, vocals and keyboards when Roger has run out of hands), Jonas Reingold on bass, 12 string and vocal, and Craig Blundell on drums. Nad Sylvan provides lead vocal for the Genesis tracks and occasionally elsewhere.

The band take the stage and open with 'Ace of Wands', one of three tracks tonight from Steve’s first solo album, 1975’s ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’. If the band are paid by the note, Rob Townsend earned most of his money for tonight from this one track, being exceptionally busy throughout

The one newish track of the evening (everything else dating before 1984) is 'The Devil’s Cathedral' from 2021’s ‘Surrender of Silence’. Lesser review sites might say that this was introduced by Roger’s dark and ominous organ, but we’re above that sort of cheap double-entendre here at Wrinkly Towers. Nad gets an early entry to proceedings having delivered the vocal on the album recording.. indeed, the touring band here tonight were all the recording musicians for this track.

This was followed by a double header from 1979’s ‘Spectral Mornings’, the wonderfully evocative title track itself and the evergreen 'Every Day'. No Amanda Lehmann tonight so only a four part vocal (Steve, Nad, Rob, and Jonas) and no 2nd guitar adding depth, but still a delightfully full sound.

Another one from 'VotA' that I’ve not heard live before, 'A Tower Struck Down', it’s odd, staccato rhythm suggesting a time signature as unconventional as one we will all hear in the second part of the show. This was concluded with a great bass solo from Jonas (where’s he been keeping that for the last few tours?) that sent him hurtling up my ‘favourite bass players list’ (note to self: check out more Flower Kings stuff).

Another live debut for me from 1983’s ‘Highly Strung’ album, 'Camino Royale', Steve taking the lead vocal and being ably assisted by Rob.

As mentioned, no Amanda tonight so we only get the second half of the third 'VotA' track of the evening, the epic 'Shadow of the Hierophant'… we get from the extended tapping section onwards. It would have been great to have had the whole track of course, but it was no less enjoyable for being confined just to its last 7 minutes :-)

After a brief interval, the band return to present in its entirety the album voted 6th best album of all time in Prog magazine, the second of three Genesis albums in the top 10.

What’s to say? This is the 3rd or 4th Hackett review I’ve tried to compose over the past few years and I’m all out of superlatives. From the heavy, almost doomy opening of 'Watcher of the Skies' to the last fading notes of Steve’s now customary extended solo at the end of a magnificent 'Supper’s Ready' and at all points in between, every last note of each track being perfectly observed, indeed devoured by a captivated audience before being responded to with rapturous applause.

After several minutes of relentless acclaim, the band return and, with a single spotlight on Roger King, the keyboard intro to 'Firth of Firth' introduces a very welcome bonus from 'Selling England by the Pound'.

Craig Blundell then treated us to a brief (but very powerful) solo which segued very nicely into a final flourish of a merged 'Los Endos/ Slogans'.

So another fantastic evening delivered by the Keeper of the Flame and this fantastic band. Everything represented faithfully and accurately (as it should be) by a band of consummately gifted and egoless musicians. Roger, Rob and Nad as flawless as ever, and (relative) new boys Jonas and Craig now firmly settled after a couple of tours to the extent where they are presenting a solo spot each and also adding very slight and subtle embellishments to the parts they have learnt and play so well.

I’m sure I read something attributed to Tony Banks recently commenting on the apparent irony of Steve still playing this music when ‘he was the one that left’. My conjecture and uninformed reading of the situation aside, Steve always seems very gracious about his departure from Genesis (e.g. saying that he received writing credits when he had not contributed, that Genesis members helped with this or that solo track). Steve is still an exceptionally credible recording artist (last two ‘band’ albums, ‘Surrender of Silence’ and ‘At the Edge of Light’ were both great) with a prolific and strong back catalogue that would stand up for a long two set evening in his own right, but if he chooses to give his audience what they want and keep this wonderful music alive (particularly when other stakeholders choose not to), he should be lauded, not criticised or mocked, however mildly. I know I am not alone in treasuring these evenings, and I am grateful to Steve for still delivering it for us.

Everyone’s happy to be here? We certainly were…

So… next year… "Selling England by the Pound" hits its big 5-0. Dang. We already had that in 2019. Ah blow it; most of us are of an age where we will have forgotten after 4 years… let’s do it again :-)

Set 1:
Ace of Wands
The Devil’s Cathedral
Spectral Mornings
Every Day
A Tower Struck Down
Camino Royale
Shadow of the Hierophant (instrumental section)

Set 2 (Foxtrot):
Watcher of the Skies
Time Table
Get ‘Em Out By Friday
Can-Utility and the Coastliners
Horizons
Supper’s Ready

Encore:
Firth of Fifth
Los Endos / Slogans

Mark C