“A-Hacketting I will go - Part 2" - Continuing your editor's adventures on this year's Hackett tour. Review and photographs by Alan Hewitt.
The planning for this year’s “Hackettdays” as I call them took on a slightly more complex arrangement which you can read about in my thoughts on the first batch of gigs elsewhere. The last two were relatively straightforward - Glasgow and London. Straightforward did I just say? Hmmm… not quite as they involved relying on the UK’s notoriously unreliable public transport network!
Glasgow is always a special place for a show and the magic always seems to happen when you are there. This year’s gig like all the others that had preceded it, was in a magnificent auditorium, The Royal Concert Hall and as usual, my good friends, Brian and Alison Lancaster had worked their magic and secured excellent front row seats!
The show got off to its usual thunderous start with the familiar strains of Every Day, with the entire band having a heap of collective glee playing it if the grins on their faces were anything to go by. Matched I may say so by the grins of the audience. El Nino, without doubt the strongest track on Steve’s new album, the Night Siren was next and here the combined rhythm section of Gary O’Toole, Nick beggs (resplendent in kilt for this evening’s festivities) and Rob Townsend, really went to town on this one. Anyone in the first few rows must have had a free foot massage from Nick’s bass… it was LOUD! And Steve… well, he laid down a searing guitar part full of passion and drama.
Other highlights from the first half for me included a superb Behind The Smoke complete with Steve relating the story of his own family’s flight from persecution to the UK in the nineteenth century, great to see Steve speaking out about such issues in these troubled times and the performance was extremely enjoyable and impassioned. Serpentine Song, although about Steve’s own father, always brings a tear to my eye as I remember my own father and is always a joy to hear with wonderful performances from the entire band.
Rise Again, which had sounded slightly lacklustre to my ears at previous gig really hit the mark tonight and Steve was on fine form with a passionate vocal delivery and equally passionate guitar riff.
The first half of the show concluded with the evergreen classic Shadow Of The Hierophant, truncated to its instrumental section tonight as Amanda Lehmann was not there to grace us with her wonderful vocals. No matter, the instrumental section is sufficiently impressive in its own right and, tonight , being ensconced only a few feet away from Mr Beggs I had a proper view of his antics with the bass pedals! I don’t think I have ever seen such a ferocious display of fisticuffs outside of a boxing ring!
A short interval and the band returned for what, for many was the main event, the “Genesis stuff” as Steve calls it. Celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the majestic Wind & Wuthering album, the audience and band were in just the right mood to celebrate and as Steve introduced Nad Sylvan on stage (replete with Meershaum pipe) the celebrations got under way with the awesome Eleventh Earl Of Mar. Nad’s voice had been showing some signs of strain at previous gigs as he was getting over the after effects of a severe cold. No such problems tonight though, he nailed the vocal part with gusto!
The inclusion of Mr Banks’s masterpiece One For The Vine had taken some (me included) by surprise but here it was, and kudos must go to Roger King, his playing throughout this one was inspired. Steve was grinning from ear to ear throughout, perhaps some memories were stirring during this one? Who knows? All I know was that at long last I was getting to hear these wonderful tracks performed by a band worthy of doing so.
For me personally, the undoubted highlight of the entire evening was the moment when Steve’s guitar tech, Richard Buckland handed Steve his six string acoustic guitar and Steve sat down centre stage and started strumming a few chords before Blood On The Rooftops. Ever since Steve first performed this back in 2004, it has retained a very special place in my heart and time has not dimmed that affection, if anything it has only increased it. Simply wonderful, and Gary O’Toole’s vocal was marvellous. Yes, folks, yours truly was blubbing like a baby before the end of it. Tears of sheer joy I assure you!
What can I say about the trio of tracks the comprises the album’s finale? Well, probably not much that hasn’t already been said but you really have to see (and hear) Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers/In That Quiet Earth/Afterglow. A film for the ears as Steve likes to put it and tonight’s performance certainly took us to the wild and windy moors as a certain other singer once said!
Dance On A Volcano was delivered piping hot (pun intended) by the entire band but once again, it was the rhythm section of Gary and Nick who grabbed this one by the scruff of the neck and drove it along. Steve’s expression alternated between grin and grimace as he wrestled with his guitar throughout. Nad was simply awesome on this, his vocal having just the right amount of passion and drama to carry it off.
Surprise choice of this tour was the underrated tale of injustice, Inside & Out from the band’s 1977 Spot The Pigeon EP. In introducing it, Steve did not mince his words about the other tracks on that EP and, of course, most right thinking Genesis fans agree with his assessment that this track should have been on the album. Oh well, here it was tonight and once again, it was a marvel to watch. How Steve managed to play the guitar solo at such a frenetic pace I do not know but he did, grinning from ear to ear once again as he did so, while Rob Townsend’s sax solo towards the end gave the song a nice twist.
Firth Of Fifth got the biggest cheer of the night and deservedly so, this is one of those songs which insinuates itself into your brain and once there takes up permanent residence within your pleasure synapses. Always a joy and the interplay between Steve and Roger was simply breathtaking. Rob Towsend’s saxophone adding an element of extra drama to a song already choc full of it and Nad? A truly magisterial delivery here of this all time classic which had the audience on its feet cheering for more.
And more they got, as the chiming effect on Steve’s guitar rang out that it was time to open The Musical Box. With no stage show to speak of this year, the emphasis was totally on the lighting and music and both came totally into their own with a blistering performance by each and every member of the band.
Job done, audience thoroughly entertained, the band took their deserved bows, and left the stage to thunderous applause. Of course, we all knew that they would return to perform an encore and what could be more appropriate than Los Endos? The entire band leapt upon this one with joyous abandon and were joined by an equally enthusiastic audience. Nad’s return to sing the “there’s an angel standing in the sun…” being greeted by one of those cheers you only get in places like Glasgow - they know what they like up here, you know!
And that was it, a quick good bye to everyone and then hot footing it to catch the overnight coach back home and a couple of days recuperation before the final gig…
Aaahh the London Palladium, home of the famous TV show and the Royal Command Peformances, and the only major venue I had never seen a concert at. From the outside the theatre looks quite small, but as soon as you enter it , you realise that you are in one of those old fashioned halls the likes of which are rapidly disappearing sadly. Taking our seats I was surprised to see a familiar face take his seat next to me, Mr Alan Reed. It always seems to happen at Steve’s gigs and at Manchester I had been similarly graced by Mr Peter Nicholls so I was in the best of Prog company for what promised to be a special night.
The band took the stage and once again Every Day got things off to a magnificent start, augmented as it was by the welcome return of Amanda Lehmann on vocals and red guitar! Right from the start of tonight’s gig, you felt this was something special and although the set remained unchanged from any of the previous gigs, there was a frisson of magic throughout this one.
Each and every song tonight was delivered to perfection by a band at the top of their game. And more importantly, by a band who are so obviously enjoying themselves very bit as much as their audience! Highlights? Every song was a highlight in its own special way (hmmm… there’s a song title there somewhere…) but for me once again, the magic of Serpentine Song and the sheer majesty of Firth of Fifth tugged at the emotional heartstrings in ways that few songs do.
Other notable performances included Shadow Of The Hierophant, once again benefiting enormously from the presence of Amanda Lehmann who as usual turned in a performance to die for augmented once again by Nick Beggs’ cruelty to his bass pedals! The Steppes sent shivers up the spine this evening too, rob Townsend managing to conjure up the icy bleakness of the steppes on a variety of wind instruments.
Special words here for the three tracks from Steve’s new album, The Night Siren. El Nino is destined to remain an onstage favourite for some time to come I suspect and deservedly so, it is without doubt one of the finest instrumentals Steve has ever penned and tonight’s performance was absolutely stunning. Behind The Smoke and In the Skeleton Gallery both benefited enormously from Amanda’s presence, the latter in particular being absolutely spine tingling tonight whilst the former saw Steve deliver a thought provoking message without preaching to his audience.
Too many songs all deserving of praise. Once again, Steve and the band have set out to give us, the audience a show which shall long be remembered by those of us who were lucky enough to see it. Nights like these are few and far between these days and it was a truly magical way to end what has been an amazing tour.
It only remains for me to thank the cast of thousands… well, a few at any rate so here goes. First of all, of course, my thanks to Steve and Jo for all their incredible kindness and encouragement throughout this tour and in so many other ways. To Gary, Nad, Roger, Nick and Rob for turning the magic on each and every night. To Tigger, Ben, Richard and the members of the local crews and venue staff for their efforts, without which events such as this don’t happen folks. To Adrian and Andrea Holmes (and Norbert) for all their hard work and good humour.
And the fans… Thanks on this occasion to Alison and Brian Lancaster, Tamara and family and the rest of the Glasgow crew for another magical night. To Tony Reynolds, Alan Morgan, David Houghton and the rest of the gang in London and extra special thanks to mine hosts Andrew and Kate Green, wonderful people and special friends and to anyone else who may have said hello, thank you. Here’s to the next one!