“Shirts off for Hackett” - Steve Hackett's Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett in concert at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester on Friday 5th May 2017. Review and photographs by Mike Ainscoe.
After almost forty years of watching Steve Hackett’s solo gigs, its good to know that there are always fresh memories to take away with you. Not always musical, it was one of those sort of gigs where a climactic version of The Musical Box was just enough to tip at least one particular fan sat on the second row, one seat down from me, over the edge. Fellow long time Hackett fan, Andy Banks being next to the perpetrator, had the best view as Nad finished his “now, now, now” and Steve peeled off the final rousing solo, enough to have said fan, already obviously fired up, removing his shirt to wave enthusiastically and triumphantly round his head. Suffice to say he wasn’t a gym bunny. Often seen in the midst of winter by Newcastle United fans on away trips but generally speaking not something you see every day at a Hackett gig.
Or even at the refined Bridgewater Hall; home to the Halle Orchestra and sophisticated Classical recitals, yet Steven Wilson, David Gilmour and Adam Ant amongst others have trodden the expansive boards here in the past. It made for a special first visit from Steve though, the larger venue adding to the scale of the music, and an interesting alternative from the fallow period where you could catch Steve in the smaller Manchester Academy venue. Happily he is back in concert halls that help showcase his repertoire in all its glory.
It also helps that he’s still touring a version of the show that continues to celebrate his full legacy, one to which fans have flocked - Manchester was sold out and even the very last seats in the far top reaching corners of the auditorium were fully occupied. The Genesis/Hackett shows have evolved in an interesting way over the last five years. From the “set to die for” of the original Genesis Revisited tour to the gradual and welcome introduction of his own solo material now sees 2017 present a split between the classic Hackett plus some Genesis cherries picked from what, in hindsight, looks like a brief but groundbreaking tenure in Prog Rock history.
Classic Hackett that is, in terms of choice of Every Day to open the set with one of Hackett’s best composed and melodic of solos plus a welcome return to The Steppes in the opening salvo. They provided an opening completed by the thundering El Nino, the first of three nods to the new material from The Night Siren heralded by the Hackett patter which offered a celebration of the migrancy issue in a change to the usual politically charged agenda. The lightness of touch which makes Serpentine Song such a pleasant few minutes along with its personal sentiment contrasted with the slightly darker Rise Again where the more controlled aggression of the guitar is matched by harsher and raspier tones as Hackett becomes Lemmy just for a moment.
Closing the set with Shadow Of The Hierophant which has reclaimed its status in some epic live performances, the now expected bashing of the bass pedals and Gary O’Toole’s drum frenzy can’t fail to be anything but a roof shifting experience. From what seems such a simple repetitive guitar figure, all that’s missing is the kitchen sink and some tubular bells. With no stage set speak of but a simple yet highly effective set of lights, mounted high above the stage, the set of ever changing and swirling cones of light constantly framed the band as well as casting abstract shapes into the auditorium. The effect of breaking down the barriers to create an experience of community must have been quite a view from the stage.
|The intermission allowed a chance to reconsider some fashion notes. Although scarf-less, Steve continues to remain the man of mystery, dressed completely in black - a fact not lost in a lasting memory already recalled by a certain Mr Gabriel, it has to be said he is also looking in good nick for a man whose recording and touring ethic is both strong g and consistent. Although he remains much the focal point centre stage, its hard not to let the eyes drift to watch Nick Beggs - a dynamic presence and switching between bass, an impressive double neck, standing, seated, cross legged on bass pedal duty, interacting with Gary O’Toole and then playing back up rhythm guitar on The Musical Box he delivers everything asked. His fans may have been disappointed in the absence of the kilt, tonight’s wardrobe reverting to regulation skinny jeans and t shirt (black, naturally) and the ever popular converse footwear also favoured by Rob Townsend. He of the mirror shades and cap an gradually evolving set of instruments on his patch. Roger, back stage right in the “Fck Brxt” shirt and round Ozzy-styled shades while back stage left, Gary O’Toole drumming in full suit and tie and still managing to appear cool and dapper as the band gathered to take their bows at the end of the set.|
In celebration of the fortieth (unbelievably) anniversary of the release of Wind & Wuthering - Steve and Jo making the pilgrimage onto the moors the following day - the first part of the second half of the show opening with “the hits that count from W & W” . The inclusion of One for The Vine and Inside & Out shook up the Genesis Revisited portion again, the latter in particular including that we arm feeling of finally being properly acknowledged as one of the real underrated gems of the four man period if not the whole canon. The appearance of Nad Sylvan - given the sort of Manchester hero’s welcome reserved for the likes of Noel Gallagher , as he strolled frock coated up to the mic, splendidly decked out in full vamp irate attire - confirmed his status as a fully paid up member of the long term band. Totally justified too as he has added his unique stamp on the vocalist position, close enough to the original without being a carbon copy yet with his own inimitable delivery. In much the same way, during Firth of Fifth, the King/Beggs/O’Toole combo briefly become Collins/Banks/Rutherford before Steve launches into his most famous of all solos.
Encoring with a wild ride through the colossus that emerges from a combination of riffs from Slogans and Los Endos, Rob and Nick both prostrate themselves at the feet of their highly amused master. A bit of a showcase but a great one for the photographers to try and capture a striking little tableau.
The end of a show and the end of a tour often prompts the question “what next?”. One highly unlikely direction would seem to be any sort of reunion of the classic Genesis lineup. The sands of time may have run out for that particular proposal. Yet while the muse is strong and the demand is high, it seems that Genesis music will still continue to play a dominant role in the Steve Hackett live show. Add to that his own ongoing solo career, The Nigh Siren, a signal that, as Hackett remarkably approaches seventy, the fire still burns brightly and the journey is far from over.