“There and back again - Grazing through the North with Hackett. or… Hacketting with Hewitt and the Mellotrons and Badgers“ by David Yardley. Photographs by Alan Hewitt and Lee Millward.

The seeds of my third Genesis-related trip to England in eleven years were born from a real dilemma last November and toss up between heading up to see Phil Collins on his Not Dead yet (but the cost will probably kill me, if not through starvation, then at the hands of my wife) tour dates, in either Liverpool or London, or seeing Steve Hackett perform the yet to be released new album, and other solo tracks, along with a celebration of the fortieth anniversary of Genesis’ Wind & Wuthering - a high water mark in Genesis’ career for many keen followers of the band.

After a couple of days and online conversations with TWR El Presidente Alan Hewitt (seems like a remarkable chap whoever he is… AH), we started cooking up a plan to see three or four Steve Hackett gigs around the North of England, culminating in the show at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall on 7th May. It was Alan who I think said to me that it could be four x Steve gigs for the price of one x Phil gig. This made perfect sense to me as someone who appreciates value for money, and who had to spend around NZD$ 2100 (£1050) just to get to England. But as needs must, the big barrier was getting approval from my superbly understanding wife (creep - AH) who has yet again given me a Giza pyramid sized pass out!
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This wee write up could be just about four amazing gigs I saw in Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool but there will be others who will write reviews of the brilliance of what they saw and heard at Steve’s gigs by he and his wonderful band and they will do it more eloquently and with better words than I will.

The best way I an describe the gigs is that I was spellbound, they were musically mesmerising from the opening track, Every Day to the gorgeous and delicate Serpentine Song - which included Steve’s brother, John on flute at Sheffield, (and Brum Dave…AH) to an epic Shadow Of The Hierophant as the first half closer. Those bass pedals from Nick Beggs thundered through the venues, and simply took my breath away. Not to mention those samplings from The Night Siren, including album opener, Behind The Smoke, which Steve introduced in these troubled times as a tune about the refugees of the world including his family who emigrated from Poland in more unenlightened and intolerant times.

The second half was a glorious trip through an epic Genesis set including the best from Wind & Wurthering, special; mention given to the omitted Inside & Out, a couple of standout tracks from A Trick of The Tail, Firth of Fifth and The Musical Box, which was performed brilliantly by all of the band. To the band, and drummer, Gary O’Toole and keyboardist Roger King were the standouts for me - the blokes out back, who to me were the frame of the sound which the others added their impeccable detail to. Steve, of course, magnificent and he had such great rapport with his audiences. They were utterly unforgettable, musically brilliant shows that will live long in the memory. The dedication to the dearly departed Steph Kennedy at Liverpool was a wonderful moment.
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I was very fortunate and lucky to meet with Steve and his lovely lady wife Jo and see Steve in his dressing room prior to the Liverpool gig. They are lovely people, gentle and kind, humble and appreciative of the support and love from loyal fans - they really care and love their band and crew, and everyone involved with the touring machine. It was an absolute honour and pleasure meeting them. I also met Nick and Nad at the post match in Liverpool and two nicer more down to earth musicians you will struggle to meet.

However, this write up isn’t necessarily just about the wonderful shows I saw, for while they were the reason for being there, as I found out, they were made so much more special for the people I shared these concerts and this special two weeks with.

So, this to me is more about musical friendships and the bonds we share as fans of Steve and of Genesis. This existed before me , and will exist after me. Music is an incredible connector of people, and in our case, of some wonderful people, who belong to a giving, caring fan community.

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I have seen us pull each other from the dark times, the challenges and swells that appear in our lives which we must cross. I have seen us celebrate the moments of magic in our lives, from connections made through the music. I have seen the beauty of long friendships reconnected, as I did recently, and in my time as a Genesis fan on the world wide web. I have seen marriages and children born from out of the connections made from a shared love of this wonderful music.

In England on my recently completed trip, I saw old friends who I hadn’t seen in nearly ten years since Genesis; Turn It On Again tour of 2007 and it was really like peas and carrots again to share precious time with the likes of Kev Mellotron and family, Richard Nagy and his wonderful partner Sarah, big brother Andrew and of course, TWR El Presidente Alan Hewitt who orchestrated this amazing experience. In addition I met some lovely people who support this wonderful man’s wonderful music; and whose contribution to my enjoyment to my trip and Hackett experience equally made concert a warm and welcoming event where I felt very much at home.

That is what really matters. In such uncertain times we perhaps gravitate more towards the best things in life - which to me means that Steve’s recent shows and the pre-gig meet ups and fun times mean perhaps a little more than they normally would. I appreciate the opportunity to see such great music, performed by such talented people, on the other side of the world, with a fan community I feel very much part of and welcomed in. That means a lot to me.

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We should also consider that with Steve, Phil, Peter, Mike and Tony all progressing through the late autumn of their lives, heading toward winter, that we might not get the opportunity to do this again or for much longer. So embrace the magic of the music and the special people we get to share it with because we all only get one crack at this…

...and you know, these are the days of our lives, so remember…”