“A trip to the Antipodes” - The Steve Hackett Australian tour recalled by Jon Van Daal. Photographs by Jon Van Daal.
You don’t have to be a genius to work out that living in Australia in the Sixties and Seventies meant that 98% of “world” tours never came near the Great Southern Land. In the fifty odd years of the genre, only Yes and Genesis made their way down to Australia with the likes of King Crimson, ELP, and countless others wearing out a familiar path around the same exact high spots of the Northern Hemisphere year in and year out. (Err… you forget that my favourite band, Jethro Tull toured Australia several times in the seventies, Jon and more recently still… AH)
That said, while Genesis did tour in December 1986 it mainly centred around their Eighties more commercial material with Phil Collins on vocals. My second child was born less than a month before their Sydney gigs so there was no way I could attend these shows. Imagine my surprise when an announcement was made that Steve Hackett was finally taking the plunge and bringing his Genesis Revisited show to Australia and New Zealand. A full crowd packed the Enmore Theater and on the night Hackett was to play sixteen songs - the first five were from his own solo works with the eleven remaining being from his Genesis Revisited roster.
|After appearing in Auckland he was to play three Australian cities - Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with the last having two separate concerts, the second being centred around the Wind & Wuthering album. All five were simply stunning. I attended the Sydney concert and while I was familiar with the opening tune, Every Day, he following three; El Nino, In The Skeleton Gallery and Behind The Smoke were from his latest offering , The Night Siren. These songs had shown that Steve’s work has developed dramatically with a jazz-fusion edge that was capably handled by the assembled players. Whilst these tunes were from his 25th studio album, he followed it with Shadow Of The Hierophant from his debut album, a great way to finish this part of the set.|
Looking around the room it was safe to say that a large number of those in attendance were in their sixties and as such were there to hear Hackett’s “Genesis Revisited” portion of the show, as was I, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. When vocalist Nad Sylvan cam on stage uttering “can you tell me where my country lies? Said the unifaun to his true love’s eyes… “ yes, the opening lyrics from Dancing With the Moonlit Knight and all the assembled fossils let out a collective sigh at hearing these familiar forty four year old lyrics.
I always think that the mark of a good song is that it takes you back to where you were when you first heard it, and over the next hour and a half, these eleven Genesis tunes saw me being returned to some of the most important times of my early life. This became readily apparent with the opening bars of the iconic, Fly On A Windshield from what I believe was Genesis’ best work, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.
Thanks to the Internet over the last twenty years, I met a fellow called Jim “Papa J” Harrell who organises Calprog, a celebration of all things Prog in California. Harrell told that he had been in the audience at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on 24th January 1975 for the live performance of The Lamb…that was layer released in 1998 as part of the Genesis Archive 1967-76 box set. When I first heard this live recording I thought to myself “I’ll never get to hear any of these tracks live”. Wow - was I wrong, and how!
Fly On A Windshield was joined by the Broadway Melody Of 1974 and Carpet Crawlers in a tour-de-force of The Lamb… tracks in all their glory played to perfection to the collective cheers of all those in attendance. Then came Eleventh Earl Of Mar and Afterglow before he stand out track from A Trick Of The Tail: Dance On A Volcano - the audience continued to lap up this sentimental walk down memory lane.
The first Genesis album I ever heard was Selling England By The Pound and I clearly remember playing it back to back about ten times when I first bought it so when the opening bars of Firth Of Fifth sounded out, it was 1973 all over again. You would swear that you were being taken back to a performance by the original musicians - such was the capability and dexterity of the assembled players.
|I had seen bas player Nick Beggs with Steven Wilson’s band in October last year and he is a more than capable player who looked imposing at the right of the stage with his double necked Mason custom bass and twelve string guitar. Behind him was drummer Gary O’Toole who looked like he was swallowed whole into the mouth of his enormous drum kit. He had learned his chops after time spent with Buck’s Fizz and China Crisis and played the entire night in a full suit and tie. He certainly loved hitting the bejasus out of his big old china cymbal along the way.|
Some of the best musicians are those that you have never heard of and such a fellow was keyboard player Roger King. A session musician who had also played with the likes of Gary Moore, Snoop Dogg, Jamelia and Peter Andre and he had Tony Banks’s best work down pat. Rob Townsend was a jack-of-all -trades, hanging out on the left side of the stage as he played a vast assortment of instruments. This included soprano and tenor saxes, flutes and assorted percussion instruments.
|Vocalist Nad Sylvan sounded so much like Peter Gabriel it was uncanny. He originally hooked up with Hackett in 2012 for the second Genesis Revisited album and has been an important part of bringing the classic Genesis sound to the world ever since. This brings us to the main man himself. Steve Hackett. Steve was chosen in early 2016 by Guitar World Magazine as number four of the top fifteen Prog Rock guitarists of all time. Saying then “Hackett’s early exploration of two handed tapping and sweep picking were far ahead of their time and influenced Eddie Van Halen and Brian May amongst countless others” he spent most of the night with his hands around his beautiful 1957 Gibson Les Paul “Goldtop” that was joined on one occasion by a Zemaitis twelve string acoustic guitar both played with incredible dexterity.|
This brings us to he highlight of the night, the last three songs each followed by a standing ovation from the more than appreciative crowd. The Musical Box started off so softly and quietly with Nad Sylvan setting the scene for what would be a classic Prog Rock song, building up to a crescendo of sound and energy that almost sounded better than the original.
This was followed by Supper’s Ready, the seminal track from the mighty Foxtrot album that didn’t feature in his North American shows earlier in the year. This song is another that begins and ends in a soft manner but has a middle section that features a sound that builds to a crescendo, calling on the talent of its players in an odd-timed Progressive Rock kind of way. The song was followed by an almost deafening round of cheers and clapping as everyone stood for the band as they filed off stage.
|It was clear that Sydney had finally seen and heard the very best of Seventies Prog Rock excellence s all in attendance clapped louder and longer in order to have the Hacketteers return to the stage. Their efforts were soon rewarded as the musicians appeared for their encore. Fittingly the final track was to be Los Endos with a few variations. This just capped a night that took this scribe into a place I have rarely been before - certainly this would be in my top five gigs in the thousand or so that I have attended over the past fifty odd years.|
No one at TWR will disagree with you there, Jon. Thanks again for sharing your memories with us.