“Revisiting the small orchestra at Trading Toundaries” - Steve Hackett Acoustic Trio in concert at Trading Boundaries, Saturday 8th December 2018. Review by Kenny Brown. Photos by Kenny Brown and Oli Clifford/Trading Boundaries.

Situated in the hearty of the East Sussex countryside, Trading Boundaries is a quirky retail destination specialising in antique Indian furniture and handicrafts. It is also home to an art galley featuring the work of renowned album cover artist, Roger Dean. By day, the Elephant café serves food, but at night it transforms into a world class music venue.

Steve’s Christmas acoustic concerts at Trading |Boundaries are becoming a regular feature at this intimate venue. Enjoyed by both Steve and the fans, it is a chance to see many songs stripped down in a completely acoustic state. Pre-show, Steve’s mum June is in her usual; seat, centre stage watching her “boys”. Jo Hackett chats informally with family, friends and fans before compere and co-owner Michael Clifford does a brief introduction.

Steve arrives centre stage and immediately puts the enthusiastic audience at ease by picking up the “wrong guitar” which isn’t plugged in! A laugh, and a joke later the audience hushes. There are about 150 people here for this sold out concert, some seated for Christmas dinner and others standing around the edge. Steve starts with some Spanish guitar to warm up his fingers before the familiar Tales Of The Riverbank brings smiles from the crowd. You can hear a pin drop as Steve eases into The Skye Boat Song (a personal favourite of my guest for the evening who has travelled from Scotland for the gig and is also celebrating his birthday) before another short Spanish guitar piece to end the medley.
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This may be a small crowd but the noise at the end shows how much love there is for Steve’s work. “These songs take me back to my childhood and an age of innocence” says Steve as he mentions Ratty, Badger and Mole. We continue with the instrumental part of Blood On The Rooftops before Steve’s signature tune from Genesis - Horizons. There is no whooping or wild distractions on introductions as the crowd respect the songs in their pure state which makes for a really enjoyable concert. Steve is not alone tonight, and as the applause dies down he introduces his brother John Hackett on flute to the stage along with multi-instrumentalist, Rob Townsend and Roger King on the keyboards. A stripped down version of Jacuzzi is up next. This is a favourite of John’s who later tells me that “it is great to have a chance to play the song with dual flutes. It’s not often that you get the chance to do that”
Another crowd pleasing Genesis medley next as John’s flute introduces a section of Supper’s Ready before moving on to After The Ordeal and Hairless Heart. For those of us who never saw Steve playing these songs with Genesis, it is a privilege to hear them and I have to admit that I watch this section of the show with a lump in my throat. Many around me are casting their minds back to the early 1970’s and revelling in the nostalgia. The crowd reaction to this section can best be described as the same as watching the winning goal in the Cup Final!

Steve is relaxed and smiling, and enjoying the gig. He cracks a joke about “men in black” as everyone on stage is (I think) coincidentally wearing black. The first set ends with Jazz On A Summer’s Night and the band exit for a short time allowing me to chat to the internationally famous artist and album cover specialist, Roger Dean. Roger attends many of the concerts as he has a gallery of his paintings and books for sale on the first floor and has designed album covers for most of the bands who have played there.

The lights dime and the band returns with House Of The Faun followed by Second Chance - a theme tune written for a TV series in the 1980’s. Steve mentioned his friends Susannah York and Ralph Bates who starred in the series, “sadly no longer with us”. Roger fills the room with a sound scape of atmospheric sound as Walking Away From Rainbows brings a reflective tone to the proceedings. Steve tells us that they will play an improvisation “which is great because there are no wrong notes in improv!” Next we head to the Spectral Mornings album for The Red Flower Of Taichi Blooms Everywhere, featuring Rob and John on twin flutes. The audience are attentive, receiving each song enthusiastically. Ace Of Wands has us on the home straight before Amanda Lehmann joins the band for two songs. Amanda delivers a passionate rendition of Memory Lane followed by Happy When it Rains, with Steve on harmonica. Jo Hackett watches her sister from the wings and applauds enthusiastically at the end. “We’re going to bugger off now” announces Steve and the band take a bow before leaving the stage.
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It isn’t long before the crowd reaction and noise prompts Steve to return for an encore with John, Roger and Rob waiting in the wings. The Journey from Bay of Kings brings tears from Steve’s mum as he recalls the influence of his uncle on his musical development. The evening is rounded off with Bacchus with a bit of Firth of Fifth. The warmth and affection in the room is obvious as the band take a bow and leave the stage.

Such is the intimacy of the venue that after a few minutes the various band members are back in the café packing up gear, mingling with the audience and, in the case of Rob,. In the queue paying for drinks! Roger is chatting to a fan, John is enjoying a glass of red wine while chatting to me, Jo is discussing her contribution to Wolflight with my friend Euan before she ushers Steve to join us. We have a quick chat as Steve signs some album covers for me and we wish everyone a Happy Christmas before heading into the night.

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