“Hackett-days US Style” - Here is a report on the current US East Coast Tour by Steve as told by TWR’s latest recruit: Rick Pauline.
Allow me to begin by introducing myself and provide a bit of background. My name is Rick Pauline, I was born and raised in Rye NY, about forty minutes outside of new York City. I currently reside in Dover Plains NY (Where??) approximately eighty miles north of NYC. I am 61 years old so you get an idea which musical generation I belong to.
My first time seeing Mr Hackett perform was in the winter of ‘77 with Genesis. This was in Syracuse NY. Truth be told, I was not a huge fan at the time (my band was Jethro Tull) (I knew there was a reason why I liked you, Rick - AH) but a high school friend convinced me to go and see them. I had no real exposure to their music, so I was kind of flying blind (or deaf!). I did enjoy the show but it didn’t knock me out.
Fast forward a few years to the fall of 1980, and again in Syracuse NY, I attended my first Hackett solo show. I don’t recall how or why, but I was very taken with the Defector album and the show, this time knocked me for a loop (side note, this was also the first time I shook his hand!)
From this point on, my musical journey took me in various directions, noe of which intersected with Steve’s path. So fast forward more than thirty years (33 to be precise) to the first ever Cruise to The Edge. Around this time. I was reacquainting myself with Steve’s material, and kicking myself hard for missing out on all the great music he had put out.
Half jokingly I suggested to my girlfriend, Dawn, (who is now my wife!) “Wanna go on a prog-Rock cruise…?” Now you should know that dawn is ten years my junior so her musical tastes were a very safe distance from Prog (think: hair bands and Country music). She surprised me by agreeing and so off we went.
Seeing Steve perform again after thirty years was a revelation! And interacting with him during the meet and greet was surreal. I decided I needed to see more shows and right soon! I learned that he was touring my area later that year. When he came to Ridgefield CT, I contacted the theatre to seek permission to photograph the show. They told me to reach out to the artists’ management which I did via the Hackettsongs website. I received an immediate response agreeing to let me shoot the show. Little did I know at the time that I was conversing with Steve’s wife, Jo.
OK, so a few days before the show I get a call from the theatre management asking if I would be willing/able to photograph the pre-show meet and greet. I thought about it for a naosecond, picked myself off the ground, and said yes. So, here are my wife and I, set up in the lobby of the theatre taking shot after shot as nearly fifty fans paraded through the M & G.
This turned out to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship (apologies to Rick Blaine!). As the next few years have passed, Dawn and I have attended close to fifty shows, attending two Cruise To The Edge events and travelling to more than a dozen states here in the US - driving as far as Detroit Michigan - plus several shows in Canada.
Needless to say - but I’ll say it anyway - I never attend a show without my cameras. I’ve photographed every show I have seen, with many of my images making there way on to Steve’s website and several have even graced his tour programmes. In 2015, Dawn thought she would give it a try as well, and it turns out she is a very talented concert photographer, and many of her images have been used as well.
OK, enough about me. On to my impressions of the US East Coast leg of the 2019 tour. We attended the following concerts:
15.9.19: Quebec City Quebec, Canada.
17-18.9.19 : Oakville Ontario, Canada.
20.9.19: Toronto Ontario, Canada.
26.9.19: Ridgefield Connecticut, USA.
28.9.19: Glenside Pennsylvania, USA.
This tour featured Selling England By The Pound in its entirety with several tracks from Spectral Mornings in recognition of its fortieth anniversary, and a few tracks from Steve’s latest release, At The Edge Of Light. It is worth noting that at a every show Steve is wonderfully engaging, speaking TO the audience not AT the audience. Additionally he has retained his sense of humour, sprinkling lively quips throughout as he introduces songs. He even managed a funny recovery at the Danforth Theatre in Toronto. As the intro music faded, and he was about to launch into Everyday, he found that his guitar had malfunctioned and would not produce any sound. Without missing a beat, he stood at the microphone and said: “So much for the sound check!” with a nod and a wink - and some pretty fast acting by Richard Buckland (Steve’s guitar tech), he donned his backup guitar and off we went…
The First Set:
Everyday, has been a mainstay in Steve’s set since it was first recorded in 1979. Four-part harmonies featuring Steve, Rob Townsend, Nad Sylvan and Jonas Reingold. The lyrics are, well you know this by now, but in a word, heartbreaking, being about the loss of a dear friend to drugs. The second half of the song, once the verses have been sung, is jaw droopingly powerful. This is one of Steve’s signature songs. The guitar melody is searing and haunting once Rob joins in on soprano sax, he audience is totally at the mercy of the song,
Under The Eye Of The Sun: The third track from his latest release, this is a faster paced song, on the sweet side, somewhat reminiscent of Loving Sea, Rise Again and Rebecca. Again, wonderful harmonies loft this song and send it sailing out into the audience.
Fallen Walls & Pedestals - Beasts In Our Time: These tracks open the same album. Darker in themes, evoking storm clouds about to release their fury. Almost an extension of Out Of the Body from Wolflight.
The Virgin & The Gypsy: Reaching back to 1079 for this one - and a few more to come - this one again features four part harmonies but with Craig Blundell replacing Nad. It also features Rob on bamboo flute. Steve suggests that this song was crafted in the state of…well, you can fill in the blank !
Tigermoth: Done as an instrumental, shot but powerful and acoustic.
Spectral Mornings: As Steve himself has said, this picks up where Firth of Fifth left off…
The Red Flower Of Taichi Blooms Everywhere: A whimsical little song with obvious Oriental influences with Rob playing Chinese flute. I seem to recall Steve joking that “Here we are, an English band, playing Japanese songs in the United States” this one was preceded by Horizons.
Clocks - The Angel Of Mons : in the same vein as Tigermoth, and similar in structure and intensity to other songs from the same ere such as Shadow Of The Hierophant, Valley Of The Kings and A Tower Struck Down, the song concludes with Craig Blundell absolutely savaging his drum kit. Heading into this tour I was not familiar with Craig’s style. After watching him attack this song - with a vengeance I may add- I had to remind myself to resume breathing! And from a photographer’s perspective, it was pure gold as he was brightly lit from above. I was able to shoot using a very fast shutter speed, which resulted in some incredible shots - yes, I am blowing my own trumpet here (deservedly so, I have seen some of the images - AH).
2nd Set: Selling England By the Pound. Some of these songs have been standards for several years now, so they really need no introduction. I’ll skip over Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, I Know What I Like and Firth Of Fifth - I do have some comments on these later though…
More Fool Me: I have no idea when this was last performed live, but I will wager it was back in the early ‘70’s. I’m not a trained singer, but to my ears this sounds like a difficult song to carry. Without fail - not that there was ever any doubt - Nad Sylvan hits every note just exactly perfectly, seamlessly switching from his normal modal voice to falsetto and back again. Jonas Reingold provides the perfect harmony. Such a sweet song, tears spring to my eyes every time I hear it.
The Battle Of Epping Forest: The only word that comes to mind here is: “Epic”. A long trip down Prog Street!
After The Ordeal: This one was part of the 2015 tour but back then Steve did the intro on six string nylon guitar and handed it over to Roine Stolt for the main lead melody. This time around, Steve carries the entire song on his Fernandez six string Gold Top electric guitar.
Cinema Show - Aisle Of Plenty: Also part of the 2015 set list, it includes what Steve has called “Musical Gymnastics” as at one point in the song, it switches to a complicated 7/8 time signature. Along with the entire band, Craig, Jonas and Roger bring this song to a precipitous crescendo, only to have Nad delicately bring it back down to the ground.
Dance On A Volcano: A regular for the last eight years or so, the opening notes are immediately recognised and send the crowd into a bit of a frenzy. Once the lyrics have been sung, Nad departs the stage to let the rest of the band bring the show to a close. As the song winds down, he reappears for the final stage bows.
Encore: Los Endos Medley: Again, a concert staple. Steve counts it off fast, and the band explodes with one last burst of fury. The song progresses from Myopia to Slogans and finally the coda from A Trick Of The Tail. The show is over, the band approaches the front of the stage to greet the ecstatic fans, and after a few handshakes and a final bow, another majestic performance is entered into the books.
And how we all await the announcement of the next tour - I bid you farewell|!
Thanks Rick for that look back on the US tour and for your superb photography.