Seconds Out rounds one and two - Steve Hackett in concert at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool and Victoria Hall, Hanley on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th September 2021. Review and photographs by Alan Hewitt.

At last, after almost two years without gigs, I was finally back in my natural environment for a brace of em!

Entering my spiritual home, the Philharmonic Hall for the first time after such a lengthy break felt strange. It must have been the same for Steve and the band too I guess.

Anyway, we were all back and Steve got the show under way with a thunderous Clocks, what a way to begin! The rhythm section of Jonas Reingold and Craig Blundell really went to town on this one. A brace of tracks from Steve's new album, Surrender Of Silence showcased the new work with The Devil's Cathedral being particularly impressive featuring as it did the sepulchral organ of Roger King and an equally sinister vocal performance from Nad Sylvan. Every Day and a truncated Shadow Of The Hierophant brought the first half to an exhilarating close.

Following a lengthy interval the band were back for the main event: Seconds Out in all its glory.

Each and every track on this album is seared into my heart and hearing Squonk for the first time since 1978 really got my emotions running! Steve, Roger, Jonas, Craig and Nad really went out to deliver a stunning reading of this classic.

Carpet Crawlers was greeted by cheers from the crowd and deserved they were too, the band showed due reverence to this one whilst Robbery, Assault & Battery gave them the chance to lighten the mood a bit. Nad evidently enjoyed the chance to get into "character" on this one.

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Afterglow came and went in the blink of a teary eye. A classic as always with Roger King in truly awesome form on Mr Banks's finest creation! Firth Of Fifth meanwhile remains one of a handful of tracks which truly gets better with every performance. Steve seemed to be wrapped in memories during this one, whilst he and Roger delivered their respective solos to absolute perfection.

I Know What I Like however, has begun to grate. Well, rather Rob Townsend's over egged soloing on it has. This really needs to be reined in as it has turned one of my favourite Genesis tracks into one I really don't want to hear again!

Things were redeemed however with a magnificent reading of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway in which Roger and Nad really let themselves go on a marvellous performance which was followed by an equally impressive Musical Box performed in its entirety rather than the album's truncated version.

What can I say about Supper's Ready that hasn't already been said? Well, it truly IS THE Prog masterpiece. The entire band pulled out all the stops here for a superlative performance which left me breathless.

Cinema Show too was impeccably performed, at times delicate, at times rocky but never anything other than delightfully tasteful.

Show closers Dance On A Volcano and Los Endos should have been the perfect culmination to the evening but on the latter Rob Townsend's unnecessarily extended sax solo dragged it down as far as I am concerned which is a shame because otherwise, the performance was bang on the money again.

And that was it, two and a half hours of magic flew by and it remained to get a few hours' sleep before doing it all again in Stoke!

The show was pretty much as above but seeing it again reinforced a few impressions which I had made the night before.

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First of all, I find it sad that Steve's solo career has effectively been reduced to what feels like an afterthought at these gigs. A new album should be properly promoted and not tagged on to the tail of something else. It is also time to ditch what are now the predictable "Oldies" from the set. You have twenty seven albums to choose from Steve,so mix it up a bit eh?

The Genesis material shine like gold but with a band of this calibre what do you expect? However, as on the previous night, Rob Townsend's antics on several tracks were both irritating and to my mind, superfluous, they did not serve the music as it deserved to be served. Harsh? Maybe but it is how I felt. Rob is a fine performer when he exercises taste and restraint as was plain at other times throughout the evening.

My only other criticism of both gigs concerns the lighting. The excessive use of haze on the last tour and this one has to be reined in, and indeed, use of a broader palette of colours within the lighting itself would not go amiss either!

Don't let any of the above fool you however, these shows are an incredible package, ones which fans should relish while you can!

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