“Seconds Out, Rounds Three To Five” - Steve Hackett in concert at the Palladium Theatre, London on Monday and Tuesday 20th and 21st September 2021 and the Brighton Dome on 7th October 2021. Review and photographs by Alan Hewitt.
If you have read my previous review of the Liverpool and Stoke gigs you will know what's coming here. If not, why haven't you been paying attention? You have some catch up reading to do, don't you?
Anyway, two of the three nights at this magnificent theatre - probably my favourite venue in London were always going to be enjoyable and so they proved.
The first thing that was noticeable on both nights was that whatever technical gremlins had dogged the earlier shows had finally been wrinkled out and both performances - at least to this viewer/listener passed off without any major hiccups.
The short opening set took a lot of people by surprise but by the reaction of the crowd on both nights, the new material has been accepted surprisingly quickly and deservedly so in both cases as the tracks chosen are definitely the best of the new material The Devil's Cathedral in particular being highly effective with both Nad Sylvan and Roger King in fine form.
Opening a show with an instrumental and one as well known for being an encore as Clocks was also a surprise. Evidently the entire band delivered it with what was obvious collective glee with everyone setting their stalls out from the beginning. You could almost feel muscles being flexed after so much time spent in Lockdown and in particular the rhythm section of Jonas Reinhold and Craig Blundell really went to town on this vintage slice of Hackett. Nights at the London Palladium will never be quite the same I suspect!
|Every Day and Shadow Of The Hierophant, the latter once again presented in its entirety at these gigs thanks to the presence of Amanda Lehmann, were greeted like the old friends they undoubtedly are, and the latter in particular is one damn fine slice of vintage Prog which band and audience enjoyed in equal measures. One incident caused me a slight degree of amusement on the second night. Seated as we were up in the Royal Circle - great view of the show from up there I can tell you - a guy in front of me, possessed of the kind of camera gear that my 'togger chums Lee Millward and Mike Ainscoe usually have with them, was snapping away merrily. So what caused the amusement I hear you ask? He was using FLASH. Why? I have no idea as it is totally unnecessary. Steve's mum was probably in the firing line of his flash and I can imagine that she was not amused! Neither was I! Anyway, someone must have said something as eventually one of the ushers asked the guy to accompany them and when he returned after the interval he was without his camera which apparently had been confiscated. Oh how I did larf!|
That moment of amusement aside, however, the second half of both evenings was brought to us in magnificent fashion. These songs are a part of all our musical lives and hearing them performed again was, in the main, a delight. For me the highlights remained Squonk a joy to hear again after so many years and in a damn meaty version too. Afterglow never fails to bring a year to the eye and did so on both nights.
Robbery, Assault & Battery too was a delight, perhaps one of the band's more underrated songs, it gave singer Nad Sylvan a chance to get into character again and he went for it big time! Firth Of Fifth too, despite the regularity with which it has appeared in these shows never loses any of it's effect. That is probably down to the superb performances by Steve and Roger who bookend the song with what are probably two of the most memorable solos in the litany of Prog.
One song however, which of late I am coming heartily to detest is I Know What I Like. Why? There's nowt wrong with the song and it was performed effortlessly here on both nights. What spoils it is Rob Townsend's incessant and unnecessary sax noodling which really does nothing for the song and certainly does nothing for me! Rob is in danger of overwhelming it and needs to rein things in. He is a damn fine player but this excess is beginning to grate.
Fortunately things were quickly redressed by a stunning performance of both The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway AND Musical Box which once again was performed in its entirety rather than the truncated version on the Seconds Out album. Nad really came into his own on both of these whilst Steve appeared to be lost in thought throughout - memories if the smiles which crossed his face are anything to go by. I am sure we all had our own memories and smiles too throughout these gigs which were also adding more to the memory bank as well.
Supper's Ready has had every superlative thrown at it already but allow me to throw a few more! There simply isn't another piece of music in the entire Prog oeuvre which comes close to this for sheer majesty, drama and humour. Every moment of its twenty three minutes was lapped up and relished by the entire audience and, if the smiles on the band's faces were anything to go by, by them as well which is as it should be! No one put a foot wrong here and the gods were more than satisfied with the musical sacrifice.
How can you follow that? Well, with that lurid tale of the goings on at The Cinema Show of course! Once again the combined talents of every band member made this a memorable performance on both nights with kudos to Rob whose excellent work here redeemed his earlier excesses.
Encore? Of course there was an encore! Two in fact, although the two are so co-joined that effectively like poor Hermaphroditus, they become one. Dance On A Volcano bubbled, seared and eventually exploded on stage in a maelstrom of musical madness before Los Endos signalled the end of the evening. This would have been an undoubted highlight had Mr Townsend exercised a little restraint but I wasn't going to let that spoil the evenings as the performance was too good for that.
If a week is a long time in politics, then two is a lifetime in terms of gigs especially when both Steve AND Genesis are on the road at the same time. Another lengthy trek South was in order for my final Hackett show of the tour and a welcome return to the wonderful Brighton Dome which I had said hello to a mere month before when I saw Jethro Tull there.
Another excellent front row seat meant that I bookended my tour with seats in such an excellent vantage point and I waited for the lights to dim to be transported once more to that magical world that only musicians of this calibre can create.
Once again the show got under way with the rampaging monster that is Clocks. I have to say that starting the show with such a track as this - more often a show closer - could have made everything that followed an anti climax. Not really but even so, the sheer power of it took everyone's breath away. The new tracks; Held In The Shadows and The Devil's Cathedral were greeted politely but somewhat reservedly compared to the rest but this is to be expected of material which has yet to worm it's way into your musical subconscious. On the latter, Roger King in his alter ego as Liszt executed his very own Mephisto Waltz on the keyboards whilst Nad Sylvan in full on diva mode brought the song to a spine tingingly conclusion. Every Day and the once again truncated version of Shadow Of The Hierophant however, were welcomed like long lost friends and will never fail but to send shivers down my spine.
A lengthy interval followed during which we could "get smashed at the bar" as Steve said - some hopes with the Covid safety policies this venue has enforced - before the band returned for Seconds Out. Just as with the current round of Genesis gigs, the feeling amongst the audience was one of delight, tinged with sadness as the realisation hit home that we just might be witnessing the final performances of this classic material by either Steve or Genesis.
Not that any such thoughts seemed to be occupying Steve or his band's minds as they romped through a deliciously 'eavy and 'umble Squonk in which the rhythm section of Craig Blundell and Jonas Reingold in particular had a blast. Nad Sylvan who had been under the weather for the last few days still managed a tour de force vocal performance on this notoriously difficult song.
It is always difficult to pick out highlights from a show such as this where every track is a bona fide highlight but tonight especially in this setting, and accompanied as KI was by the widow of one of my dearest friends, it won't surprise you to hear that Afterglow reduced us both to tears - as usual! So did Carpet Crawlers during which Steve clocked me on the front row and there was an unspoken acknowledgment between the two of us
Other special moments included Cinema Show and, of course, Supper's Ready. Both were performed with absolute perfection by this superb band who delivered readings from the Book of Genesis replete with both emotion and respect.
Firth Of Fifth, Dance On A Volcano and Los Endos too were served up piping hot (pun intended) with the entire band pulling out all the musical stops to bring these classics to us in awesome fashion.
And that was that, three remarkable concerts. Equally enjoyable but with a few observations to be made. Musically this band simply get better every time I see them. Their lengthy absence from convert stages has not affected their match fitness in the slightest and every musician is in fighting trim. However, as I said in my previous review, Rob Townsend's excesses on several tracks especially I Know What I Like and Los Endos really do need to be curtailed. They really do nothing for the music which is superb without them - sorry Rob but that's what I think!
|Playing Seconds Out in its entirety was always going to result in less of Steve's own solo music being performed otherwise the show would have lasted all night - I am sure that would have suited the audience but Steve ain't as young as he used to be - neither are we! However, the brevity of the solo section did take me by surprise and it felt almost as an afterthought; let's give the punters a few morsels from the back catalogue and a couple of newies to keep 'em happy. The selections themselves were fine although I do think it is time that Every Day was given an honourable retirement. I know, heresy! Let me commit another one and say that the same goes for Shadow Of The Hierophant, wonderful as it is to hear it with Amanda it has become something of a predictable staple. With twenty seven albums to choose from, several of which remain untoured, it wouldn't hurt to mix things up a bit just to keep them fresh for the audience and, I suspect, for the band themselves. Just a thought!|
My final observation concerns the lighting which has noticeably deteriorated in quality over the last two tours. Limited colour use and above all an obsessive and excessive use of the smoke machine does not make for a great light show. OK, I am not there for the light show but nonetheless, it is an integral part of the spectacle and quite frankly this year it fell well below the level of "spectacle" expected apart from the ubiquitous "Seconds Out" cover shot effect which remains an iconic effect.
There, I feel so much better for getting that off my chest! Anyone thinking however that I didn't enjoy the shows, is totally wrong. As a show, they were superb, a group of musicians as talented as these guys simply cannot put on a bad show. Will we ever see the like again once this tour is over? Who knows, but all the more reason to take it while you can - memories are made of such things!