“Time Lapse Or audience Lapse” - Steve Hackett’s new live album reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
When we heard about the impending release of Steve’s first live album, I for one was a little incredulous. After all, almost three years’ silence was about to be broken and so when one of our readers sent in a review which we printed a couple of issues ago, I set about finding the elusive album myself and eventually I DID find one but it took some doing - thanks Jon!
Anyway, the disc represents two concerts put on by Steve and his band with almost ten years separating them. The first five tracks are from his latest show at Central TV studios in Nottingham on 13th September 1990 whilst the remaining eight are from the concert he played at the Triangle Theatre New York on 31st October 1981.
The set opener, Camino Royale is an example of Steve at his best with an impromptu jam session extending the song to almost nine minutes in length and giving full rein to the combined talents of the other musicians as well as Steve himself.
Please Don’t Touch and Every Day are up next and are sadly lacking that essential spark that makes them such live gems in concert. However, this is not due to any lack of spirit by the band but rather by the lack of audience reaction which is one of the main flaws in this recording. The audience seems to have been edited out, making the album less live than it should be.
In That Quiet Earth is next and I was astonished when I saw this one on the disc and dearly wish that I had known about the show earlier for I would have CERTAINLY been there - this song is always afavourite of mine and is beautifully played by the band.
Sadly the only representative of the “new” material Steve has amassed over the last few years comes in the form of Depth Charge which although in itself is a fine piece, does not rank as the best of the new pieces on the video from Nottingham, The rest of the album is, as I said, taken from Steve’s show in New York in 1981. These tracks start with an up tempo version of Jacuzzi which is an altogether better representation of Steve’s “live” sound. The Steppes and Ace Of Wands follow and both are faultless in presentation and response from the audience. John Hackett’s flute playing on the former is probably the best I have heard on this track.
Hope I Don’t Wake and The Red Flower Of Taichi Blooms Everywhere follow and are brilliantly contrasted. The former being one of Steve’s best “pop” songs and the latter being a supreme example of his craft as a writer of music that stirs the emotions - well he certainly stirs my emotions with this piece!
Tigermoth is next, sadly only part two but what a performance! Live this piece never fails to raise the hackles on the back of my neck and it did so on the album too. Not a piece for the faint-hearted, now or then. The pace continues as we are taken into the aural chaos of A Tower Struck Down - another show-stopper and one that was evidently appreciated by the audience.
The finale… well, what else could round off a Steve Hackett live album? Yes, you’ve guessed it - Spectral Mornings and Clocks. A fitting finale to the album and two outstanding versions to boot, a great way to finish the album.
As I have said., the main weakness of the album lies in the lack of proper audience noise, after all it IS supposed to be a “live” album, and I wonder why so many bands and artists insist on mixing the audience down? Having said that, however, the mix of old and new material does make this a far more representative live album than many I have heard and it does fill a much needed gap in Steve’s repertoire. Only one question remains: when is the next studio album due, Steve? Please tell us - we’re patiently waiting here at The Waiting Room!