"Night Manoevres By The Small Orchestra" - Steve Hackett's
new live album reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
An acoustic live album by Steve Hackett - another surprise by the guitar maestro. Most if not allof the Hackett fans I have spoken to have expressed the desire for a larger slice of the acoustic cake and I think that with this album that hunger for acoustic delight will be well and truly satisfied! The album captures one night of Steve's recent Italian Tour with Julian Colbeck and as such it is a delightful snapshot of that tour as wellas capturing for posterity Steve's acoustic brilliance.
The album opens with what to me at least is the best performance of Horizons that I have EVER heard; lyrical and exquisite beyond belief. This is in turn followed by Black Light and Steve's own rendition of the haunting Skye Boat Song which has fast become oe of my personal favourites from Steve's repertoire. Time-Lapse At Milton Keynes follows and is just as beautiful live as it was on the single and just as poignant because I was one of the "Wet Brigade" who were at the reunion concert in 1982 which the piece was written to commemmorate.
A new piece: Beja Flor follows inspiredby the Brazilian hummingbird and just like its subject; the piece is an irridescent beauty. Several favourites from Steves' repertoire follow in the form of Kimand Second Chance both of which just get better and better. The amalgam of sound between Julian and Steve is breathtaking and I for one hope they can continue this fruitful partnership for along while to come.
A surprise inclussion was the instrumental version of Oh How I Love You from the as yet unreleased Feedback album, another deightful perfornance. This was in turn followed by The Journey another firm favourite from Bay Of Kings. Yet another new piece follows in the form of Bacchus a riotous mix of keyboards and guitar, quite evocative of the rather high spirited God from which thepiece takes its name.
The real heart of the album for me follows in the three pieces: Walking Away From Rainbows, Cavalcanti and Andante In C by Giuliani all of which were superbly played. The former was a hightlight of the Guitar Noir tour in 1993 and has improved immensely since then if that is possible. Andante In C most people (in the UK at least) will remember as the theme to the children's TV programme Tales Of The Riverbank and it is a delightful version.
For me, the only weak track is Steve's rendition of Concerto In D by Vivaldi and that maybe comes from my being more used to hearing Steve Howe's version in concert. Not to take anything away from Mr Hackett's performance which was excellent, just a little too slow for my taste - sorry Steve! Another surprise arose with the inclusion of the instrumentalversionof A Blue Part of Town from Blues With A Feeling with some great harmonica playing by Steve.
Ace Of Wands gave Julian another chance to show of this keyboard virtuosity and round off the show proper in classic style. The encores were further examplesof Steve's rapport with an audience;good natured bantering preceding the customary acoustic ramble through some of Genesis' s history before launching into the exquisite Cinema Paradiso by Ennio Morricone which fully enabled both musicians to complement each other with faultless playing of a beautiful piece of music.
The final track is another new composition: End Of Day which rounds off the album in suitably classic style. Over all,the album is an excellent attempt to keep the live atmosphere so often lacking from so-called "Live" albums. Both the audience and the musicians obviously enjoyed each other's performance and as a statement of what Steve Hackett is capable of when performing acoustically, this one is hard to beat but you didn't really expect me to say otherwise, did you?