"Just A Riff At Twilight" - The Steve Hackett Live Archive series. Review by Alan Hewitt.
Ah, the memories! When I first heard about this series to say that I was excited was an understatement! Once again, Steve is ahead of the game when it comes to giving his fans what they want and this series of albums will certainly whet the appetite of his most ardent fans.
As someone who saw every one of the tours involved in this series, and indeed as an attendee at the London '93 gig, listening to these recordings again brought me immense pleasure and some moments of laughter as I remembered the antics of certain members of the band at specific parts of the show (all names have been removed to protect the guilty... oops, I mean innocent!)
The first recording comprises Steve's show from Hammersmith during the first of the two tours that year in support of the hugely successful "Spectral Mornings" album and the set comprises a showcase of the first three of Steve's albums and there are some classic performances from Steve's original band here including the delightful insanity of "The Optigan" as well as stunning renditions of classics such as "Please Don't Touch", "Everyday" and "Spectral Mornings" itself of course - here in all its glory - marvellous stuff!
Following this is another gem from the late 1979 tour this time from the hallowed City Hall in Newcastle by which time Steve was already working up material from the follow-up to "Spectral..." and the recording captures the raw essence of these early work-outs on "The Steppes" and "Sentimental Institution" which fit snugly alongside classic performances of other Hackett tracks, another delightful recording.
Steve's change of direction with the "Cured" album is captured on the third album which features his performance from Castel Sant' Angelo Rome on September 13, 1981. His new band are every bit as tight as their predecessors and there are some stunning performances here. New material from the "Cured" album finds its niche alongside many of the established numbers in Steve's growing repertoire of guitaristic excellence.
The final show in this series definitely brings back the most memories because I was there! The "Guitar Noir" tour holds a special place in my affections and this marvellous recording of the show from the Grand Theatre in Clapham, London captured Steve's 1990's band in full flow. The "Guitar Noir" album was seen by many of Steve's fans (myself included) as a welcome return to form and the shows themselves were a superb reiteration of everything that fans loved about Steve's performances. From the opening medley of tracks to the blistering finale of "In That Quiet Earth", Steve and the band take no prisoners and anyone who was at this show will agree with that assessment I am sure!
Putting together a series of albums such as this must have been difficult. Which recordings do you use? Well, this selection certainly leaves me with a contented smile on my face and I am sure that fans will love this chance to hear these classic performances. The set when released officially later this year will be accompanied by a 40-50 page booklet including full sleeve notes and many rare and unseen photographs and a such will represent an essential addition to any Hackett fan's collection.