Ok, so once again I admit to a fair degree of bias when it comes to reviewing this recording! Anyone who has read #50 of TWR will realise that I had a fair degree of involvement with the Steve Hackett tours of 2003 and 2004.
Last year's tour proved that Steve was still a musician of amazing talent and skill and that his new band had all the necessary ingredients to make any gig a special event. I think that a lot of people were surprised however, that Steve decided to tour the UK again within only a few months of the end of the last tour. Sadly, many of those people made the assumption that the set list would be basically the same as last years' and decide not to attend the gigs - an assumption I nearly made myself (not that that would have stopped me from attending the gigs - last year's set list was excellent in its own right!) and this recording might be their only reference from the tour (shame on you, Hackett fans!).
Amazingly, this year, Steve completely re-vamped the set list to probably bring the fans his most balanced set list ever. For fans of just about every era of Hackett there was something to enjoy and a healthy acknowledgement of his time with Genesis to boot! Steve had proven that he listened to the comments of his fan base by reorganising the set and he has done so again with this year's Live Archive offering.
The main criticism of the Live Archive 03 recording was that it was a somewhat sanitised affair, mainly I suppose because it was drawn from several different gigs. Someone quite pertinently commented that it was Steve's "Seconds Out" with very little audience noise and all between songs chatter omitted. That much was certainly true of that previous effort but it has been addressed here and this is certainly an album closer in feel to an official bootleg than any previously available.
Taken from the last gig of the tour at the Petofi Csarnok in Budapest; the recording benefits enormously from the uniformity of sound and ambience of being taken from one gig. Musically, the entire gig is here with the exception of the acoustic set which was captured on last year's Live Archive anyway. Steve's own admission that he was not satisfied with the performance of the acoustic set at this gig speaks volumes for his own attention to quality.
As one of the lucky fans who took in a multiple number of gigs on this tour; the sheer fact that this recording is now available to the fans is sufficient to excite me. However, it is the music itself that does the talking as always with Steve's performances and there are simply too many highlights here for me to single one out. The regular band have grown in stature and confidence over the last tour and they have certainly shone this time round with wonderful performances from each player all of whom contribute to the excellence of the group performance. I have to be slightly partisan and single out Gary O'Toole's marvellous rendition of Blood On The Rooftops… what can I say? Superb does not do it justice! The version of Fly On A Windshield was also extraordinary!
This time, Steve's newer material got a fuller airing than previously with a broader selection of tracks from To Watch The Storms including the delightful Serpentine Song and the excellent medley of Circus Of Becoming and Frozen Statues. A welcome surprise was the inclusion of the superb Valley Of The Kings from the Genesis Revisited album which opened proceedings.
The usual suspects were all present and correct and as excellent as usual; no Hackett show would be complete without Everyday, Clocks and Spectral Mornings but this time they were accompanied by tracks from albums sadly neglected on recent tours; it was a delight to hear The Air-Conditioned Nightmare again and the awesome Hammer In The Sand which unbelievably had never been performed live before this tour.
Continuing the trend of "road testing" new material, Steve included an as yet unrecorded track: A Dark Night In Toytown although its title has been changed on the album to If You Can't Find Heaven, a toe-tapping romp and a close relative to Darktown which follows it in the set.
Really, there is something for everyone on this album and Steve and the band deliver an excellent performance - a genuine LIVE album and one which Steve's fans will cherish - I know I do!
Live Archive 04 Camino Records CAMCD34
Intro/Valley Of The Kings/Mechanical Bride/Circus of Becoming/Frozen Statues/Slogans/Serpentine Song/Ace of Wands/Hammer In The Sand/Blood On The Rooftops/Fly On A Windshield/Please Don't Touch/Firth Of Fifth
If You Can't Find Heaven/Darktown/Brand New/The Air -Conditioned Nightmare/Every Day/Clocks/Spectral Mornings/Los Endos.