"Another trip back…" - Steve Hackett's Live Archive 83 album reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Ah yes, 1983 I remember it well! This was a year replete with plenty to celebrate if you were a Genesis fan and if you were a Steve Hackett fan you had more than most to celebrate. April had seen the release of yet another hit rock album; Highly Strung and even a hit single in the shape of Cell 151 and another marvellous UK tour in support of it.
What took me, and I guess many other Hacketteers by surprise was the release in late October 1983 of another album by the maestro. This one took us down the path which other musicians feared to tread: an exploration of Steve's love of the acoustic guitar. Bay Of Kings was to be the blueprint for so much of Steve's subsequent work and is still a delight now almost twenty three years later! These were also the days when you found about gigs either by word of mouth or via the music press which was still a viable and (mostly) fair-minded entity and it still bemuses me how it was that I managed to entirely miss the advertising for the Bay Of Kings tour and more importantly, a gig on that tour in my own home town! Oh how I cursed when I finally saw an advertising hoarding in the city centre some three days AFTER the Liverpool gig!
Ah well, you can't win 'em all as they say and I have certainly more than compensated on Hackett tours since then! So, this tour remains the only UK tour by Steve that I did not witness in person which makes this latest addition to the Live Archive series all the more important. Intriguingly enough, the recording is actually taken from a bootleg source, there being no available complete desk recordings from this tour. Combining two separate recordings from the beginning and end of the tour makes for an interesting comparison with other "ahem" recordings which are available from this tour. Certainly a lot of care has been taken in cleaning up the original source recording to make it presentable. There is still a wonderful vibe about audience recorded bootlegs which makes this recording all the more enjoyable to my ears. Equally enjoyable was the appearance of another Hackett rarity; The Water Wheel, an as yet unreleased track, one of many from this and the subsequent Momentum tour which have still to see the light of day on a studio album.
Hearing tracks which are now so familiar in their original acoustic setting also makes for interesting listening as you can begin to understand how much Steve has evolved as an acoustic player and John's flute playing is as sublime as ever. Longstanding Hackett fans will relish this latest archival outing and newer ones will hopefully begin to appreciate the loyalty that this maestro of the "small orchestra" engenders in his fans and musical peers - marvellous stuff!