“From The Vaults” - A look at a few of the recent soundboard recordings by Alan Hewitt.

Collecting is a marvellous thing. Just when you think that you have everything that you really need or want, something emerges which really takes you by surprise and becomes a MUST HAVE item. Well, over the past few years, Genesis fans have certainly been spoilt by the sudden emergence from dusty vaults of a whole slew of recordings from the mid ‘70’s onwards. Just how these recordings have ended up in private hands is the subject of much debate and I can honestly say that I have absolutely NO knowledge on this subject so please don’t ask! All I know is, is that the recordings that are reviewed here have probably been among many Genesis fans’ wishes lists for many years!

First of these and most recent to appear is probably the most surprising of all. In the lead up to the legendary “Six Of The Best” reunion concert with Peter Gabriel back in 1982, the band undertook an intensive series of afternoon rehearsals with Peter prior to their Hammersmith Odeon gigs. The band themselves were probably at the peak of “match fitness” having already been on the road for the better part of two months by the time of this recording. Peter on the other hand… well, even he admits almost at the start of the recording “I need all the help I can get” and it is certainly true! He struggles with lyrics and his vocals are at best ragged and at worst shambolic. The rest of the band really put him to shame. Mind you, he had left all this behind some seven years before so I suppose we should be forgiving. I was astonished by some of the musical performances especially Daryl’s rendering of Steve’s Firth Of Fifth solo augmented by a ferocious percussive performance from Phil and Chester.

It is strange listening to a recording of a performance without the stories - especially a gig which any self respecting Genesis fan knows almost by heart. Musical Box is another fascinating listen. Peter fluffs the lyrics again but the emotion is clearly there in his vocals. Musically, Tony and Daryl really motor on this one and it is thrilling to hear how well they perform a song which hadn’t been played in its entirety since 1975! In fact, this performance really does hark back to the problematic days of 1971/72 in atmosphere before Phil grabs the proceedings by the scruff of the neck and along with Daryl, Tony and Mike drags it screaming towards an orgasmic climax.

The Lamb… section of the show once again shows how well versed the band are with the music even though most of it they hadn’t played since 1976! Peter struggles again to remember lyrics and there are several stop-starts as he tries to find his feet. In The Cage too, also showed just how well rehearsed the band were while poor old Peter fluffs his cues and struggles with the lyrics and even struggles to sing the song in tune! One thing is for sure, I can now fully understand why both Peter and the band have always been reluctant to have material such as this in the public domain - a fascinating and on more than one occasion highly embarrassing item but an essential one for collectors nonetheless!

Next up is another of those recordings which had certainly been on my “wants list” for ages. The A Trick Of The Tail tour is a firm favourite of mine and I had longed for a really decent recording from that tour. Thankfully, recently a few soundboards of early gigs on the tour had surfaced, and the British Biscuit radio broadcast of one of the band’s Hammersmith Odeon shows gave us a tantalising glimpse at how the band sounded during that tour. Well, at last a complete recording of one of those Hammersmith Odeon gigs has surfaced and it is a joy to hear.

I think this is the recording of the same night which has been available in edited form from the British Biscuit radio broadcast which was excellent in itself. Here, however we have the show in its glorious entirety. By the time the band reached the UK they were performing at the top of their game and gone were any nerves that were so evident on the early recordings from this tour. Phil is in fine form and his on stage patter especially in the story leading up to Cinema Show is hilarious. It is obvious that everyone is having a great time and the band put in some of the best performances that I have ever heard from the band. Steve in particular is really having a great time during the Lamb… section of things. Tony is as impeccable as ever and Mike delivers some of the finest bass playing of his life. Bill Bruford’s percussion is as tasty and tight as you would expect from him and the duetting between him and Phil on Los Endos is wonderful. No wonder Barbara Charone wrote in her review of these gigs that “Genesisteria” was sweeping the land. On this performance it isn’t hard to see why!

Finally, something that had been missing from the collection for ages. The sudden emergence of soundboard and mixing desk recordings which has taken place over the last few years had mainly managed to cover the period 1973-80. I have always found it strange that given the band’s massive popularity that no radio recordings(apart from one solitary US broadcast) let alone anything else other than the numerous audience recordings, has surfaced to represent the Abacab tour. Well, that situation has been remedied now with the appearance of a superb soundboard recording from the band’s show at the Festhalle in Frankfurt on 30th October 1981.

There has been an excellent audience recording of this gig around since the tour itself but nonetheless, to have a soundboard recording of such a show is even better. The Abacab tour certainly had its highs and lows especially if you were at the Leiden gig! However, no such problems here. The band are playing to an enthusiastic audience who know the new album and have obviously taken it to their hearts. The entire band put in a great performance here with Daryl and Chester being the glue that holds everything together and their tasteful playing on such classics as Firth Of Fifth and Carpet Crawlers is incredible.

The band had nailed their colours to the new album and the new sound is admirably demonstrated on tracks such as Abacab itself and Dodo/Lurker all of which sound infinitely leaner and meaner than the Genesis of old, while the band’s ear for a catchy tune is well displayed with Man On The Corner and No Reply At All. The mix between the old and the new makes for a fascinating listen and to have a recording from such an important tour in such great quality is really exciting.

(Note: Download copies of artwork for these from Simon’s site if they are available.)

Finding A Cure On The Dancing Ground. Steve Hackett’s solo tour programmes examined by: Alan Hewitt.

Steve’s solo career is no stranger to the pages of TWR but I thought it might be of interest to examine this area of his output in a little more detail.

Steve’s solo career began proper in 1978 with the release of his second album: Please Don’t Touch which was the first album for which he put together a live touring band to promote it. Sadly, no tour programme was compiled for either this tour or for the two tours in 1979 and 1980 for Spectral Mornings and Defector respectively.

And so, our story really starts with the release of Cured in 1981. This was a pivotal album in Steve’s career in so many ways and the subsequent tour which included Steve’s first major solo tour of the USA as a solo artist, was accompanied by a programme. Featuring a live shot on the front cover and advertisement for the album on the back, the booklet itself was your typical ‘80’s style programme; a mix of info on the band; tour dates and photographs. Fortunately this programme is still quite easy to find in decent condition.

Steve’s performance at the 1981 Reading Festival also ensured that he appeared in the programme published to commemorate that event although this item is harder to find than the above.

Steve’s next album; 1983’s Highly Strung saw a UK only tour of the major theatres and another programme accompanied it. Similar in format to its predecessor, in fact the majority of the text and photos were the same or very similar to those that had gone before. However, there was some new material and a new biographical section too. With the tour only taking in the UK, this is an highly sought after programme for collectors.

As if that wasn’t enough, 1983 saw Steve back on the road again in the autumn in support of his first solo acoustic album: Bay Of Kings, and the subsequent tour of university halls in the UK threw up a bona fide rarity in the form of another tour programme. This one was a basic A5 design which folded out into a mini
poster of Steve in typical “Rock God” pose. Only a handful of these programmes ever seem to have been in circulation and they are extremely rare.

Steve’s tour with the AOR circus that was GTR does not seem to have generated a tour programme which is surprising given the popularity of the band especially in the US. That means that our next item comes from the tour which Steve undertook in 1988 in support of his second acoustic album: Momentum. This is one of the nicest tour programmes Steve has ever issued, stylish with plenty of biographical information and photographs which makes it another nice addition for collectors.

Fans then had a long wait for Steve’s next album and tour but eventually 1993 saw the release of Guitar Noir preceded by the “Tour Noir” in the USA in the autumn of 1992 for which no tour programme was produced,. Nor indeed was any produced for the subsequent UK and European tours in 1993 and 1994.

The next programme that appeared was done to commemorate Steve’s shows with the acoustic trio (himself with brother John and Roger King) at the Manoel Theatre in Malta in October 2002. This is a beautifully produced A5 sized programme featuring a nice balance between text and photographs. This was available until recently on Steve’s web site and is well worth checking out.

2003 saw Steve return to the road again for his next Rock album: To Watch The Storms and for an extensive period of touring which was to span both 2003 and 2004 in the UK and Europe. The programme returned to the A4 format and served as the brochure for both ’03 and ’04 tours. Another nicely designed programme including an informed text and photos and is another essential item for collectors.

Steve’s most recent forays have again been with the acoustic trio and extensive tours in the UK, Europe and USA during 2005 and 2006 resulted in another A5 sized programme. This is another worthy addition to any collection containing a wealth of detail an informative interview with Steve by Paul Cox and plenty of photographs. Easily available at gigs and still available from Steve’s web site, this is the most recent programme although with a tour planned for the Autumn of 2008, I am sure we shall see something else for our collections from Mr Hackett soon!

Next time I shall be looking at the tour programmes from Phil Collins and Mike & The Mechanics.