“Summer’s End And A New Beginning” - Steve Hackett in concert at the Summer’s End Festival Lydney Town Hall Gloucestershire Friday 9th October 2009. Review and photographs by Alan Hewitt.
Steve’s life has been fraught with difficulties over the last couple of years. A far from amicable divorce(don’t believe everything you read on certain so-called “official” Internet sites, folks!), and legal battles over the rights to his musical catalogue have left the man fighting for his future as well as defending his past! Thankfully, Steve is nothing if not a fighter and despite the problems, he has come up with another fine album in Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth. The release of this album has been delayed due to protracted legal issues but it has finally been issued on his own new label; Wolfwork Records. With a European/UK tour set to occupy most of the remains of 2009, the Summer’s End Festival was a suitable way to start the celebrations of Steve’s latest creation.
Arriving in plenty of time to watch some of the sound check and say my hello’s to everyone, I was soon introduced to Nathalie Pointer, the new “Merch Mistress” for the coming tour whom I would be hindering… I mean ASSISTING tonight. Steve and the rest of the band looked relaxed and ready to turn in an excellent show for the sell-out crowd. Eventually the doors were opened and in flocked the eager punters who soon filled the hall which reminded me somewhat of the Astor Theatre in Deal which Steve had played on the 2004 tour and which I remember as being a particularly good gig ( an opinion not shared by Ben Fenner though for some reason) a happy omen perhaps? We were soon to see.
The band took to the stage and opened the proceedings with Mechanical Bride, a surprise opener for the show but it worked well with everyone flexing their musical muscles. Steve introduced the next track with a brief explanation of the current problems surrounding the new album’s release and Fire On The Moon was soon shaking the rafters as Nick’s bass threatened to tear the roof down and the harmony vocals between Steve, Nick and Gary lent a real poignancy to the lyrics.
A quartet of classics came next with an emotional version of Every Day followed in rapid order by a boisterous Ace Of Wands and the brief Avant Garde Pollution B leading into a glorious performance of The Steppes in which Gary, Rob and Roger really shone. A latter day classic came next; Darktown which gets better every time I hear it before we returned to the Eighties with Slogans and a rampaging demonstration of “The Mighty Kingatron” which was greeted with loud applause by the crowd.
A personal favourite next, Serpentine Song, a marvellous tribute to Steve’s artist father, Peter, and a wonderful emotional song in its own right, always an enjoyable moment and tonight was no exception. Firth Of Fifth was instantly recognised by the partisan crowd and went down a real treat with Roger, Gary and Steve taking the honours jointly here. Another underrated classic next with Walking Away From Rainbows which, I am sure, given the current fraught situation Steve finds himself in, takes on an entirely new meaning - Roger’s playing here was simply wonderful.
No show by Steve would be complete without an acoustic performance and so, in addition to the above, we were treated to a few snippets of various tracks before the evergreen Horizons which was given an enthusiastic reception by the crowd. Then, the moment I had been hoping for; Blood On The Rooftops, done to a treat by Steve and the band with honours going to Gary whose vocal performance was superb - still makes me cry and long may it continue to do so!
Spectral Mornings simply cannot be bettered and a Hackett show without it is about as imaginable as a Jethro Tull show without the mighty Aqualung! There simply aren’t the words to describe the emotions that go through me every time I hear Steve perform this one.
After years of steering clear of his Genesis past, Steve has of late embraced it fully and seems to relish playing the classics again. That can certainly be said of the next performance; the stunning Fly On A Windshield/Broadway Melody Of ’74 which the entire band seemed to be enjoying immensely and which the crowd loved.
Another quartet of oldies rounded off the show proper with Please Don’t Touch leading the pack, swiftly followed by A Tower Struck Down which nearly turned into a Town Hall Struck Down as Steve and the band rampaged through it. Steve’s syncopated and jazzed-up version of In That Quiet Earth next before the show proper ended with what else…. Los Endos of course! The crowd loved every minute of it and were cheering for more knowing that they were going to get at least one encore.
It wasn’t long in coming as Gary’s tick-tock intro heralded Clocks that ravening beast of a track which really can’t be beaten. Gary hammered seven shades of you-know- what out of his kit while the rest of the band gave a performance that would normally lead to prosecution by the Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Musical Instruments! It was all over, two hours and months of anticipation gone in a glorious flash of musical light. Some fans commented to me that the set was a bit on the safe side, and I have to agree with them, but with a revised set promised for the tour proper I think we can expect a few surprises to come. On this showing, Steve has nothing to worry about for the coming tour - the band are as tight and musically adept as ever and its obvious that they really enjoy playing together every bit as much as we, the audience, enjoy watching them - bring on the tour!
As usual, there are a few people I would like to thank for making this possible. First of all Paul Gibbon for arranging the tickets and for showing me the “joys” of Guitar Hero! To the guys in the band for giving their all at every show. To Brian Coles for his enthusiasm and help. To Jo for being there for Steve and to Nathalie Pointer our new merch mistress - allez les Quebecoises! And to Steph and Dave and Steve H and all the other familiar and not so familiar faces who came and said “hi” and to the organisers of the Summer’s End Festival for putting on such a great event in the first place - here’s to many more!