“Breaking Waves In Manchester” - Steve Hackett in concert at the Royal Northern College Of Music Manchester on Saturday 12th November 2011. Review and photographs by Jill Walker.
Does it get any better than this? Well I don’t think so, what a night! The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester proved a super venue having unrestricted views for all, and with great acoustics. Being lucky enough to have front row seats right at Mr Hackett’s feet was an added bonus.
Steve and the band launched straight away into the new album and so began our journey Beyond The Shrouded Horizon. Loch Lomond, the opener showcases the entire band - Steve the genius guitar player whose voice improves with every tour; Rob (Mr one-man-band) Townsend on clarinet, oboe, whistle, sax and tambourine, you name it, he plays it! Roger King, the maestro of the keyboards; Gary O’Toole the ace drummer and singer (keeping the “family” tradition alive); Amanda Lehmann with her sublime voice and guitar and Phil Mulford an exceptional bass man. My personal favourite from the album; The Phoenix Flown is a soaring, sweeping instrumental that filled the theatre with glorious sounds. Two more new tracks; were very well received by an appreciative audience, before a trip back to The Golden Age Of Steam. Being so close to Steve, I could see how he got right into character for this song, and I really felt the meaning behind the lyrics for probably the first time. Very Impressive! More familiar songs followed before our journey took a different direction. Waking To Life was Amanda’s time to shine with her tender vocals and a mystical, Eastern feel to the music from the band. Another triumph.
Now to the “old band”! Leading a massed choir that was the audience with Carpet Crawlers, was Gary O’Toole. A strong dramatic vocal from Gary, edgy and just perfect for this song. The spine tingling moment of the night was to come next as the spotlight landed on Roger as he began that most famous of intros. What else but Firth of Fifth - WOW- I have never heard it played so well. Maybe because I was so close to the band (sorry to keep rubbing it in!) and oblivious to anyone else, it was as though they were playing it just for me (I feel the same about Blood On The Rooftops Jill - AH) - my favourite Genesis track. Stunning solos from Steve, Roger and Rob and Gary on lead vocals again. The knowledgeable audience remained silent for those last few bars of mesmerising piano from Roger then a huge roar erupted, almost raising the roof of the theatre and I was on my feet. Thought I’d died and gone to heaven!!
The diversity of Steve’s back catalogue plus the “old band’s” catalogue ensured an eclectic mix of music to follow. One I Haven’t heard live before - Shadow Of The Hierophant - suggested apparently by Steven Wilson, was a strong, majestic tour de force, wonderful. The customary acoustic section gave us time to catch our breath, and marvel at Steve’s ability to make such beautiful varied music. More Genesis with Blood On The Rooftops and Fly On A Windshield, to surely satisfy the appetite of those amongst us who revel hearing them live before another of Steve’s songs, Sleepers. A gorgeous melody, great vocals, and soaring guitar. The night was drawing to a close as Steve laughingly said next up was “Los something…” and the band launched into a brilliant, high energy performance of Los Endos.
The band left the stage to the sound of a very appreciative, happy audience, roaring for more, more, more… and of course, they returned very soon. A hush descended as plumes of white light from above lit up over Roger as he began the eerily haunting Watcher of The Skies, wonderful. Our journey now almost complete we had one last treat; probably Steve’s most loved instrumental - Spectral Mornings. Lovingly played, lovingly received, a perfect end to a perfect night.
Full credit to an amazing band: Amanda, Rob, Gary, Roger and Phil. Only the best could join Steve on stage and they were all “the best”. The set list for me was just the right mix of old, new, Genesis songs and pieces from Steve’s solo career. With decades of music to choose from, you can’t please all of the people all of the time but surely Steve has earned the right to play exactly what he enjoys playing? For true fans, what’s not to love? Thanks Steve, and here’s to the next time.