“Second Round Of Breaking Waves” - Steve Hackett in concert at the Floral Pavilion New Brighton on Monday 20th February 2012. Review and photographs by Jill Walker.
A few words about the venue first; New Brighton is undergoing a regeneration programme and pride of place on the promenade is the Floral Pavilion. An ultra modern glass fronted building which is home to a theatre, conference suite, bar, lounge and cafes. We arrived in good time to enjoy a meal and watch people arrive in anticipation of a great night ahead.
It was also the 50th birthday of our good friend and editor, Alan Hewitt, so there was a party atmosphere about the place as he was swamped with good wishes and cards. Alan was ushered backstage before the start and came back beaming and clutching a bag of goodies from Steve and Jo. A great start to the night and we went into the theatre knowing it would get even better!
Steve was nursing a cold but being a true professional it didn’t affect his performance at all. There was one line up change this time round, with Lee Pomeroy expertly taking over bass duties. From the opening strains of Loch Lomond, we were lifted into musical heaven. The set list was much the same as the concerts last November which suited us fine. Plenty from the new album; Beyond The Shrouded Horizon and plenty from the “Beat Combo I used to play with” as Steve said! My favourites from both were played so I was very happy.
The Phoenix Flown is the epitome of a great instrumental piece, showcasing Steve’s talents sublimely. A complete change of style and sound but also from the new album is Waking To Life; Amanda’s vocals taking us off to some far away Eastern landscape - beautiful. Rob Townsend’s brilliant playing on this song adds to the mystical feel. A Place Called Freedom is becoming a favourite, portraying the open plains of the Wild West to perfection. Another shift in style and tempo came with Serpentine Song, the gentle melody and lyrics reminding Steve of his youth and so he dedicated this to his father, Peter.
Steve was in a happy, chatty mood tonight, with plenty of good natured banter with the crowd. One particular voice was unmistakable to Steve and he took the opportunity to wish Alan a happy birthday, prompting a round of applause from the audience. More calling out from a Liverpool section of the crowd caused laughter as Steve asked for a translation! All given and taken in good humour. Another bright spark shouted out for Invisible Touch! To which Steve immediately launched into the first few bars. This was the feeling of the evening - relaxed, happy, good-natured, fun and above all musically brilliant.
Steve said a few words about the sad demise of Whitney Houston, comparing her loss to that of Michael Jackson’s. He dedicated Til These Eyes to them both and, having a cold, apologised for his voice saying as it was a new song we wouldn’t know the words to help him out. Quick as a flash a voice pipes up “oh yes we do!”. Yes it was Alan of course and Steve even invited him up to help out! You missed your chance there Alan, or was that deliberate to save a mass exit!! (Bloody cheek! AH). As it happed Steve didn’t need any extra help other than the gorgeous harmonies provided by Amanda. This song is just so beautiful.
Gary O’Toole is one of those drummers that stand out from the crowd. Always in total command, he is in my opinion up there with the best - Phil Collins, Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) to name just two. The fact he is also a great singer is a big plus. He has made Carpet Crawlers his own with an outstanding vocal performance.
One piece for me is worth the entry fee alone - the majestic Firth of Fifth. The keyboard intro is played by Roger King with such feeling and clarity; you could almost hear a pin drop. Gary O’Toole took the lead vocal with supreme confidence. Every one of the band gave their all to this epic masterpiece. I feel so privileged to be able to still hear this played live with Steve Hackett at the helm, just wonderful. Similarly Blood On The Rooftops brought rapturous applause (particularly from A H!). Another highlight from this tour is Shadow Of The Hierophant, gentle and beautiful at the beginning, but then soaring into the stratosphere. Amazing!
Nearing the end of the night we had more treats in store. Another staple from the “Beat Combo” that was Genesis but a souped up version for which Steve apologised and promised not too much twiddling so as not to offend the purists among us! Don’t apologise Steve, your guitar twiddling is awesome!! We’re talking about Los Endos of course, an energetic, fast, mesmerising performance showing just how talented this band are. All too soon it was over.
After prolonged enthusiastic applause the band returned and with a starry backdrop to the stage, launched into Watcher of The Skies. We were taken back in time to revisit the roots of where it all started. This was classic Genesis given the Hackett band treatment to stunning effect. One more special moment was to come, as Steve announced the last piece and dedicated it, deservedly, to Alan Hewitt (this was where the tissues came out!). The glorious Spectral Mornings, and oh how we wished it would never end!
Grateful thanks to an amazing band: Roger King, Rob Townsend, Amanda Lehmann, Gary O’Toole, Lee Pomeroy and of course, Steve Hackett. Thanks also to Steve’s lovely wife Jo for taking so much time after the show to meet the fans. It was good to see so many familiar faces as well as chatting to new friends. What a great night and what a great way to celebrate your 50th birthday Alan. As always - here’s to the next time.