“A Hacketting I Will Go..” - Your editor’s annual romp around the UK in the company of Mr Hackett and his merry band. Tour report and photographs by Alan Hewitt, Alison Lancaster. Memorabilia: TWR Archive.
Hmm, I seem to have read that title once or thrice before in these pages. Oh well.. A good title like a good cast is worth repeating as they say! Speaking of good casts… oh we’ll get to that later!
These shows came as just the right balm to assuage the loss of my father who passed away a few weeks before the commencement of the UK tour. Over the years, dad had had more than his fair share of encounters with one or more member of Genesis although sadly he never got to meet Steve in person he did chat to him on occasions on the ‘phone in his capacity as my telephone answering service and I am sure he would have appreciated the spectacle that was to unfold at various venues around the UK- or more likely complain about the racket! That’s “Hackett’s Racket” to you, dad!
Initially, the plan for this section of the tour would have seen me start the festivities at the prestigious Hammersmith Odeon (it will ALWAYS be “The Odeon” to me, folks!) in London but a phone call from Mr Ainscoe (see review later in this edition) persuaded me to put in an appearance at the opening night warm-up show in Aylesbury, home to so many of Genesis’ earlier triumphs. One thing I should point out here and now for the benefit of certain individuals is the fact that I was NOT “invited” to this show other than being tempted into going by the aforesaid Mr Ainscoe and the tickets were PAID for as indeed were most of the others for these gigs so don’t believe everything you read on certain Facebook pages, folks!
Anyway, an uneventful trip to Aylesbury saw us at the venue with plenty of time to spare and so finding ourselves ensconced in a convenient watering hole adjacent to the venue. And what a marvellous venue it was, too! Having only seen one gig in Aylesbury prior to this one, and that was in 1994 for Marillion at the old Civic Centre which I was subsequently informed is now a car park - the fate of so many fine venues these days! Returning to the venue in time to pick up a couple of AAA passes which had been put on the box office for us unbeknownst to me by Steve’s good lady, Jo we were soon mingling with the great and the good of Aylesbury and further afield as it turned out. One face struck me as familiar and suddenly I was face to face with Genesis journalistic legend Armando Gallo, whom I had not seen since my last trip to Canada in 2000 to see The Musical Box. Having introduced an incredulous Mr Ainscoe to him, I soon spotted several other familiar facelifts among the crowd and was in my element chewing the fat about all things Genesis.
No support act tonight, which meant that as soon as we entered the theatre the main event was under way pretty much immediately. Having had a list of the tracks which the band had rehearsed for this tour several months ago, and having studiously avoided any Internet “spoilers”, I was still unsure exactly what would open the show but in the end it was the glorious Watcher Of The Skies which got things off to a flying start (pun intended). Roger King’s symphonic keyboards heralded the arrival of starship Hackett for a night none of us would forget. New vocalist, Nad Sylvan seemed quite at home as he delivered a flawless rendering of this classic, regarding the audience through his miniature telescope. This was a superb start to the evening!
Next up was a helping from The Lamb… The Chamber of 32 Doors and here once again, Nad Sylvan took the incredibly hard job of stepping into Mr Gabriel’s shoes and made the song his own. Once again, some impeccable work by both Steve and Roger King brought this one vividly to life and the new visuals made an impressive impact too. In fact, that was to be one of the most noticeable things about these gigs, the visual element contributed enormously throughout the show.
Classic followed classic throughout this extravaganza and the presence of special guests, although enjoyable paled into insignificance behind the real special guest - the MUSIC itself!
One of the highlights of the show for me personally though was when Nik Kershaw was announced on stage for an astonishing performance of The Lamia. Already a favourite of mine from the album, here it took on even greater majesty as it was augmented by the presence of Steve Rothery on guitar who despite a few grimaces at the odd bum note, brought the song vividly to life.
A musical box makes its appearance on screen so no prizes for guessing what came next! One minor quibble for me is that personally I think this one appeared too early in the set and gave me pause that perhaps Steve and the band were going to peak too early. No such worries though as Steve and the band nailed this one to perfection and kudos once again to Nad for having the balls to tackle it - superbly done, young man!
We were in for another treat next as Steve announced his sister-in-law; Amanda Lehmann on stage for the only non-Genesis track tonight; an awesome rendering of Shadow Of The Hierophant. Having resurrected this one on his last tour, it certainly deserves to retain its place in the pantheon of Hackett classics and having Amanda singing it was simply the icing on the cake for me.
Next the triptych of classics from my favourite album; Wind & Wuthering for those of you who don’t know! Blood On the Rooftops got things off to a suitably emotional start and I loved the visuals for this one too, very effective! Steve was even singing along himself and was obviously having a great time if the smile on his face was anything to go by! This was followed by the majestic landscape of the Yorkshire Moors as conjured up by Steve and the band as they tore through Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers and In That Quiet Earth as if their very lives depended on it. Of course, this led in turn to the majestic Afterglow, this evening graced by the vocal performance of John Wetton. Or should that be disgraced as to be honest, this was the only real low point of the evening for me. Not only was Wetton’s delivery emotionless and flat (something I had also found on the album version), but he even forgot the lyrics! An unforgivable crime as far as I am concerned.
However, the band immediately redeemed themselves with a stonking version of I Know What I Like in which each and every musician appeared to be having a great time. If that was the case then Dance On A Volcano threatened to bring the house down. Lee Pomeroy and Gary O’Toole’s rhythm section battering all before them.
The pace was slowed somewhat next as Amanda Lehmann returned to the stage along with Jakko Jakszyck for an absolutely amazing performance of Entangled which simply blew me away it was better than Genesis and I don’t say that lightly either! Another personal favourite next as Nad Sylvan returned to the stage replete in natty smoking jacket to take the part of the dapper “Bobbing John Mar” subject of Eleventh Earl Of Mar. Nad even acted out the part which gave the song an even more impressive edge.
Steve then picked up his trusty old twelve string as cue for the centre piece of tonight’s extravaganza: Supper’s Ready. Cue audience going berserk as this mighty tale of the struggle between good and evil was played out onstage. Musically this was as near perfection as you are ever likely to get and visually, well let’s just say - “A flower!”
Thankfully, the band didn’t opt to do what Genesis used to do and not return for an encore after their magnum opus. Mind you, I doubt if they would have been allowed to get away with it if they had tried, such was the enthusiasm that the crowd were displaying and so it was left to maestro Roger King to get the encores under way with an impeccable performance of the introduction to Firth of Fifth and yet more histrionics from the crowd. Each and every band member came into their own here and the evening was brought to a cataclysmic conclusion by that little fusion number: Los Endos. OK, Steve might have taken a few liberties with the old girl but when she lifts her skirts there is still no better way in which to close a show.
And so it was over for opening night apart from the meet and greet which Mr Ainscoe has covered elsewhere in his review and after the uneventful trip home it was overnight bag packed and back down to the Smoke for round two and my first ever Hackett gig at the magnificent Hammersmith Odeon.
An equally uneventful train journey was followed by the now traditional get together with some equally insane Hacketteers including my good friends Alison and Brian Lancaster who had made the journey down from Alloa, Lee Millward, photographer extraordinaire and of course, the ubiquitous Steph Kennedy for some bibulous pre-show entertainment. With last night being pretty much a warm-up show for tonight, the excitement was no less tangible as we entered the hallowed portals of the Odeon. Tonight was also being filmed for posterity and a multitude of cameras were to be seen dotted around the hall. Some confusion had been caused by the late decision to bizarrely add Anne-Marie Helder to the bill as opening act for this and the subsequent shows with several venues (including this one) appearing to be unaware of this fact.
Anyway… on with the show and what a show it was! Any wrinkles which there may have been in the show appeared to have been well and truly ironed out last night and what we got tonight was a performance high on precision and musical and visual excellence. It is impossible to really select highlights from a show in which each and every track was a highlight in its own right but for me, once again Nik Kershaw’s rendition of The Lamia and the combined talents of Jakko Kakszyck and Amanda Lehmann on Entangled really stood out.
The trio from Wind & Wuthering had grown immensely from last night and thankfully Mr Wetton remembered the words to Afterglow tonight! Strange to reflect though, that after years in the “my favourite Genesis track” position, Afterglow was relegated tonight and the performance which reduced me to tears of joy was Eleventh Earl of Mar which Nad Sylvan brought vividly to life.
Once again, the majestic Supper’s Ready gave the entire band and audience a chance to really create some magic and 666 definitely was NOT alone tonight as the Hammersmith Choir lent their mighty voices to the fray leaving me wondering exactly how well the resulting DVD will capture the magic that was going on in the room that night.
It really is amazing just how quickly time will pass when you are having fun and believe me, this was FUN! Soon Los Endos heralded the end of another evening’s festivities and it was all over. Oh well, two down four to go!
A day off and a trip back home to psych myself up for Steve’s welcome return to my home town of Liverpool - it’s been a long time, hasn’t it, indeed! I don’t know if the fact that I introduced Steve to the glories of the Philharmonic Hall a couple of years ago that persuaded him to play there or not. Either way, there aren’t many venues in this country that can match the dear old Phil for atmosphere and acoustics the latter were to take this show to another level tonight with the best sound thus far.
No special guests tonight so the burden of vocal performance fell entirely on the broad shoulders of Nad Sylvan and Gary O’Toole and they didn’t disappoint as they traded off vocal pyrotechnics throughout the evening.
Once again, the rest of the band were no slouches either. Rob Townsend put in some amazing performances throughout the evening as resident “king of the wind” whilst Roger King was enjoying himself so much that he even cracked a smile on more than one occasion, while Steve’s grin couldn’t really get any bigger as he appeared completely relaxed and in his element throughout.
Once again, it would be churlish to pick out one track over another here but tonight the ones pushing the Editor’s buttons were Chamber of 32 Doors which Gary O’Toole nailed to perfection, while Nad Sylvan took the plaudits during another superb performance of The Lamia. Lee Pomeroy too, threatened to tear the Phil’s roof from its foundations with some devastating bass playing especially during Musical Box and Supper’s Ready which elicited the expected response from this fervently partisan Scouse crowd.
Another day off to recuperate before heading up to what has become in recent years my second spiritual home in more ways than one! Dear old Glasgow, scene of so many superb gigs by Genesis themselves and by most of the solo members too including some extremely memorable ones by Steve himself over the last few years. Tonight was to be no exception and, the Royal Concert Hall, yet another new venue for yours truly was to be well and truly rocked tonight.
Taking our seats front and centre which seems to have become a tradition at Glasgow gigs, the band got things off to a flying start (pun intended) with Watcher Of The Skies greeted by a huge roar from the crowd. Once again, the evening was a masterpiece of visual and musical theatre , augmented at several points by tonight’s special guest: Ray Wilson who graced the stage for magnificent performances of Carpet Crawlers, I Know What I Like and a sublime Entangled.
Having imbibed a couple of lemonades beforehand (has to be done in dear old Glasgee, you know!) I was somewhat taken aback when glancing to my left at the start of Musical Box to see an old man AND a fox! Thankfully Messrs Grant and Reynolds took their masks off but not before they had been well and truly clocked by Steve whose grin said it all! Each and every song was delivered impeccably and the accompanying visuals were both tasteful and yet never detracted from the music. Those for Blood On The Rooftops and Supper’s Ready being particularly effective to my mind.
Next stop, Gateshead and yet another new venue for your editor. The Sage has been doing great business now for a few years and is an impressive example of what can be done when the right combination of talents is left to create a home for the arts. Arriving several hours early I eventually parked myself with a book and a drink and waited for the rest of the contingent to arrive and have to say that during the afternoon, I was regally entertained by a troupe of local musicians who re-appeared at several points and gave an excellent performance. Eventually show time arrived and I found myself in the somewhat bizarre position of sitting behind Steve’s brother John and his family - oh well, even yours truly has to slum it once in a while! Other familiar facelifts were dotted around the crowd including ReGenesis’ front man and all round good egg, Tony Patterson.
Another marvellous night’s entertainment got under way with the majestic strains of Watcher of The Skies which set the tone for the rest of the evening. Once again, the rhythm section of Gary O’Toole and Lee Pomeroy took command from the outset and provided a rock solid platform onto which the rest of the band grafted equally impressive performances as the evening wore on. Steve once again was grinning from ear to ear throughout and I have to admit I haven’t seen him look this happy on stage for ages.
One omission took me by surprise tonight; no Eleventh Earl Of Mar. Apparently this was due to curfew restrictions as I was told afterwards but I suspect it was dropped because Nad’s voice was beginning to show signs of strain by the point in the show where it usually appeared. Something else took me completely by surprise tonight too, as Steve dedicated the first of this evening’s encores, Firth Of Fifth to the memory of my father - cue yours truly doing Squonk impressions at this point!
Five down, one to go and where else than the majestic Symphony Hall in Birmingham. OK. So as a proud Scouser, I am biased towards the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool but it has to be said that Steve could not have picked a finer auditorium to conclude his UK shows.
After having sampled the hospitality of Mr Chaudhry and travelled down to the show unusually this time the usual pre-show meet and greet failed to materialise but these things happen! Taking our seats, this time I had the equally bizarre experience of sitting IN FRONT of John Hackett and family.
The sheer scale of the Symphony Hall might have overwhelmed lesser musicians but not these guys. Mind you, when you are playing music of this magnitude, the surroundings always pale into the background. Once again, Watcher… got things off and in a setting like this you can really appreciate the orchestral element that was always such a feature in Genesis’ music and was one of the main reasons why yours truly began to follow them all those years ago!
In such surroundings though, the audience tends to be cowed slightly and tonight’s crowd were suitably restrained in their applause but that isn’t to say that they weren’t enjoying themselves - far from it even when one wag shouted out for Invisible Touch (yes Mr Parsons, this means you!) the band took it all in their stride.
I know that some critics and purists among the fan base have taken exception to what Steve has done here. Accusations of becoming a “tribute band” have abounded and maybe that would have some merit if the same critics troubled themselves to say the same about any orchestral performance of any of the established “Classical “ repertoire. Such criticisms have no foundation here though as Steve has concentrated on the material in which HE had a major stake in writing in the first place. His band handled the material with a respect and sensitivity which beggars belief and vocalist, Nad Sylvan managed to pull off the vocals from both “eras” with aplomb and an evident relish which was a joy to hear and watch.
Six shows of such uniform magnificence are certainly no fluke. The amount of effort and determination and yes, lets be honest about it - HARD CASH that has been expended on putting this show together beggars belief. Steve is in a very good place now and after the trials and tribulations of the last few years he certainly deserves to be there. The band he has now is without doubt the best he has ever had since he went solo and it is a joy to see him back in the likes of the Hammersmith Odeon again where such talent deserves to be in my opinion!
So, there you have it. Another UK jaunt with the Hacketts over and done with but with a second slice of this incredibly rich pie still to come in a few months’ time all that remains for now is to say the usual; round of thank you’s to those who helped make it possible so if the following individuals will kindly take a bow… First of all, Steve, Nad, Gary, Rob, and Lee for putting in 110% each and every night. To Mr Brian Coles for handling everything with such unfailing ease and stoicism. To Steve’s good lady; Jo for her help and encouragement and above all friendship. To the various members of the venue staff at each and every one of the halls involved for doing their jobs so superbly well and ensuring that we, the audience had a problem free evening.
Now for the rabble… sorry Hacketteers without whom etc. Grateful thanks to Az Chaudhry for chauffeuring and culinary expertise. To Mike Ainscoe for badgering me to go to Aylesbury (so when’s the next “adventure”, Mike?). To Lee Millward for photographic and logistical expertise. To Alison and Brian Lancaster, Alan Caskie, Douglas Grant, Tony Reynolds, and Richard Coppola without whom any trip to Glasgow just wouldn’t be the same! To dear old Steph Kennedy for being… well Narnia Lady, who else?! To Richard Nagy, Sarah Dean, Graham Drabble, Frank Rogers, Mike Ellison, Kate Green , Kevin, Shirely and Rachel Powell, Nick Magnus and Dick Foster, Andrew Brash and Kevin Fearn for support above and beyond this tour and the weeks immediately preceding it. And finally, to anyone else who came up and said “hello” asked for or took a photo or just had a chat (told you I don’t bite - didn’t I? AH) thanks for being part of something that we all know has been just that little bit special. Hey, can we do it again? Oh, as it happens we CAN - see you all in October, folks.