“An Embarrassment Of Riches” - Random thoughts on the opening night of Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited II UK Tour. Review by Mike Ainscoe. Photographs by Mike Ainscoe and Alan Hewitt. Memorabilia: TWR Archive.
They say that there is no greater temptation than temptation itself - or something like that! Consider the evidence. The ad in Classic Rock’s Prog magazine four days before the opening show of Steve’s Genesis revisited tour at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury, promoted by none less than the legendary Friars Club. Add to that a impressive list of guests feted to attend and perform on the live versions of the songs from the album; well, yes, it was very tempting. A quick check to confirm that tickets were still available. Finally a text from the TWR Editor which said he wouldn’t be attending but if offered a lift might have his arm gently twisted. Suddenly all the pieces fell into place and with all the ease that technology can assist a couple of tickets were promptly bagged and the deed was done.
The day itself began remarkably smoothly with the M62 to Liverpool surprisingly quiet and trouble free and Alan and I found ourselves catching up with a brew and a catch up on all matters Genesis-related with time to spare for a leisurely drive south. With conversation as random as this narrative , we negotiated the M6 Toll and bypassed Coventry without incident and after a brief comfort break , hit Aylesbury unfashionably early yet keen as mustard. Having found a highly convenient car park, an even more convenient watering hole was spotted directly opposite the venue. After collecting our tickets and chatting very briefly to the very welcoming gent at the Friars Club table, it was over to Wetherspoons for a decent pint and bite to eat at bargain prices - very much like those in the outro to Aisle Of Plenty if anyone cares to call to mind that little nugget from Selling England…
It wasn’t long before we realised that the decision to travel to this gig was turning out to be a good one. All the while Alan had been busy on his mobile and duly announced that two AAA passes would be waiting for us at the box office just before show time, courtesy of Mrs Hackett who seems to be doing a brilliant job of not only looking after her husband but also his guests!
On picking up the aforementioned passes, just when you thought things couldn’t get much better, of course they did , when not just a very special bloke but a legend was spotted in the foyer. No, not my good friend Andy Rotherham (of Marillion’s Web UK and The Synthetix who happened to be ’teching ’for Steve Rothery for a couple of days) who of course it was splendid to bump into, as apart from being “at work” lives only a matter of a mile down the road from me. No, a true bona fide grand legend of seriously epic proportions - no one less than a certain Armando Gallo who stood in the foyer amid a couple of other stately looking Italians (who just happened to be the guys who had worked on the images for the Genesis Revisited II album artwork). We were truly in the presence of greatness (aww, thanks Mike, A H). And what a nice guy! More than happy to have a photograph taken for posterity. I was pretty much speechless at meeting the guy whose Genesis journalism was such an inspiration over thirty years ago and still is. He mentioned how the Waterside Theatre was a bit different from the Friars he remembered many moons ago - which he recalled as being a “bit funky” . Good memory from about forty years ago.
I did get the chance to catch up with Andy Rotherham and chat for a few minutes - enough for him to confirm that Rothers would indeed be taking a solo on The Lamia which would also be sung by ’80’s pop sensation, Nik Kershaw who did quite a fair job on the album. He let me know that the sound check had sounded terrific and the show was looking great whilst also letting slip that John Wetton was also in attendance (no doubt for Afterglow), as well as Jakko Jakszyk which meant that a personal favourite from my favourite Genesis period, Entangled was going to be there.
Distracted by a slight rumpus over at the merch stand we gathered on the fringes with new friends Carol and Matt who were busy quizzing Alan as to why the end of Supper’s Ready had been dropped from the 1986/87 Cage medley. Carol had been promised a photo with Steve who was about to head backstage after doing a brief signing slot yet we managed in true paparazzi style to grab some space and a photo opportunity before he departed. Interesting these little events where the artist appears at their own merch table. I’ve seen it a few lower key gigs where the musicians will also take charge of selling their own merchandise and C Ds. It certainly prompts people to visit the merch table and increases the chance of sales when you have the opportunity of meeting the star of the show and grab a signed souvenir of the evening. Win - win springs to mind.
On the table tonight was a small selection of choice items including a couple of T shirts with assorted tour logos - the “Mad Hatter” being perhaps the one of choice. A couple of signed and limited edition prints were on sale and would have looked rather nifty on my wall but the rather hefty £30 price tag particularly the landmark one, which was the view, but not exactly the same shot as the Seconds Out cover - the album which holds most memories for me as the one which brought me into the magical world of Genesis - initially attracted by that iconic image on the cover. If they don’t shift, I might find myself picking up a reduced price one in October.
Realising that the AAA pass which we held would get me a shot in the photo pit of a rather magnificent auditorium, I grabbed a prime spot just as David Stopps himself came out to make an announcement for the evening and get a plug in for the Marillion show in November. As well as having the usual “three songs no flash” it was confirmed that that photographers could shoot from anywhere after their close up stint, although strange for a venue was the rule about remaining seated while taking photographs. At least it made for a comfortable few songs rather than a scrum and a scurry for best position which can happen. With the chance to wander the venue I spent the rest of the evening watching form various vantage points round the venue which really was a lovely place for a gig - very civilised and very accommodating with not a bad view in the house. The temptation for Marillion in November was already starting to nag me…
With the immense chords of Watcher Of The Skies filling the air from Roger King’s spotlit keyboards, the only thing missing was a pair of batwings around Nad’s head (maybe for the last date of the tour someone could mock some up?) as he stood stately and motionless in his floor length coat. Plenty of photo opportunities arose as Steve grinned out at the first of the UK audiences and executed trademark licks and runs on the Gold Top. With the stage lighting adding to the random mood lights dotted around the auditorium it must have been just like looking out into space from the stage - very much evoking the mood of the song with Messrs Banks and Rutherford’s vision of an alien’s visit to our planet. Having opened some shows with Eleventh Earl Of Mar and reserving Watcher… for the start of the encores it has now reverted back to what must be its rightful position at the start of the show. Apart from possibly the batwings, the only thing missing was some dry ice or smoke.
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight was the first chance for the band to up the ante and the first sign of Hackett’s tapping technique and the first indication of what an impact that Lee Pomeroy was going to have on the evening. His work on the double neck was exemplary in the instrumental section which really took off before Roger’s choral Mellotron effect heralded in the fat old lady outside the saloon.
As advertised, and confirmed earlier that night, a plethora of special guests were not just there for the craic but were going to get up and perform. Giving Nad a break from vocal duties on the night were Nik Kershaw who reprised his album version of The Lamia which also featured a guest appearance from Steve Rothery who traded solos with Hackett at the end of the piece. Being the perfectionist he is, he grimaced a couple of times when his notes didn’t quite hit the mark but the solo was made for his trademark sound
Jakko Jakszyk was joined by Amanda Lehmann for a brilliant version of Entangled while Amanda’s presence also meant that the only non Genesis song of the night (albeit one originally forged back at the time of the Foxtrot album with Mike Rutherford’s involvement so strictly speaking it has earned its place in the set) was Shadow Of The Hierophant. Since its inclusion in the most recent Hackett sets it has extended its reputation as a true epic. with what seems to be such a simple guitar figure prolonging the instrumental build up and climax into something truly colossal. With Lee Pomeroy’s bass pedal work it was certainly one of the highlights among an evening of highlights.
It was John Wetton who took his place at the tope of the stairs to add vocals to Afterglow. It has to be said for such a traditionally epic track, Afterglow struggled to live up to its reputation. Wetton made a slight hash of one of the verses while for once, it didn’t hit the mark visually. For a show with such high production values, it almost made for an explosion of light and especially a healthy dose of smoke just at “that’ moment (and I would search everywhere…) but the lights were already full on and showed little variation throughout the song. Probably the only disappointment in the visual aspect of the show which was one of, if not the most ambitious Hackett solo stage productions.
Nad Sylvan, the man with probably the hardest job of singing songs from both the Gabriel and Collins eras , coped admirably. In fact I would go as far to say that he was slightly undersold and it will be interesting to see him back in the vocalist role full time once the initial excitement of the early shows and the guest appearances has died down. Personally I would be for going the whole hog and giving him full vocal duties and hear his take on Blood On The Rooftops and the Fly On A Windshield section. We are used to the singing drummer routine with Gary O’Toole and I do have to own up top finding some of his vocals a bit “shouty” so a bit of variety certainly wouldn’t go amiss. Not only did Nad sing the songs but also played the part - the clockwork toy in Musical Box and something approaching a prancing fop in Eleventh Earl Of Mar complete with cane and erm, unusual sideways hopping dance, very Gabrielesque!
With the first three songs dusted off, the haunting intro began to Fly On A Windshield - and apart from its stomping rhythm, what was starting to become clear at this point was that there was going to be no let up in hearing one Genesis classic after another. Followed by the last of the selections from the Lamb… in The Lamia, the first REAL biggie made its bow. Introduced simply with two rings on some tiny finger cymbals by Gary O’Toole, Musical Box rose its menacing head - a portentous tale of Victorian menace, it received perhaps one of the best ovations of the night. Lee Pomeroy played a blinder in coping with both the guitar and bass pedals as Nad had the unenviable task of portraying what was, back in the early 1970’s Peter’s outrageous climax.
With no great surprises as the band ran through the bulk of side two of Wind & Wuthering having played much of this music in solo Hackett gigs, with Steve perched on a stool with a nylon guitar for Blood On The Rooftops and some impressive accompanying slides on the back projection screens which were filled with images and effects throughout the evening. Straight into the instrumental Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers/In That Quiet Earth and concluding with the emotional impact of Tony Banks’ Afterglow - it was a stunning twenty minute run which earned another ovation and thoughts of what could follow that?
The answer was to put the foot down on the gas for the downhill stretch with some more biggies. Just at the point when you think the peak has been hit, out rolled more classics - Entangled this time being linked with another A Trick Of The Tail epic; Dance On A Volcano before Steve took his seat with his twelve string for the daddy of them all. Supper’s Ready had been entrusted to a number of vocalists on the album but the live performance was much less of a patchwork and much more of a proper band effort. Last performed in its entirety by Genesis back in 1982 (Aahhhh, the memories! AH), it was remarkable to think that was over thirty years ago and if this was to be the last time we were likely to see and hear what is regarded as one of , if not THE Prog epic, it was only going to be relished by all in the room. It was, of course, the only way to finish the set and was a tribute to Roger King and his remarkable performance on keyboards throughout the night as he weaved his way through the meandering solo in Apocalypse In 9/8. Switching from one keyboard to another and one sound to another all through the evening and even mid song the quiet man of the band, along with Lee Pomeroy, certainly deserves the plaudits for the work that they have put in to make such a wonderful evening.
Rob “Mr Wind” Townsend’s contribution was possibly one which
was underplayed and
undervalued. Taking on the old John Hackett role of Jack of All Trades but Master of quite a few as well! His flute contributions to some of the Gabriel era material plus his clarinet playing in harmony with Hackett’s guitar was right at the forefront of the mix. Although it was Rothery who took the plaudits with his guitar duel with Hackett on The Lamia, on the tour it has Townsend who has played the duel in an extended and jazzy ending top the song. Despite his proficiency with anything windy, his contribution with the banana shaped shaker during I Know What I Like has to be the piece de resistance.
If two and three quarter hours of classic , CLASSIC Genesis wasn’t enough, those lucky enough to be holding the golden tickets were able to creep up to the third floor bar where the after show drinks gathering was being held. It was a veritable who’s who gathered for congenial banter including John Hackett and his wife, Katrin who were also scheduled to attend some of the later UK dates, possibly with a flute cameo from John. Chatting to him and discussing how effective the bass pedals were tonight, I was able to remind him that the bass pedals used to be his domain in the early days of the Hackett band when he had them resting on a table rather than the usual floor mounted arrangements and played them with his hands. When he said “that’s going back a bit” it was another indication of how quickly time passes and that days like these are few and far between.
Also at the aftershow apart from those who had already made a stage appearance were Rothery’s fellow Marillios; Peter Trewavas Ian Mosley and Mark Kelly; Ian of course had been a member of Steve’s band in the early 1980’s before taking up the drum stool in Marillion and being one of the most affable guys around. Unfortunately Nik Kershaw and John Wetton had dashed off for an early night (Wetton maybe to brush up on the lyrics to Afterglow ready for tomorrow night’s Hammersmith appearance?) but anybody who was anybody was quite happy to sign a couple of programmes and show posters which will be the prizes in a forthcoming caption competition in TWR which involves Mr Hackett and a certain young lady reporter from the Liverpool Echo - I’ll say no more and wait for the competition to be published - should be a cracker!
Even Mr Rothery who seemed to be perspiring readily and in dire need of refreshment for some unknown reason (well, over two hours had passed since he was onstage and his solo didn’t seem to be particularly taxing) added his signature to the collection as we quizzed him about Marillion live dates later this year.
Chatting with Lee about his double neck he told us it was not as heavy as they are often made out to be. Although he is a quite compact individual, the fact that he’s actually playing his dream gig and loving every second of it probably lightens the load considerably.
Steve’s mum was in attendance and who wouldn’t be with an opportunity to see her two boys. John was going to drop her off back home before heading back up to Sheffield in a trip similar to our own. Even within the rock ’n’ roll circus, there are the domestic arrangements to be taken care of. With a dress rehearsal complete and seemingly no major hiccups a few of the band were taking their leave to make sure they were fresh and on top of their game for Hammersmith where the likes of PROG and the film cameras would be monitoring their every move.
As we made our way into a chilly night even for May and back to the car park (£3 for seven hours - another bargain and fabulous way to end a day of highs - remember small things please small minds!) the title of a famous Genesis bootleg from the Earls Court shows in 1977 which was known as Before Riches sprang to mind and a mental note made. With the Genesis Revisited show, Hackett has taken much of the music from that era and shown that it really was a period beyond riches, and even as the (inspired) title of this review suggests, it has become an embarrassment of riches. And when the run of UK dates is finished, here is till the return in October to look forward to and on good account do we have it that that there will be some tweaks in the set for those who like to see multiple shows as a number of the songs from the Genesis Revisited II album have not yet been aired…if we might end by offering some suggestions:
Maybe a different opener? Watcher is a classic and Eleventh Earl… has been used but how about something surprising? Maybe the sounds of Fly… drifting in and then an explosion of light after the “waiting for the windshield on the freeway” line (you know the moment!) . And then course leading into a run of all The Lamb.. Songs played in the right order. Plus we have a couple of classics from Nursery Cryme to go (Hogweed and Salmacis both with terrific guitar sections) and as we’re in fantasy land, how about including Can-Utility & The Coastliners? Oh, and just one more thing Steve. Can we have some smoke please?