“Hackett Revisited” Or… “What I did on my holidays” - The second of this years’ tour reports by your roving reporter and sometime editor Alan Hewitt. Photographs by Alan Hewitt and Mike Ainscoe. Memorabilia: TWR Archive.
So here we are once more…. No, definitely the WRONG band there but the sentiment is correct. Hackett 2013 pt 2 got under way at the opening night of the second leg of the highly successful Genesis Revisited II tour in the magnificent surroundings of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. Not before a slight detour however. I am sure that the subject of the “best shepherd’s pie in the cosmos” has been mentioned once or thrice within the pages of TWR. Well, courtesy of Mrs Mellotron herself, yours truly had the opportunity to sample another one of these sublime creations pre-gig.
That was me fed, and then we were off to be “watered” at a suitable shandy emporium where we met up with the usual suspects for a chat and a couple of lemonades before making our way to the Symphony Hall. Sadly we missed the excellent Alan Reed’s opening slot but I promised to correct that error at the next gig and I was soon in my seat for another night of truly epic proportions. I don’t know what it is about Birmingham, but once again I found myself sitting a few seats away from both John Hackett and his recent collaborator; Nick Fletcher and then another familiar face took his seat directly in front of me: one Carl Palmer no less!
Anyway, on with the show and Anyone expecting this one to be exactly the same as the shows in May was in for a few very pleasant surprises. We got under way with the familiar strains of Watcher… though. Roger King has this one nailed to perfection and we were off on the good ship Genesis for a romp through the Genesis universe. Classic followed classic with gasps of surprise and delight when only a few songs in, Steve announced The Return of The Giant Hogweed, the first of the “newies” tonight. Accompanied by some superb and highly amusing visuals, this tale of a garden plant getting its revenge on humanity was played out to perfection. This was followed by the chiming chords of Musical Box and here Nad Sylvan really pulled something special out of the bag with a vocal performance of truly epic proportions.
We even had some agnostic guitar in the shape of the evergreen Horizons and then the marvellous quartet of Blood On The Rooftops, Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers, In That Quiet Earth and Afterglow which reduced yours truly to an emotional wreck. Kudos here to Gary O’Toole and Lee Pomeroy whose rhythm work drove everything along like an avalanche while Mr Hackett himself cut loose with some pretty ferocious riffs at times.
Then we were taken back even further westward as Mr G might have said for another of those Odysseys which Steve and the band managed to put out every so often. This time it was the turn of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis to make their appearance for a remarkably passionate performance of Fountain Of Salmacis. The entire band brought this one impressively to life and Steve was grinning from ear to ear as he let loose on even more guitar licks.
Speaking of explosive music, Dance On A Volcano roared out of the stage like a veritable pyroclastic flow with the entire band working at breakneck speed and dragging the audience along with them by the scruff of or collective necks - stunning stuff! From the sublime to the faintly ridiculous as the cosmic lawnmower revved up for a singalong version of I Know What I Like. Nad hamming it up to the audience’s amusement. It was great to see that the audiences have taken him very much to their hearts as he has put his heart and soul into delivering these performances as indeed have the rest of this incredibly talented band.
There were no prizes for guessing what was coming next as Steve seated himself centre stage armed with his trusty twelve string Zemaitis guitar and the band launched into what else but Supper’s Ready. With so many epics already performed I for one wonder where the band found their energy from for this as the battle of good and evil was played out against a backdrop of stunning visuals and equally stunning music. There may not have been an angel standing in the sun at the end but there was an audience leaping to its feet to applaud a performance of sublime proportions!
No rest for the wicked though as Roger King’s impeccable keyboards heralded the arrival of Firth of Fifth and another blinding performance from the assembled players. I have to be honest here and say that I doubt if Genesis could play this one any better and Steve in particular laid down a solo part of mind blowing proportions in this one.
For the finale, what else but Steve’s own take on Los Endos, replete with a few choice segments from a couple of his own tracks bringing the show to a suitably thunderous close.
It’s strange how life takes a few strange turns. Logistical nightmares meant that I managed to miss my only chance to see Peter Gabriel and into the bargain Steve’s show at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London and so I compensated myself with a Laurel and Hardy stage adaptation of Sons Of The Desert and then a trip to the less than salubrious surroundings of Manchester for Steve’s gig at the Apollo Theatre.
Keeping us on our toes, Steve and the band had altered things around a bit so tonight the show got under way with the awesome pyrotechnics of Dance On A Volcano. Breathtaking throughout and driven along by the rhythm section of Gary and Lee and once again an impressive vocal performance from Nad. This was swiftly followed by an equally impressive Dancing With The Moonlit Knight where it was Nad once again who took the plaudits from the enthusiastic crowd.
Fly On A Windshield, Broadway Melody of 1974 and The Carpet Crawlers’ appearance in the set brought an almighty cheer from the crowd. Despite Steve’s reservations about The Lamb… at the time, his performance of material from that album has been nothing less than stellar and tonight was no exception as indeed was the first of the “new “ numbers tonight: The Return Of The Giant Hogweed, replete with its hilarious visuals, this one went down an absolute storm and Steve’s guitar gave its best impression of an enraged Hogweed as it howled like a banshee throughout. Once again, the rest of the band too gave it 110% throughout this one.
No rest for the wicked however, as the chiming of a Musical Box heralded the arrival of another evergreen classic. Nad even got into character for this one and once again the rhythm section of Gary and Lee threatened to tear the roof off the Apollo with some impressive playing. No Blood On The Rooftops tonight instead we had the equally glorious triptych of Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers, In That Quiet Earth and Afterglow reaching the first epic climax of the evening (oor, err, missus!).
The whirr of the cosmic lawnmower brought I Know What I Like into the show and gave the audience a chance to practice their vocals as they enthusiastically sang along with this wonderful slice of Genesis at their humorous best. Then it was time for a trip back again to the epic story of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis for what else… Fountain Of Salmacis of course! The entire band played this one as if their lives depended on it and the end result was definitely one of the highlights of the evening in a show already chock-full of them.
There were no prizes for guessing what was coming next as Steve took a seat on stage armed with his trusty Zemaitis twelve string guitar to usher in the beating heart of this show - Supper’s Ready, all twenty four minutes of it! Luxurious, dramatic, and by turns deeply emotional, this one demanded nothing less than total commitment from both the band and the audience and that is precisely what we got. You could almost feel the collective intake of breath as the song reached its peak
The show was far from over however, as Watcher Of The Skies and an extended Los Endos in which Steve managed to incorporate the only reference to his solo career in the shape of the guitar refrain from Jacuzzi bringing yet another remarkable show to its conclusion and leaving the audience cheering for more - always a good sign.
Another evening of musical magic over, myself and a few friends retired to the “attractions” of city centre Manchester for a few lemonades before calling it a night, tired, happy and looking forward to doing it all again a few days later in Liverpool. One slight sidebar about this gig. Whilst on the train coming back to Liverpool the following day I realised that some 35 years and two days before, I had seen Steve in concert for the very first time and in the same venue - spooky eh?
Anyway, on with the show and the final outing for yours truly on this leg of the tour and my own home town and a front row seat - doesn’t get much better in my book. Chatting to Steve and Jo before the sound check I was told that this tour is to be extended well into next year although once again the set list will be revised - a tantalising prospect!
Finally managing to catch Alan Reed’s excellent but all too short opening set it was time for the main event once more and once again Dance On A Volcano thundered out of the traps like a speeding bullet. Ensemble playing of the highest quality ensured that this one got everyone sitting up and taking notice - quite right too! And this despite bassist Lee Pomeroy having some minor technical issues at the start which he shrugged off with barely a backwards glance. Dancing With The Moonlit Knight continued the Terpsichorean theme next with another delightful performance from Nad before we moved ever so slightly forward for another healthy slice of The Lamb.. In the shape of Fly On A Windshield, Broadway Melody of 1974 and Carpet Crawlers all of which were performed to perfection. Steve in particular cut loose with some ferocious licks during this part of the show.
“Are you smoking boy? Are you smoking Hogweed?” barked Steve as he announced the arrival of the tale of the rampaging decorative plant. Another brilliant performance all round with kudos going to Roger King and the rhythm section of Lee Pomeroy and Gary O’Toole both of whom played their hearts out here whilst Steve’s guitar took on a definite life of its own sending coruscating riffs almost like tendrils threatening to engulf the audience with their sheer ferocity. As if that wasn’t enough, neither the audience or the band were given any respite as the Musical Box chimed out again. This one featured a sterling performance from Nad who continued to develop his character treatment of this one bringing even more nuances of menace and dark humour to the fore although here and at times elsewhere in the show his vocals were a bit low in the mix or that’s how it seemed to me anyhow.
Time for some agnostic guitar although Steve deprived me of my one moment to heckle by not using that phrase, instead his guitar spoke for him as we were treated to a pungently brittle Horizons leading into a tour de force performance of Blood On The Rooftops which had its usual effect on yours truly and the effect continued through the remaining offerings from my favourite Genesis album as we were taken to the bleak and windswept Yorkshire Moors for a stunning Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers , In That Quiet Earth and eventually, Afterglow eliciting a massive cheer from the crowd.
A chance for some audience participation next as Steve’s guitar brought the cosmic lawnmower to life again and I Know What I Like gave a temporary respite from the drama and melodrama of the evening. Rob Townsend really went to town (pun intended) with some impressive runs on the sax battling away against the rest of the musical backdrop. Steve’s grin gave the game away that everyone was here to enjoy themselves and in fact, at time s throughout the evening it felt as if the band and audience had become a single entity.
A short song about a river next and here Roger King and Steve shared the honours with truly remarkable solo parts. During Firth Of Fifth. I don’t think I have ever seen Steve as happy as he looked during this one - his mind was obviously focussed on something that was definitely bringing the best out of him - was the Muse here in person for once? I don’t know , but what I DO know is that this was something truly special.
Fountain Of Salmacis took us back to the heady days of Nursery Cryme when the band were not afraid to stretch things out if the song demanded it. Once again the entire band seem to have jumped on this one with collective glee and none more so than Lee Pomeroy who was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire Cat throughout.
It was then time for Steve to do his share of grinning as, armed with his Zemaitis guitar he brought us once again to the dark heart of this show - Supper’s Ready. I really don’t think any superlatives have not been used already to describe this one so here one will suffice - brilliant, simply brilliant. Visually and musically, this was a truly magnificent performance by each and every member of the band even some bizarre antics form Rob on spoons and false teeth - don’t ask!
The band took their thoroughly deserved bows in front of an ecstatic crowd who evidently knew that the show was not yet over and of course, they were right as the band returned to the stage and Roger King’s impeccable keyboards heralded the arrival of the space ship Genesis for Watcher Of The Skies. Once again, a tour de force performance with some nice touches, such as Nad’s use of a pair of roadies’ torches with red lights to symbolise the watcher’s eyes. The show was brought to its end by what else? Los Endos of course, the extended version which incorporated the only reference to Steve’s solo career with a nod to Jacuzzi from the Defector album. Once again, the entire band evidently enjoyed their chance to let their hair down and ladder their collective tights with some slapstick antics going on onstage.
Then it was all over for another night and another tour for yours truly and it only remains for me to make my usual round of thank you’s so here we go… First of all to Steve, Nad, Gary, Rob, Roger and Lee for putting in such magnificent performances night after night. To Brian Coles for his unswerving support and occasional sarcasm! To Jo Hackett for her incredible kindness and support and all her hard work on behalf of the fans. To Tigger and Ben for making it look and sound superb night after night and to all the local crews whose work frequently goes unnoticed.
Oh ok then, I suppose I have to mention the rabble as well… Hackett fans are a special breed and the ones whose company I have shared over the last week or so are probably among the VERY best so a massive thank you to: Kevin, Shirley and Rachel Powell (AKA: The Mellotrons) also including a best supporting role in Hackett tour nomination for the best shepherd’s pie in the cosmos. To Steph Kennedy for continuing to be Narnia Lady. Grateful thanks to Frank Rogers, Brian and Alison Lancaster, Alan Caskie (and the fox’s head), Ian Collier, Mike Ellison (Snr and Jnr) and Bernie for moral support. Az Chaudhry, Lee Millward and Mike Ainscoe for help and assistance over this and the previous tours and to anyone else who I may have missed - thank you. Let’s do it again soon in 2014 perhaps?