Steve Hackett In concert at the Philharmonic Hall Liverpool Tuesday 29th October 2013. Review by Frank Rogers. Photographs by Frank Rogers and Alan Hewitt.
Back in May 2013 I saw Steve Hackett at the same venue, the Philharmonic Hall. I still look back at that gig and remember how amazing it was , so with this gig looming , I was thinking was I just going to see the same show or would it be different?
Well it certainly was different! The dreaded Runcorn Bridge was chaos and so the train was chosen over driving. The midweek train home was at 11.35pm so that’s all good. But this event was going to be different. Not only was I going to see the gig , there was also the opportunity to go backstage and meet the band afterwards. So this was an event I wasn’t going to miss. Even work played their part, having explained the situation to my boss, I even got permission to get off early.
On arrival the venue there was a real buzz about the place. I went to the box office to collect my backstage pass and I was like a kid with a new toy. I felt proud. I had met Steve before but to have a backstage pass… I was going to get to meet Steve and Roger King who I had been in email contact with for several months.
I opted not to watch the support act (Alan Reed) but I am led to believe he is very good, so during the interval I took my seat and waited with much keenness for the house lights to dim.
The band took to the stage and got themselves in position and then, oops one of those moments - silence. Lee’s guitar wasn’t playing . Luckily he had a roomful of technicians offering him advice and after what looked like the pressing of the “power on” button to one of those boxes by his feet, Lee’s guitar and the show came to life. It was so well handled it looked like it was staged but I am sure that it wasn’t.
The gig here in May had opened with Watcher Of The Skies but this time it was Dance On a Volcano followed by Dancing With The Moonlit Knight. There is one thing I like about this venue, the ability to sit comfortably, listen and enjoy. The acoustics are brilliant, so this was a night to appreciate and enjoy.
The next track out was Fly On A Windshield and Broadway Melody of 1974 and I love this pair of tracks I think they work so well together. There is a real power inherent in them both. Vocals were switched to Gary for this and a very good job he does indeed. I decided to try and record this on the trusty mobile phone but just over four minutes in and one of those kind ushers; the video police came over and asked “would you not record stuff please” (naughty boy, Frank! You’d never catch me doing something like that - AH) Umm… OK. Looking at You Tube it appears that I wasn’t the only person going for it..
The next track, The Lamia is not a personal favourite but nevertheless another gem from The Lamb…. The next track was one of those not played back in May and Steve introduced the track by asking… “Are you smoking boy? Are you smoking hogweed?” The Return Of The Giant Hogweed duly rampaged on to the stage and the power from this song I always relate to my early days of listening to Genesis . I can remember my mum shouting; ‘turn it down son!’ so to hear this track played live by Steve was just a pure joy and a time for reflection. This one was complimented by some really neat backdrop video and graphics.
The next track; The Musical Box yet again another awesome powerful performance. It was also clear that despite the opening blip, the band were really enjoying themselves, and just goes to show the sheer quality of the guys up on stage.
It was around this point that Steve paid tribute to TWR editor - Alan Hewitt. Steve said that this was Alan’s 109th Hackett concert and just as he had paid tribute to Alan at his 50th birthday in 2012 with Spectral Mornings, this evening one of the next tracks was dedicated to Alan. Just shows the mutual respect Steve has for the commitment Alan has shown over the last twenty six years of TWR. Keyboard based music is more my interest but the next track blows that theory away for me, the sublime track that is Horizons. This is beautiful pure and simple, and complex at the same time. No backing just Steve’s musical genius. Then Blood On The Rooftops! Wow, yet again just pure tranquillity. I sat in awe and then moving into Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers, In That Quiet Earth and Afterglow. I can remember in my earlier years this album got played and played and played with the grooves of these tracks being more worn than the rest. Listening to them tonight made me realise why. They are simply stunning! And they just seem to get better over time. Entangled is probably my favourite Genesis track and the previous ones probably outline why Wind & Wuthering is my favourite Genesis album.
The next track is loved by so many, yet for me as good as it may be , it isn’t one of the highlights in my set list: I Know What I Like but once again this was an excellent display. The lights dropped down for the next one highlighting Roger King and cue my interest increasing if that were possible and rather than take my camera out of my pocket. I just sat and enjoyed this musical treat for the ears, especially the keyboard intro as Firth of Fifth is just pure class and well done Roger for delivering it so expertly.
Visually the next track was stunning. The backdrop videos were awesome and very fitting to Fountain Of Salmacis which was another track not performed in May but what an addition to the set it made.
Then came the song which is probably the most requested Genesis track of all time. Possibly the most requested Prog track of all time too! Not just any track but Supper’s Ready. Musically I think the delivery was absolutely spot on but this time I don’t think Nad’s voice quite rose to the occasion. If there is one Genesis song that has to be filled with passion and got right, then this is it but then again, there was only one Peter Gabriel and even he had his off days.
Supper’s Ready turned out to be the last track of the main set and as it concluded, the band rightfully received a prolonged standing ovation which was well and truly deserved. After quickly disappearing for a breather the band reappeared for the first of the encores and one of my favourites: Watcher Of The Skies. Roger King did a fantastic job on this one especially the intro, with the backing lights and video , I can’t think of a better word to describe this other than awesome. I had goose bumps listening to this one being played.
And then as always all good things must come to a close and so the aptly titled Los Endos was chosen to end the evening. Steve has said that he had a little fiddle with this track and some will like it and some won’t. I have yet to decide whether I am a yes or a no but this track will always be one hell of a way to close a show.
And so the evening drew to a close. Well, not quite. After a short wait I did get to go back stage and the first to appear were Steve and Jo and a couple of minutes later, Roger King appeared and came straight over to me and the first thing he said was ’you’re Frank’ yes it was a real privilege to chat to Roger and the fact that he knew who I was from our emails made it even more special travelling to the gig. I was not hoping to get to stage fright but he made it feel like I was chatting to a friend who I had not seen for a while let alone the first time of meeting and following on from that a brief chance to chat to Steve. He asked me if I had enjoyed the show which I did although I did tell him that I was gutted that they had dropped Entangled as it was one of the tracks that Roger had been giving me some guidance on as I have been trying to learn to play it for the past two years.
So, it was definitely different., A couple of different tracks and a fantastic stage setting with some awesome backdrops and videos . I was immensely impressed with Steve’s gig here in May and I was equally impressed by this one. Despite the little technical glitch at the beginning I thought the band played their hearts out and most importantly looked as though they were enjoying it and it certainly came across well. It has been a long tour taking them through Europe, Japan, America and if touring takes it out of you then for me it didn’t really show at this gig. Ten days or so prior to this, the band were concluding their US tour and with a handful of UK shows thrown in between, this has been a very busy schedule.
OK, tonight perhaps Nad’s vocals did lack that bit of something but given how long these guys have been on tour and that they have literally been half way around the world , I think some allowance has to be made. At some point you will have an off day and of course, how do you replace someone like Peter Gabriel? Simply for me you can’t but hey, the vocals need to be sing and Nad does an admirably good job . He doesn’t try to be Peter Gabriel, Nad is himself and brings his interpretation and I like what he brings. And as Steve said, he also adds something visually to the show. Roger King, as ever was sublime on the keyboards, he just takes it all in his stride looks totally at ease and yet totally focussed.
Gary’s drumming and vocals as always were top drawer. Lee was immense on bass, correct me if I am wrong but I think Lee is left handed playing a right handed bass upside down - blimey, that must take some doing! When I saw the band in 2012 I thought Rob’s contribution came across too strong and occasionally irritating and I even found myself asking why was he there? But for me tonight this was pure compliment (takes hat off to Rob) spot on. Now I can see why.
And finally, the man himself. Steve’s playing again was out of this world. He is a master and an absolute joy to watch. I love the interaction he has with his audience and especially here in Liverpool, for me strangely it has a hometown gig feel to it. It’s like banter with a group of friends and despite the number of people in the audience, the interaction still feels personal… and for one person tonight it definitely was.
And finally a big thanks to all the people who made this night possible. To my boss for giving me time off to ensure I was there on time. To John Wilkinson for giving me a lift home making sure I didn’t have to dash for the last train. To Alan Hewitt and Jo (Hackett) for sorting out the backstage pass and to Roger King for all the help he has been giving me lately and finally to Steve without whom none of us would have been there. And finally, thanks to my awesome mum for giving me that ’pound for a sound’ back in 1980 that enabled me to buy my very first Genesis record. The rest, as they say, is history.