Steve Hackett in concert at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham on Tuesday 4th November 2014. Review by Ian Hall. Photographs by Mike Ainscoe.
The invisible but highly audible sirens that line up and down Birmingham’s glittering Broad Street area could have bayed and bleated all night long as they watched the neon lights fade and dim to obscurity. Nothing could have torn the rapt attention of the audience inside the Symphony Hall away from Steve Hackett and the band as they recreated for the final night in the UK, the songs that entranced a generation and beyond.
Just days shy of arguably one of the greatest Progressive Rock albums of all time celebrating its fortieth birthday, the bountiful and abundant The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Steve Hackett, the one member of the classic era line up of Genesis who has kept the signature tune of the defining period alive, gave the Birmingham audience a night to remember for the rest of their lives.
Joined by the returning Nick Beggs, the harmonious beauty that resides in Nad Sylvan’s haunting, ethereal voice, Gary O’Toole, Rob Townsend, Roger King and Steve’s brother John, Steve Hackett led the way for memories to resurface, of victories won, and notes played with more passion than a siren could have mustered when faced with the entire army under Odysseus falling to their knees and begging for salvation in any form. This was a farewell to a tour that had been auspicious, that had defied any possible expectation and hope and had gratified audience after audience, venue after venue.
Deviating from the opening track which graced the 2013 part of the Genesis Revisited tour, the crowd that packed the Symphony Hall were instead treated to the powerful Dance On a Volcano and the rarely seen, let alone heard, mesmerising tale of Squonk. The delight on the visible faces as they revelled in this unexpected pleasure was like being introduced to an old flame from twenty years ago and realising just how much they liked you at the time but also that they have tickets to the Cup Final for the next ten years.
The fortieth anniversary of the release of The Lamb… might not get the absolute attention from sections of the media in the UK that consider the Progressive art form - the ability to tell a story - as defunct as an honest politician, but for UK Prog fans the album is sacred (not to all of us Ian - ED) it is revered almost as much in hushed and respectful tones as it is roared from the rooftops and for the audience, the appearance of songs such as Fly On A Windshield, Broadway Melody of 1974 and Lilywhite Lilith were as close to feeling the dying sun send its grasping, creeping tentacles past 77th Street and down towards the playful staging of the latest smash to hit New York City.
The Lamb… may well have laid its last on Broadway, but the sound just never wanted to end on Broad Street! The glory that sits at the heart if the 1970 track The Knife, The Musical Box, the wonderful transference that seemed to be taking place in I Know What I Like from an English pastoral scene to one in which the saucy overtones of the Bayou and the taste of shrimp and the growl of Jazz infected this much loved Genesis song with ease and grace.
With the apocalyptic, crescendo-building Supper’s Ready, Watcher Of The Skies and Los Endos finishing off an evening to savour. It was with no surprise hat the audience rose as one to greet a man who vanquished the past and cheer on a group of musicians that somehow had redefined just how time travel should work. It should be done by staying very much in the present but allowing the mind to remember the tantalising effect that certain groups have had on the direction of music in the UK.
Nobody can recapture the past completely, it is an elusive butterfly that has no imposed boundary but for a masterful recreation, for the most intelligent and spellbinding time inside a venue, it is hard to beat Steve Hackett performing the very best of Genesis’ early work.