“The Return of the Giant Hogwart” - Steve Hackett in concert at the Hammersmith Apollo, London and Lyric Theatre, Salford, Saturday 1st November and Sunday 2nd November. Review and photographs by Alan Hewitt. Memorabilia: TWR archive.
Another year and another round of touring in search of the lesser-spotted Hackett! Or should that be often spotted Hackett as Steve’s profile has been considerably higher of late thanks to the Genesis Revisited project.
Considering that when I interviewed Steve about the album he maintained that the project was going to take a year out of his life and here we are in year two with further shows in the USA and South America taking it into year three! Such is the popularity of this music I guess and when you have a band of the calibre of the one Steve has assembled then it is a prospect to be relished. Yes, the nay sayers will say that Steve has effectively become a “tribute band” and indeed they HAVE said that in droves. Has that troubled anyone? Nah, not really! The stay at homes are simply missing what will undoubtedly be the last opportunity we shall ever have of any member of Genesis performing this material on a concert stage.
The shows for 2014 have been re-jigged considerably and with no screens this time, the emphasis is placed fairly and squarely on the music and what music it is! For fans carrying a torch for any of the 1970 -77 albums which Genesis created, then these shows have been a revelation in more ways than one.
TWR took to the highways and byways of the UK once more for a brace of these shows beginning with a trip to London and the magnificence of the mighty Hammersmith Odeon always a great place to take in a gig and the equally enjoyable Lyric Theatre part of Salford’s Lowry complex. After the usual round of hi jinks with the usual suspects it was on to the shows and once ensconced in my seat it was time to turn the clock back to that golden age when I was a slimmer, trimmer figure with all my own hair (and it was a beautiful thing in its day too, folks!).
The first thing that was noticeable at both gigs was the lack of screens. A gilding of the lily last year but one which proved not to be necessary as the music itself was its own adornment and at these gigs we had that in spades!
The shows opened with the awe inspiring power of Dance On a Volcano and from the off it was evident that here was a band whose constant touring over the last eighteen or so months, far from diminishing their enthusiasm has if anything increased it. With Nick Beggs back in the line up, albeit less sartorially challenged this time round, Steve pretty much has his dream team in place and they waste no time in grabbing the audience by the scruff of its neck for a trip back to the days when music was an adventure equally for the musicians who created it and the fans who listened to it.
With no screens to distract from the music this time round and with a re-jigged set the brace of gigs which comprised this year’s TWR “Hackett Days” had one thing in common: the music was DEFINITELY the special guest. The recent furore over the Genesis documentary seems if anything, to have provided a further spur to Steve’s flank and the delivery of such numbers as Fly On A Windshield and Lilywhite Lilith simply demonstrated (if such a demonstration were needed) that Mr Hackett’s part in the creation if such masterpieces has been consistently undervalued over the years and he was determined to restate his claim to a vital part in the story of these songs - he succeeded beyond all doubt in doing so too!
The emphasis this year is definitely on an “early” Genesis set with hefty servings from Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot including storming readings of Fountain Of Salmacis, The Return Of The Giant Hogweed and of course, the evergreen Supper’s Ready. The sheer enjoyment that Steve and the rest of the band were having in the performance of such classic material was writ large in their facial expressions with grins and smiles in abundance all round - even the usually reserved Mr King could be seen cracking a smile on more than one occasion.
As a fan of the legendary Wind & Wuthering album, I might have been disappointed by this year’s track selection but how could I grumble when the set was so chock full of magnificent music? I was surprised by the inclusion of The Knife in this year’s set. After all, this is the one track which Steve had no part in writing but here it was, in all its glory although I do have to say that I still think it should have been held in reserve as a final encore but that is a minor quibble really.
Jakko Jakzsyk joined the band onstage for Firth of Fifth in London and I have to say that his performance of it was much more enjoyable than John Wetton’s similar effort last year. For a start, Jakko actually looked as though he were enjoying himself - always a good start! Once again, the inestimable Roger King made Tony Banks’s solo his own while Steve too was evidently relishing his own part in this masterpiece.
Each and every member of the band gave it 110% throughout these gigs. Nick Beggs and Rob Townsend must be related to octopuses (should that be octopi?) as they multitasked throughout the gigs. With Gary O’Toole also sharing vocal duties with Nad Sylvan this was as close to perfection as anyone had any right to expect and by the time we got to the encores each night, the crowds did not stint in demonstrating their enjoyment.
It is highly unlikely that we shall ever see Genesis themselves performing this material again, so we should cheer Steve and his band to the rafters for not only performing their hearts out night after night but also for celebrating the magnificence that was Genesis - to quote from a later Genesis classic: “these are the days of our lives, so remember….”