"From Acolyte to Wolflight" - Steve Hackett in concert and The Barbican, York on 14th October 2015. Review and photographs by Jill Walker.
What could be better than a three day trip to York visiting my daughter, shopping and a visit to York Railway Museum? All topped off with my birthday treat to myself - a ticket to see Steve Hackett at the Barbican!
A brilliant venue and from my seat centre front stalls I had a clear view of the stage overlooking both Roger’s keyboards and Gary O’Toole’s drum kit. Great - I would see more than Gary’s bowler hat and the top of Roger’s head!
A roar went up as the lights went down and the band arrived on stage launching straight into Spectral Mornings. Wow, I wasn’t expecting that for starters! Steve excelled himself from the off with one of his finest instrumental pieces. So the bar was set high. The first half of the show included a good few tracks from Wolflight, Steve’s superb new album. The scene set with Out Of The Body, such a descriptive piece leading into the title track which was incredible. A storming rock anthem perfect for the live stage.
The band were tight and powerful and obviously really enjoying this atmospheric song. Another track from Wolflight: Loving Sea was a complete contrast being a sublime love song with gorgeous vocal harmonies from Steve, Rob Townsend and Gary O’Toole who left the drum kit to come front of stage. Did I hear Steve announce “this is for Jo”? The contrasts continued with not your average love song, but one from the dark side: Love Song To A Vampire. Heavy strong music with stage lighting to match. This is one I was hoping to hear live and it was everything I had hoped for, a great slice of rock!
Alongside Steve in the line up tonight there were the usual suspects of the immensely talented trio of Roger King on keyboards, Gary O’Toole on drums and Rob Townsend on an array iof wind instruments plus keyboards. Joining them on bass, guitar and double neck guitar was Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings, another superbly talented musician. Nad Sylvan, who doesn’t just song but performs the songs with style and feeling. There was an extra special guest spot for Steve’s brother John who joined him for an exquisite acoustic performance of Jacuzzi. Brothers totally in tune with each other’s interpretation of the music - just magical.
The first half continued with an eclectic mix of the old and the new from the extraordinary catalogue of Steve’s music spanning some four decades! Yet it all seemed so fresh. Icarus Ascending and Star Of Sirius making a rare but welcome appearance and a different style of vocal from Nad which I really enjoyed. Lots of instrumental sections from a band relishing the music and obviously enjoying the moment, it was just a joy to be there listening.
Cold there be a stand out piece so far? For me, without doubt Shadow Of The Hierophant! No Amanda Lehmann tonight and a fleeting with that Steven Wilson would make an appearance were soon forgotten as the music built almost trance like until I realise that it for once it is not Steve I’m concentrating on but the man at the back: Gary O’Toole! He totally blew me away with the most exciting, complex awesome drumming I have ever witnessed. What a performance! What a star!
A short interval followed for both the audience and the band to catch their breath, re-charge and prepare for the Genesis half of the show.
There was now a buzz of anticipation from the audience as the band returned
with more treats in store. And what treats! Get ‘Em Out By Friday and
Can-Utility And The Coastliners were just two with superb vocals from Nad. Very
impressive! The band playing as if their lives depended on it, full of energy
and passion. After the Ordeal then into a superb Cinema Show with some incredibly
playing. It is wonderful to hear Steve playing these amazing pieces in their
entirety and not just as part of a medley.
Then straight into Aisle Of Plenty and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway with full audience participation. It doesn’t get any better than this! To finish the show Musical Box in all its glory raising the roof. All rapturously received with a standing ovation from the audience truly a “wow” ending to a brilliant show.
We stayed on our feet until the band returned for an encore. Fittingly enough one from Steve’s Spectral Mornings album: Clocks enabling Steve to let rip once more along with a very fired up band. Finally that spine-tingling moment as the spotlight descends on Roger King for the intro to Firth of Fifth shimmers from his fingers on the keys - pure heaven! For me no Hackett concert is complete without this classic, majestic piece of music. It would be like having the Last Night Of The Proms without Jerusalem! However, after this tour ends and Steve concentrates on his own solo works it is unlikely to be included in future shows. So I make the most of the moment and soak it up!
Brilliant performances from all tonight. Always a pleasure to hear the Hackett brothers tonight, thanks John. Roger the master, mesmerising with his musicianship. Rob, seemingly very relaxed and casual but always totally in control and so obviously enjoying this as much as us. Roine Stolt relishing his new role alongside Steve and proving himself more than capable. He provided some stunning trade-offs with Steve bringing a new dimension to the show. Nad was brilliant tonight, his vocal performances so passionate and expressive. What to say about Gary O’Toole? Well, for me he is one of, if not THE best rock drummers I have ever seen and heard. To top it all he can sing! All led from the front by Mr Hackett. Well a lesser man than Steve wouldn’t have the nerve to perform with such talent as this band for fear of being outshone. However, for a musician of Steve’s calibre nothing less than this perfect band would do.
Steve’s concerts leave me on a high for days and so so thank you all for a wonderful evening - and come back soon! Next for me, second helpings at the Salford Lowry and I am counting down the days.
Thanks for the review Jill. I think we all agree with the sentiments expressed within it.