Steve Hackett - Acolyte to Wolflight in concert at the Lyric Theatre, The Lowry Salford, 25th October 2015. Review and photographs by Mike Ainscoe.
Mike Ainscoe looks back at the 2015 visit of Steve Hackett to the Lowry with another variation on his bewilderingly diverse back catalogue.
Almost exactly a year on from the Lowry date of the Genesis Extended tour and Steve Hackett is back. Back at a venue which seems to have become a bit of a favourite haunt -witnessing his gigs at the more compact Quays Theatre with both band and acoustic trio and more recently in the wider expanses of plush Lyric Theatre in extending his Genesis show has been a pleasant few years of tripping from the multi storey through the outlet mall to a comfortable and congenial theatre for your Hackett pilgrimage.
Over at Old Trafford, a dour and goalless Manchester derby was being played out while the early arrivals for meeting and greeting gathered to get their official laminate limited edition print of the Roger Dean Premonitions design and goodness knows what else to take along with them to their audience with the mighty one. Meanwhile, round at the stage door in search of the (for the time being) elusive photo pass saw myself and Genesis/Gabriel/Hackett stalwart Andy Banks (in attendance at a Hackett gig for the first time in several years - working in China has its perks but the lack of gigs must be a serious drawback) running into a couple of Swedish blondes at the stage door.
Nevertheless, the extremely helpful and efficient F-O-H man (Steve Green) at the theatre was able to restore faith in the process while as the crowd gathered, some notable celebrities were out in force - ace Hackett photographer Lee Millward was collared taking a pre-gig pee (always worth hanging round the lavs to see who’s at the show - celebrity or not, we all need a wee at some stage) together with a couple of faces from the Genesis tribute band scene milling round the splendid orange and purple foyer - an interesting colour combo surely appreciated by Roine Stolt.
A view of the merch desk surprisingly saw no Premonitions sets on sale - just interested to see what the package looks like despite it being a bit costly for now, or tour programmes at the stall. Maybe Lee has bought them all up as they are full of his top photographs.
So to the show, and ensconced in the plush purple seats on the front row of the circle though lacking a bit of leg room to be honest, it was a case of what Steve called the solo set and the band set. Enough has been written/said/commented upon as to what Steve should be doing in his live shows these days. Suffice to say that he really can’t be accused of not trying to do the impossible and please everyone. The Hackett solo set now sees him with way too much to choose from for an eighty minutes.
The Spectral opening was a nice touch - I do miss the full opening rather than blasting straight into it so the best time to play it is right at the start where the impact is greatest. Plus, as his most famous piece it sets the stall out and the bar is up there right from the start. Yeah there were the pieces which were the pick of the Wolflight album which has been out long enough for them not to feel so new and Nad’s take on Icarus Ascending provided the surprise song of the first set and a nice nod to Please Don’t Touch - an oft overlooked (amongst others) album.
The Warrington BSL sign language group provided another dimension to the unplugged dimension of Loving Sea with Gary O’Toole stepping downstage to add some shakers and backing vocals alongside Steve - unusually stood with the acoustic twelve string (not something you see every day) and there was the more than welcome appearance of John Hackett for an acoustic run through of Jacuzzi and Overnight Sleeper.
A nod to the Hackett solo debut (and appropriate for this title) and a twenty minute Acolyte section brought on the interval - Star of Sirius, Ace Of Wands, A Tower Struck Down and Shadow Of The Hierophant. Gary possibly over-drumming in the latter almost like a drum solo as the music played over the seemingly simple melody which swelled and soared and for once, was sorely missing some “proper” bass pedals to resonate in the chest and test your fillings.
One big questions fans would have been keen to ask would be how did Roine Stolt do in the Beggs/Pomeroy role? Apart from challenging Nad as the band’s most obvious fashion icon in purple pants and patterned shirt, he looked like he had been playing the bass all his life obviously having no real issue with adapting o what isn’t his main instrument - even acknowledged by Steve as being a lead guitarist as good as himself. Although he spent much of his time side on/back to the audience in the usual bass/player/drummer relationship, he did pick up the chance to share the lead lines with Steve on After The Ordeal giving the twin guitar concept an interesting prog rock twist. The only beef (again - not to labour a point) is that he didn’t play any bass pedals - granted it was covered by Roger King’s keyboards and Rob Townsend could add bass pedals to his array of instruments but you miss that ribcage tickling, filling loosening depth of sound at key moments.
The backdrop and surround sound - could be a title for a song - are worth a couple of observations. To be honest, the ruched curtain thingy which served as the backdrop well, personally I didn’t see any the need. Plain black would have been fine although the Leeds Town Hall had a backdrop of its own from which from the photos the fans have posted on social media appears to have been Royal Albert Hall style in its magnificence. Surround Sound? Well, the speakers round the theatre came into play once or twice depending on which way you were holding your head. A coupe of times there were noises and effects which reminded you that they were there but maybe to the overall effect then the jury may still be out.
And so to not “F” but part two and the Genesis material which has severed Steve so well over the past three years and which continues to evolve. One thing is for sure (although Rik Mayall’ Kevin Turvey character would confirm that there’s a millions of things that’s for sure) and the fact that Steve cant be accused of rehashing the same old same old. Even trying out material which doesn’t have a distinctive Hackett stamp on it, although his contribution can’t be undervalued, is an option with this band.
The interaction between Nad Sylvan and Gary O’Toole in the conversation between the characters in Get ‘Em Out By Friday was excellent and would have inspired many to dig out their copies of Foxtrot when they got home and play again one of the “lesser” pieces. Lesser might also be applied to Can-Utility & The Coastliners - the real reward for those who have begged/prayed for this ever since Steven Wilson performed it on the Genesis Revisited II album. Oh, and throw in Cinema Show with an impressive group instrumental section, possibly one of the best in the Genesis catalogue and a romp through The Lamb… for good measure and suddenly the end of the band set is in sight.
Taking one track which has been the outstanding one in terms of both performance and crowd approval over the past couple of year’s worth of tours, it had to be Musical Box which has stood out from the vast selection - in football terms, the squad - from which Hackett has chosen. Not only has it been the musical equivalent of the first name on the team sheet - it has cemented its place in Genesis history - maybe even more than Supper’s Ready - as THE key song, Standing ovations every time I have seen it played and this show was no exception.
Talking of key songs, it was fitting that Firth Of Fifth with Steve’s universally acknowledged guitar solo contribution to the band’ catalogue is the one to end the show after a rock out through Clocks - The Angel of Mons. Roger King has continued to nail the opening piano which Tony Banks never did - there is the famous bootleg of him making a disastrous hash of it and as they say, once bitten, twice shy. Yet as far as Steve Hackett is concerned, once again, it has been terrific to see him in the bigger theatres again and we wait with bated breath the turn of another page in 2016 and what the next chapter will bring.