"An Air-Conditioned Daydream" - The Steppes revisit vintage Steve Hackett in concert at the Curtis Theatre, Brea California. Review by Alan Hewitt. Photos by Robert Smith.
Tribute bands are nothing new to the pages of TWR now, are they. However, The Steppes are, so far as I know, unique, in as much as that they are the only band dedicated to performing material from Steve Hackett’s early solo years. Tackling the material of Genesis themselves is no easy task, as anyone who has tried it will tell you. Tackling Steve’s early material presents even more potential pitfalls being both so varied and eclectic.
I had head about this gig through the bands’ guitarist and long standing Hackett fan, Peter Matuchniak, and once I got over the initial thought that he and his cohorts were perhaps suitable inhabitants for the Sentimental Institution (geddit!) I awaited news of the gig with bated breath.
Thankfully although I was not present at the gig itself, the resulting film of it is now nestling safely in the TWR archive and it is from that, that this review is drawn. The show gets under way with an impressive Air Conditioned Nightmare, always a stage favourite and delivered faultlessly here and I do mean FAULTLESSLY - close your eyes and… well you know the rest! Slogans too is truly remarkable with Jonathan Sindelman delivering Nick Magnus’s keyboard licks with great panache, this really is as close to how those early gigs sounded - I know, I was at a fair few of ‘em,!
Clocks third song in? Oh, alright then and I have to admit that drummer Scott Connor does look spookily like John Shearer! He sounds like him too as he beats his kit unmercifully whilst Peter and bassist Randy George are equally demented on their respective instruments.
The band are joined by vocalist Jimmy Keegan next who steps into Peter Hicks’ shoes (no easy task) for a stunning version of Narnia. Let’s jst say that the goosebumps at this moment are quite something as he really went to town on this one and I found myself transported back to those heady days of 1978/79 when a much slimmer version of me watched in awe as Steve’s original band gave us their homage to CS Lewis.
For me though the highlights of the show were a mind blowing rendition of Hoping Love Will Last in which Pamela George who took on duties on twelve string, steel guitar and keyboards delivered Randy Crawford’s vocal to perfection and Please Don’t Touch which rattled along at a frantic pace.
Just about every classic Hackett track from the vintage years was here present and more than correct as the band did not put a foot wrong in their performance. I did not really believe that any band could take this material on and really do it justice, but I was wrong. The Steppes are a genuine class act and one which I cannot wait to see treading the boards here in the UK where an eager audience awaits them should they be able to venture across the pond - I for one will be waiting to cheer them from the rafters! As T paraphrase Mr Hackett himself, thanks for making a happy fan very old guys!
The set: Air-Conditioned Nightmare/Slogans/Clocks/Narnia/Ace Of Wands/Jacuzzi/Hoping Love Will Last/Please Don’t Touch/Lost Time In Cordoba/Tigermoth/Kim/Two Vamps As Guests/Every Day/Hammer In The Sand/The Steppes/Shadow Of The Hierophant/Hackett To Pieces.
Encores: Racing In A/Spectral Mornings.