Steve Hackett and Band at the Buxton Opera House, 26th September 2022. Review and photos by Geoff Davvis.

Despite being born and raised in Buxton myself and learning that the Opera House was a Frank Matcham (he of London Palladium, London Hippodrome, Hackney Empire …the list is massive) design, I wasn’t aware of the capacity – Just 902!!

So, on Monday evening, 902 rabid little ‘Hacketeers’, Genesis faithful and generally lucky souls, were treated to Steve and his strolling minstrels playing a stunning two and a half hour plus set…
Bearing in mind that, as a child, I was forced to witness ‘The Sound of Music’ film in these hallowed halls ☹ (because the Opera House had been relegated to a generally unloved cinema) I always enter the venue with a sense of wonderment.
By pure good fortune, my early booking had rewarded me with a front row seat, in direct waving line to bassist Jonas Reingold, and with a perfect view of the whole gang.
On schedule, as always, the intro music heralded the ensemble to the stage and the band launched into a frisky ‘Ace of Wands’ which thundered along as a perfect introduction to the delights to come. The warmth of the greeting by the audience was reflected in Steve’s broad, beaming smile.
Smiles all around I checked the roll call….obviously Jonas directly ahead of me Craig Blundell enveloped in his drum rig behind Jonas, and immediately across the stage from Craig was keyboard maestro and long-time Steve cohort Roger King. Forward of Roger was ‘Mr Spoon’ *and his human buddy Rob Townsend player of everything woodwind some occasional keyboards and percussion.

• Digression – for innocent by-standers – Mr Spoon is indeed a spoon decorated and conveying the camaraderie of the group -your homework is to check photos of Rob onstage as part of your transformation to a “Hacketeer”- although ideally you should have attended the legendary “Star of Sirius” gig at Hammersmith Odeon in the previous century…

Now I hear you ask, isn’t somebody still missing? and after rapturous appreciative applause Steve introduces ‘The Devil’s Cathedral’ from relatively recent outing ‘Surrender of Silence’. After a jazzy, percussive intro, the coven is completed by the mercurial arrival of Nad Sylvan, who is a genuine rock enigma. A nice, thoroughly charming chap in ‘real’ life, Nad conveys everything every character or atmosphere requires and makes every song his own.
Although I personally felt this track was slightly out of kilter, that momentary thought was diminished as Nad strode offstage, and the band launched into ‘Spectral Mornings’ and followed with a spirited rendition of ‘Everyday’.
Back to ‘Acolyte’ for ‘A Tower Struck Down’ and a memorable bass work-out where Steve and Jonas were simply inspiring and inventive in equal measures.
‘Camino Royale’ was next and the real bonus for me speaking personally…I don’t want to get into the Genesis v Solo debate as such, but Steve’s monumental back-catalogue stretches way beyond the current set. Obviously commercial pressures, current audience make-up, and not least artists personal satisfaction all play their part.
The 'Solo' set concluded with the closing section of ‘Shadow of The Hierophant’ where Craig demonstrated his drumming with force and majesty, tempered with pace and subtlety. Craig’s skill tonight was on par with my fondest memory of this tune at Bridgewater Hall (just recovered that Alan …no ‘M’ word!) with the orchestra and Gary O’Toole….time for a run across the road for a ‘gypsies’ and an unexpected beer ��
Back in one’s comfy chair the second half commenced with what many had come for primarily…
From the opening bars to Nad arriving with his ‘Watcher of the Skies’ telescope and the two ‘special’ lamps kicking in ‘Foxtrot’ was underway. Having seen this performed quite a few times now the freshness and vigor was a hint of how we were going to proceed.
Apologies to ‘the massive’ but I’ve never really ‘got’ ‘Time Table’ but it was thoroughly enjoyable and Craig did some more subtle genius.
Onto ‘Get ‘Em Out By Friday’ which has always been a personal favourite from the ‘Old Days’. Once again Nad conveyed the story, characterisations and bizarre elements perfectly, the interplay was notably enhanced by Rob’s artillery of woodwind and devices ��. In the same way Gary made ‘Blood on the Rooftops’ HIS own, somehow with a couple of inflections hitting home EVERY performance….Nad has taken the old back catalogue with respect and reverence and proved to be a hero.
‘Can-Utility and The Coastliners’ showed the unison of the group as a unit and led nicely into ‘Horizons’ and Steve, as always, masterfully preparing the ground for ‘The Epic’
I was more than a bit dubious about “Foxtrot at Fifty”
Confession Alert * On the ‘Seconds Out’ tour I was shagged out by ‘Horizons’ probably due to medical reasons (thanks for saving me NHS) and felt that doing ‘Supper’s Ready’ after the solo set and previous material was a marathon…
To see this band perform ‘Supper’s Ready’ as masterfully as they did this Monday evening was an affirmation of life itself. It would be unfair to single out any moment of this titanic work. Wagner must be cursing in rock’n’roll heaven that he didn’t write it…The Ring Cycle encapsulated in 26minutes 18seconds (roughly …with Steve’s brilliant coda)
Naturally a massive ovation rocked the Opera House, encore requested with rabid enthusiasm and duly rewarded with ‘Firth of Fifth’.

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