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Genesis Revisited and Classic Hackett – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Reviewer:  Selwyn Knight

It was a little over 40 years ago, in December 1976, that Genesis released their eighth studio album Wind & Wuthering. This came at a time of considerable change in the band – it had been pronounced dead by many in the music industry following the departure of lead singer, Peter Gabriel in 1975, sprang back to life with A Trick of the Tail in 1976 and a successful tour before recording Wind & Wuthering; by the end of 1977, they had lost a further member as Steve Hackett left to follow a solo career and the now three-piece changed direction considerably to enjoy a further 20 years of chart success. Wind & Wuthering can get overlooked but on this tour its content is brought back to ear-shattering life.

In the intervening 40 years, Hackett has gone from strength to strength as a solo artist, gaining in confidence and happily taking centre-stage. He has built up a group of musicians with whom he works regularly and produced 27 studio albums. Some of these have revisited and reworked Genesis tracks and recent tours have focused on sharing these tracks with his established and new audience. On this tour, the balance is around 50:50 between Hackett originals and Genesis tracks, including those from Wind & Wuthering.

The first half is “Classic Hackett” with Hackett himself taking lead vocal duty and opening with the barnstorming Every Day from Spectral Mornings – a great start that allows Hackett to display his superb playing technique in intricate guitar solos as well as a good singing voice. This is followed by tracks from his latest album, The Night Siren, including the instrumental El Niño, in which driving drums from Gary O’Toole are balanced by floating flute from Rob Townsend, In The Skeleton Gallery in which Hackett’s mouth organ licks form a dialogue with Townsend’s sax, and Behind the Smoke. In his introduction to Behind the Smoke, Hackett explains that it is about the experience of refugees – and that in the early twentieth century his own family fled Poland to build a new life in the UK. This track includes a fine contrast between the drumming and haunting flute.

Also included in this first half is Serpentine Song, from To Watch the Storms, with a haunting, gentle melody featuring Hackett’s brother John on flute. The first half is brought to a glorious close with the classic Shadow of the Hierophant, a track from Hackett’s first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte and written in conjunction with Mike Rutherford. This includes the soaring, pure voice of Amanda Lehman on vocals and piles layer upon musical layer, ending in a triumphant crescendo and leaving the audience with ears ringing in the interval.

After the interval, we enjoy the classic Genesis set. Tracks from Wind & Wuthering include Eleventh Earl of Mar, One for the Vine, …In That Quiet Earth and Afterglow – as well as Inside and Out, a rarely heard track that didn’t make the cut for Wind & Wuthering and was subsequently released on the Spot the Pigeon EP. The Genesis storytelling tradition continued with Eleventh Earl of Mar and One for the Vine – for these and for most of tonight’s Genesis tracks, Nad Sylvan takes on vocal duties. A consummate showman and storyteller, Sylvan evokes, but never copies, Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel. His interpretation of Afterglow, a gentle song about loss, is quite exquisite.  After a lovely acoustic introduction to the haunting Blood on the Rooftops, O’Toole stands and sings the lyrics – and a fine job he makes of it too. However, having heard Hackett’s voice in the first half, one has to wonder why he still feels the need to bring in other vocalists. Other Genesis stalwarts include the classically influenced Firth of Fifth with its beautifully constructed and played piano intro from Roger King and that swooping guitar solo in which notes appear from nowhere and then hang in the air unsupported, apparently forever; the powerful Dance on a Volcano and the rousing The Musical Box that triumphantly ends the main set.

This is a finely constructed evening with changes of mood and tempo. Hackett is equally at home with the introspective as the sprawling prog rock anthems and this set list is finely balanced so that the audience are sent away ecstatic, if a little harder of hearing than when they arrived.

Reviewed on 1 May 2017 and on tour | Image: Cathy Poulton

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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One Comment

  1. I don’t agree that Steve could or should sing the Genesis songs. Nad adds an extra level of enjoyment to the Genesis material. I’d have him sing Blood On The Rooftops too.

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