Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
When Steve Hackett last visited Salford the tour title Genesis Revisited referred to the set list as he cherry picked his way through the back catalogue of the Prog Rock group for which he was once guitarist. The current tour is a sort of sequel; picking up where he left off last time and covering also his solo career..
Selections are taken from the Genesis albums in the period 1970-1977 that he didn’t get around to playing in 2014 and his own solo albums from Voyage of the Acolyte to his most recent release; Wolflight. The tour title Acolyte To Wolflight With Genesis Revisited may, therefore, be clumsy but it does what it says on the tin.
As with all sequels, however, there is a sense that the best material has already been used. You wonder if Hackett shares this opinion as the set list is not arranged chronologically. The Genesis songs are left to the end as if Hackett is saving the best until the last.
This turns out not to be the case. The first half of the show is, if not the better, certainly the most varied and interesting. It even features an interpretation of Loving Sea in British Sign Language by The Warrington BSL Choir. Former band mate Peter Gabriel did the same thing the last time he played Manchester but it’s still a nice eccentric touch.
Surprisingly for a prog rock show the opening is restrained – Hackett backed only by Roger King’s keyboards and Gary O’Toole’s drums performing an austere bare bones instrumental. Hackett takes an experimental approach to his compositions to the extent they sometimes end up a mish-mash of styles. His guitar and Rob Townsend’s sax set an eastern vibe for Wolflight, which is at odds with the martial beat pounded out on the drums.
Hackett’s versatility is astounding being capable of delicate madrigals or gentle flamencos as well as the bone-crushing heavy metal that closes the first half. One does wish, however, that he had more respect for his own talent and was willing to tone down the rest of the band. King’s over-sweet keyboards are a distraction during the acoustic numbers.
Hackett is not a charismatic performer and makes an unlikely front man for a band. In the first half he relies heavily on the other band members for support on the vocals. For the Genesis numbers he delegates the task entirely to Nad Sylvan whose mannered approach does nothing to limit the pretension of the twee lyrics. The second half of the show, therefore, sees Hackett fade into the background becoming a human jukebox and grinding out the tunes but only really coming to life for the occasional in-between song anecdote.
This, it must be acknowledged is an entirely minority viewpoint. The rest of the audience is in ecstasy for the second half of the show, crying out requests and rising to their feet whenever a favourite is played. Yet if you’re not already a fan of Genesis and approach the show with an open mind the first half is much more challenging and satisfying.
Reviewed on 25th October 2015