Reviewer: Selwyn Knight
Steve Hackett was Genesis’ lead guitarist in the 1970s until he left following the album, Wind and Wuthering. Genesis continued as a three piece and found commercial success among a new generation largely unaware of the band’s progressive roots. Hackett continued to make music, but also to revisit the music of that era of Genesis, producing albums with differing arrangements and, of course, touring with his own band to play that music. This is his third sellout visit to Symphony Hall with the latest incarnation of his show paying homage to prog Genesis. And the audience, largely of middle aged and older men were certainly up for a great time, with the music they grew up with played by one on the inside at the time.
Hackett and his band comprise six musicians. Hackett, of course, plays electric and acoustic guitars and is equally at home with clashing rock rhythms and chords as with the classically inspired “Horizons”, a brief interlude of quiet introspection between the more grandiose pieces. He is joined by vocalist Nad Sylvan, who, while singing in his own voice and in his own flamboyant style, is able to channel his inner Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins to good effect; keyboard player Roger King, who received a deserved ovation after the lengthy piano introduction to “Firth of Fifth”; drummer Gary O’Toole, who is more than equal to the task of driving the band forward through the complex time signatures so beloved of Genesis; bass guitarist Nick Beggs, who is also pretty nifty on the rarely seen Chapman Stick; and Rob Townsend on sax and flute. Lilting flute melodies are very much a part of this music; the addition of saxophone to some of the tracks really adds an extra dimension, for example, during the quirky, “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe”. Each of these musicians is a virtuoso on his instruments and the high level of musicianship displayed adds significantly to the atmosphere and enjoyment of the evening.
Hackett knows his audience and played one crowd-pleaser after another, including the gargantuan “Supper’s Ready”, and later classics, “Dance on a Volcano” and “Squonk”. The music of Genesis is sprawling, magnificent in scale and full of contrast. It can also be tricky to play. It includes moments of great delicacy, for example, as “Dancing on the Moonlit Knight” opens, but builds to climax after crashing climax. Hackett also retains the lengthy instrumental sections, for example, in “Firth of Fifth” uncut. Indeed, during “Firth of Fifth”, Hackett was joined by his brother, flautist John Hackett, for one part. But if one were expecting the note-perfect recreations of studio albums tribute bands seek to offer, one would be disappointed. Recognisably Genesis, Hackett has nevertheless allowed his band to play to their own strengths and the whole is more refreshing for it. Where Hackett may have missed a trick is in the choice of songs to include – Genesis were among the finest prog rockers of the era and could rock it with the best; but they could also be pastoral and introspective, and there wasn’t as much opportunity to hear that side. A nice touch is the use of O’Toole on backing vocals (as was original drummer, Collins, prior to his fronting the band after Gabriel’s departure); he also betrays a fine singing voice as he does the honours for “Fly on a Windshield”.
Hackett is supported by Olivia Sparnenn and Bryan Josh of Mostly Autumn. They play a short acoustic set with ethereal melodies and ‘New Age’ overtones. When playing their own gigs, Mostly Autumn are a seven piece, and one can imagine that these songs would take on much more resonance and depth; as a duo they come over a little reedy at times. Nevertheless, they are undoubtedly easy on the ear and it is a pity that a substantial proportion of the audience chose to remain in the bar rather than listen to them.
For aficionados of 70s prog rock, Hackett’s Genesis themed concerts are simply a must-see.
Photo: Lee Millward | Reviewed on: 4th November