10 October 2018

Review: Steve Hackett Symphony Hall, B’ham 5th Oct 2018

Steve Hackett, for those of you who don’t know (have you been living in a shed for the last 40 years ??) was the guitarist in the legendary Genesis from 1971 – 1977 (perhaps their most creative and formative years), leaving the band after the release of “Wind And Wuthering”, the band continued as a three piece and achieved a great deal of commercial success veering away from their Prog roots as the years rolled by. Whilst with the band, in 1975, Steve released his debut solo album “Voyage Of The Acolyte” and thus the mould was cast for what would become a VERY successful solo career.

Listening to the way Steve’s music has developed over the subsequent albums (25 at present including the first excursion into the resurrection of Genesis music with the 1996 album “Genesis Revisited” which brought in a number of special guests including Paul Carrack on the newly re-imagined “Your Own Special Way” !!) and Genesis’ morph into a chart-topping juggernaut, it is very apparent why the two factions HAD to happen and when you take into consideration the advert he placed in Melody Maker in 1970 prior to him joining Genesis– “”Imaginative guitarist-writer seeks involvement with receptive musicians, determined to strive beyond existing stagnant music forms” I reckon it’s safe to say that this was a man meant for greater things, a true Progressive musician and a credo he still lives by today. Very much the “Dave Grohl of Prog”, a true gentleman.

Now, I am fully aware that tribute bands are seen by some as a necessary evil, making money on the back of another band, cashing in on another’s success, bands no longer in existence or who have dropped out of the touring cycle, a way of hearing one’s favourite band’s music LIVE at a sensible price and maybe a homage ??? Everybody has their own opinion, but love ‘em or hate ‘em, I think it’s safe to say, they’re here to stay. Now it just so happens that the night following this gig, the French-Canadian Genesis tribute band “The Musical Box” played the same venue  – a very expensive couple of days for die-hard Genesis fans !! Tonight, we had a musical extravaganza of the highest level, this went WAY beyond a tribute band, taking the original timeless classics to an entirely new level, I’ve always believed that Genesis music lends itself to the sounds of strings (especially as Mellotron and String synth were used extensively by Tony Banks).

So here we are in 2018 in the rather wonderful Symphony Hall, a venue designed and created to maximise the sound of a full orchestra and tonight we have the 41-piece Heart Of England Philharmonic in attendance to build on the band Steve has with him: Gary O’Toole on drums, percussion and vocals, Jonas Reingold (Flower Kings) on bass and vocals, Roger King on Keys, Rob Townsend on wind instruments, keys and vocals, the towering Nad Sylvan on lead vocals and of course the man himself Steve Hackett on guitars and vocals. This was always going to be a night to remember, having successfully toured Genesis Revisited the past five years, adding a full set of strings and horns takes the whole thing to the next level !!

With no support, but a set of two halves, the band took to the stage at 7.30pm prompt and once everyone was seated, suited and booted, they kicked off with “Dance On A Volcano”, a well known piece from their first album without the mighty Peter Gabriel – “Trick Of The Tail”. With only a few tracks from Steve’s quite substantial back catalogue thrown in for good measure (“Out Of The Body, which morphed into “The Steppes” from “Defector”, the instrumental section of “Shadow Of The Hierophant” (a well visited classic from Steve’s debut album), “Serpentine Song” (with some beautiful four part harmonies and glorious strings) and “El Nino” (incredible) from the latest album “The Night Siren”) all enhanced greatly with the backing of 41 professional musicians… Not a great deal of audience interaction (did we need it ?? The music speaks for itself !!) but we did get a little joke from SH when he offered a refund for including some of his own material…..bless.

…and so the night progressed with a selection of tuneage from Steve’s time with the band – “Firth Of Fifth” (with THAT solo !!), “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” (interestingly enough, Steve is touring again at the tail end of next year where they’re playing the whole of “Selling England By The Pound”), “Blood On The Rooftops” “In That Quiet Earth”, “Afterglow” the EPIC to end all EPICS “Supper’s Ready” (having hear this live so many times over the years (and yes, sorry to boast folks, but I am fortunate enough to be old enough to say I saw the band several times back in the day, including the time they came to Birmingham Hippodrome in 1973, one of the advantages of being an old ‘un !!)) – this version went WAY BEYOND all our expectations, sublime to the extreme and the inevitable encore – “The Musical Box” from their album “Nursery Cryme”, which still sounds fresh and exciting today, nearly 50 years on !!!

What more can I say other than – “FUCK”.

The tickets may have been a tad more expensive to help cover the cost of bringing an orchestra along (and it was nice to see some of the musicians getting into the music during down-time – yes, you know who you are !!), but it was well worth the extra dollars, especially when you take into account how much some bands are charging these days – we know who you are, you rob-dogging bastards…..

Once again the man has delivered and if ever the band decide to get back together without PG, Nad will take his place no problem whatsoever, a giant of a man with an outstanding voice (we even had a few costume changes during the set including some spooky glasses and a cloak during the “666” section of “Supper’s Ready” – check out his solo work for further proof, it’s no surprise that SH took him on after he’d heard Nad’s “Unifaun” album)

A once in a lifetime experience indeed, it was an honour to be there and with a sell-out audience, I think it’s safe to say there were way more than a few people leaving the venue grinning like the Cheshire Cat, incredible. Thank you once again Mr Hackett for giving us an evening of outstanding music, there is HOPE for us yet !!!!

Check out our FULL GALLERY of pics (courtesy of Lisa Billingham)