What does it sound like?:
This is one of those products which absolutely does what it says on the tin, and if you like this sort of thing, you’ll love it. Two classic Steve Hackett-related albums (“Spectral Mornings”, and one of the discs he did with the old group), all played beautifully, some creative spins on familiar (sometimes over-familiar) tracks, all tastefully delivered (by the standards of progressive rock), and a few surprises and must-do’s. A DVD of a concert indicates it was also a delightful show for men of a certain age and their long-suffering partners, professionally performed, played, and presented.
I was struck that there was no sense of longeurs as “new” or solo material so often invites in what would have been the first set. That said, “Spectral Mornings” was released 41 years ago, so has had time to bed in. Lots of interesting musical textures and chiaroscuro moments, e.g., “Tigermoth”, and the invariably thundering “Clocks – The Angel of Mons”. Tasteful instrumentation and the occasional world element showed how Hackett was himself moving on, and vocals are competent but not central. Rob Townsend (saxes/flutes) does a great job adding new elements to the music, as do guest appearances (Steve’s brother, John, also on flute (not that I could hear any warring woodwinds), and his sister-in-law, Amanda Lehmann (who has her own musical career) on guitar). This was a lot more than a busk before the main event, and solo Steve Hackett is where to start if you think Genesis went south without him, as you’ll find a lot more of what you liked about Genesis (i.e., his musical contribution to the band) there than on any other of the band’s alumni’s other solo work.
Frankly, I would be happy to hear a gig by Steve Hackett without so much Genesis, but I am sure it helps to draw in the more casual listeners and make the gigs more viable, and good luck to Mr Hackett making a comfortable and creative living. Though “Selling England…”, “Cinema Show”, and “Firth of Forth” are as stellar as ever (one has to wonder if these were the high-point of 4th-form progressive (i.e., safe, as no drugs, mystical hippiedom, or musical freak-outs), I did find myself wondering why “More Fool Me” ever made it on the album or was played here. (It is no surprise that it was written by Collins and Rutherford, who drove the push to the shorter, blander, less interesting but admittedly commercially far more successful songs post-Gabriel. Steve mate, you were lucky to get out, though i am sure it didn’t look like that when Genesis were playing enormodomes in the 80s and being paid in gold bars.)
But I digress down familiar tracks. The re-working of “I know what I like…” makes the song Steve’s again, takes a few liberties with horns and at one point introduces almost a hip-hop beat that works surprisingly well; given the oddness of the song to start with. I haven’t personally warmed to Nad Sylvan’s perfectly acceptable performance and delivery, but he does his job perfectly. An unreleased song by Gabriel and Hackett, “Deja Vu” is also on the album, and this provides some genuine new content, but seemed nothing special to me. A final sprint through “Dance on a Volcano/ Los Endos” does what it is supposed to do brilliantly, though again feels anti-climatic, “The Cinema Show” being a natural climax to the set. This is typical for progressive rock; the main set finale is often the high-point, and the encores a busy after-thought.
What does it all *mean*?
Though millions of people (and definitely the bank managers of Collins, Banks, and Rutherford) will demonstrably differ, Genesis were creatively punctured when Gabriel left. Steve Hackett thereafter did two albums and several world tour’s worth of heavy-lifting to keep selling the band to the old audience and enable the longevity that benefited the band when they continued in their poppier phase and attracted a new crowd. Hackett’s good work was not included on “Wind and Wuthering”, when ditching “Afterglow” and “Your Own Special Way” for “Inside and out”, ” would have made for a far better album. (In my opinion.) Going on this show, Steve Hackett’s musical imagination is equivalent of the sum of the rest of the old band. He now has a team of people around him who are extremely sympathetic and complementary to his musical style. I think he has done really well to survive and, in the context of progressive music, to maintain a sense of credibility to the fans long after the genre’s brief phase of mass popularity has passed. Some bands and musicians of similar heritage are not surrounded by such competency, and show far more diminishing returns despite similarly huge talent.
Goes well with…
Wine, tea, beer, statins.
September 25th, 2020
Might suit people who like…
Early Genesis, symphonic progressive rock, Marillion, Flower Kings.