Steve Hackett’s tour of the U.K. with full band and orchestra ended at the London Palladium with a show understandably heavy on the Genesis, but with a decent serving of his solo material too. The sound was excellent and as full as you’d expect given a 40 piece orchestra sat behind a 6 piece band comprising Steve’s guitar, keys, drums, a Mike Rutherford stand in on bass, double neck guitar with 12 string and bass pedals, a soprano sax player who also played flute, whistle, electronic percussion and bass pedals (bass pedals featured heavily, an intense low frequency buzz which went on rather too long for this punter), a vocalist who could do Gabriel satisfactorily and a variety of special guests. In truth the orchestra was rather lost under the rock band, with only the odd snatch of strings popping up in a quiet bit, or toot of brass finding a hole to pop through but they made a fine back drop and a nice alternative to the ever present film loops which are becoming obligatory at the modern prog gig.
The show opened with “Dance on a Volcano”, from “Trick of the Tail”, featuring Nad Sylvan on vocals. Then followed a couple of Steve’s solo pieces, “Out of the Body” and “The Steppes”, before plunging into Genesis classic “Firth of Fifth” which would have had the lighters in the air if people had lighters any more. The perfectly recreated opening piano part of “Firth” brings sections of the audience to their feet, and all night the band are incredibly tight, negotiating the tricky time and structure changes with ease. We continue with “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, followed by “Blood on the Rooftops”, with vocals ably supplied by the drummer Gary O’Toole. The first half of the set closed with the epic “Shadow of the Hierophant”.
Set 2 opened with “In That Quiet Earth” and “Afterglow”, followed by a particular highlight as Steve’s brother John, playing the tenor flute, guested on “Serpentine Song”, a tribute to their late father. “El Nino” from Steve’s most recent album was next, then finally an epic “Supper’s Ready” closed the night with an extended guitar solo outro which is fair enough considering its Steve’s gig. In fact, in praise of the man, his playing was impeccable all night and showed a considerable degree of restraint – he has always played “for the song” with innovative and interesting parts (he introduced the dreaded two hand tapping to rock guitar 20 years before Eddie Van Halen) and even this being a solo show didn’t change that so I think we can allow a 5 minute widdle fest at the end, which he clearly enjoyed as did the packed London Palladium. An encore of “ Musical Box” and the show was over at a user friendly 10.00pm.
Contrary to popular cliché the prog audience isn’t solely composed of ancient geezers – there was a healthy spread of ages and genders, though about 20 minutes in I was sure my jeans were flaring and I could have sworn I caught a whiff of damp greatcoat.
It made me think..
It’s easy for non believers to mock gigs like “prog rock band with orchestra”. “Is it on ice”, they will chortle. It’s a strokes/folks thing. On one level it was really too dense for my tastes, which err towards the sparse and acoustic, but hearing those classic Genesis numbers with the soaring melodies and solos performed with full light show (yes, and orchestra) was a tremendous way of spending a damp Thursday night in London.