The second UK leg of Steve’s ‘Genesis Revisited’ trek which has taken in all parts of the world and continues to roll on, was back in the north for trips to Manchester Apollo and a return visit to the magnificent Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool (plus a visit across the Pennines to the similarly splendid City Hall in Sheffield). Although it wasn’t the first time he’s played at the Apollo (see later for some clarification), the first visit to the Phil back in May was a triumph. A venue which was made for the sort of magnificent sound Hackett and his sublime band have been making with music from the classic Genesis era, it certainly warranted a return visit.
Perhaps the fact that Liverpool had two visits on the tour meant that the Manchester gig, whilst well attended, wasn’t full too brimming with no need for the good folk of Liverpool to travel. It did give the people of Manchester a chance to show their approval though and the prolonged applause, particularly the ovation at the end of the gig showed how much Steve has been missed, not so much in Manchester (having played assorted venues in the city recently – the Royal Northern College Of Music, Academies 2 & 3 and the Lowry) but at the Apollo.
With original Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel having played in the city at the cavernous arean the night before in celebration of his own ‘So’ album, it was in startling contrast to Hackett’s own reason for being in town to celebrate his past. A few T shirts gave away the fact that many had spent probably twice as much for their previous night’s entertainment, although it would have been interesting to canvas which show gave them the best value.
Some rather grand classical Strauss was played over the PA which built up the pre concert atmosphere,until the band walked on, and from the start there was clearly something a bit different as vocalist Nad Sylvan appeared without his usual robes for ‘Watcher Of The Skies’ – what we got instead was Lee Pomeroy’s ringing twelve string heralding the beginning of ‘Dance On A Volcano’ – a new set opener and the start of a number of variations in the setlist which would guarantee something a bit different for anyone who had attended the May dates and for those fans who like to attend multiple shows on a tour. In Liverpool the drama of the opening was cut a little short with a guitar malfunction – roadies scrabbling to press something to make Lee’s double neck work, and giving Steve the opportunity to address local celebrity Alan Hewitt, editor of Genesis fanzine The Waiting Room and his biographer who was in the prime front row spot and attending his 109th Hackett show.
The ‘Lamb’ section of the show saw the ‘Fly On A Windshield/Broadway Melody’ sung as usual by drummer Garry O’Toole but was followed by ‘Carpet Crawl’ in Manchester with a switch to ‘The Lamia’ in Liverpool – both handled with aplomb by an increasingly confident Nad who has blossomed throughout the lengthy tour. In Manchester, the strips of light which were placed all around the stage set flickered on and off like a set of meteorites or even unearthly carpet crawling glow worms to add a subtle visual effect to the tumbling verses in which Nad and Garry sang in almost perfect unison.
It was the addition of two more songs from 1971’s ‘Nursery Cryme’ however which really upped the ante and illustrated along with the wildly received ‘Musical Box’, what a significant album it was for Genesis and for Steve’s first contribution to the band. ‘The Return Of The Giant Hogweed’ with its massive crescendo at the close, was accompanied by some amusing visuals, a cartoon like illustration of the original Gabriel lyric and partnered with ‘The Musical Box’ (requiring a count in from Steve, maybe something to do with Roger King’s musical box sample being unavailable and accompanied by a guest appearance from the front row audience member in fox head mask and red jumper in Manchester) it was a stunning highlight for the midpoint of the show. The addition of ‘The Fountain Of Salmacis’ before the usual climax of ‘Supper’s Ready’ was another welcome change in the revamped set, ‘Blood On The Rooftops’ taking a well earned rest before being revived for Liverpool – it has, after all, been a regular feat before of the Hackett set for some time now. The ending of ‘Salmacis’ was even more bone shaking than that of the Hogweed, although being picky, I have to admit to finding the 1978 Genesis version of ‘Salmacis’ (particularly with Daryl Stuermer’s contribution on his first Genesis tour) to be hard to beat and being ultra picky, it would have been exciting to hear Steve extend the guitar solo at the climax which seemed disappointingly short.
Not much needs to be said about ‘Supper’s Ready’ which hasn’t already been said. It’s been simply wonderful night after night and to hear this landmark piece of music played by one of its creators and his band who truly do justice to it’s legacy has been nothing less than an honour. Listening to ‘Watcher’ and a blast through ‘Los Endos’ are just the icing on the cake in a show which has been rapturously received wherever it has played both home and on foreign soil. The concept and willingness to embrace the past has been refreshing and served to highlight what a marvellous legacy Genesis left behind in those classic years of the seventies, despite some members of the band seemingly unwilling to own up to the fact.
Whilst the Genesis Revisited album and tour may have been an exercise in pure nostalgia, it was interesting to hear Steve’s onstage comments in Manchester – his notoriously failing eyesight being accompanied by a similarly failing lapse of memory; “Have I played here before?” he asked. Granted he may have done a few gigs in his time so he could be forgiven, but having said that, how time plays tricks on the old memory. Hard to believe that for those who distinctly remember Steve’s appearances at the Apollo, it was thirty years ago since he last played solo at the venue on 1983’s ‘Highly Strung’ tour (having done solo gigs every year from 1978-1981 and not counting his GTR appearance in the later eighties).
Over the past year, the tour seems to have gone from strength to strength with the final round of UK dates seeing the band in particular hitting its stride and the interplay between them and sheer enjoyment was palpable. By his own admittance, it had been the dream gig for Lee Pomeroy who continued to play a blinder, while the normally sedate Roger King was having a ball – mouthing across to Lee “where’s he gone?” as Nad became the angel standing in the sun and disappearing into the sunset in search of the new Jerusalem at the end of ‘Supper’s Ready’ all the while Hackett’s glorious solo filled the halls. For the thousands who have borne witness to Genesis Revisited, it has been one last chance to wallow in the glories of the past one more time. With Hackett’s genesis itch well and truly scratched and despite another dip into the ‘revisited’ waters in early 2014, it will be interesting to see what comes next. Maybe a return to the classic solo Hackett material of old and a chance to revisit again some of the vast bank of solo material stored away in the back catalogue for a rainy day?
Photography by Mike Ainscoe Photography