A couple of months into the extensive tour of the Genesis Revisited album, Steve Hackett brought his extravaganza to the UK for the first of two short bouts of touring. From the opening night with a nostalgic return to Aylesbury where special guests were a plenty in preparation for their role in the following night’s filmed performance in London, it was into the provinces with shows commencing in one of the world’s rock and roll capital cities – Liverpool.
Harking back to the early days of Genesis with whom Hackett served a short time from 1971-1977 (remarkably over 35 years ago yet the pull is still strong), Aylesbury and the Friars promotion was almost home turf. Far removed from the time of the original Friars club (which famed Genesis biographer and photo journalist Armando Gallo – in attendance at the show – called “a little funky”) the plush new Waterside Theatre was the setting for the opening date of the tour. Generously taking the time to warm up the fans by making a personal appearance at the merchandise desk before the show was a subtle move to raise the excitement for what would be a set of shows to remember.
With the immense opening chords of the epic 1972 classic Watcher Of The Skies filling the air from Roger King’s spotlit keyboards, the only thing missing from the grand show opening was a pair of batwings (which Peter Gabriel used to wear) around vocalist Nad Sylvan’s head as he stood stately and motionless in his floor length coat before he slowly began to scan the skies with his telescope. Having opened some shows earlier on the toure with 11th Earl Of Mar and reserving Watcher as an encore performance, it has now reverted back to what must be its rightful position at the start of the set. Apart from possibly the batwings, the only thing missing was some dry ice or smoke, yet the enhanced visual aspect of three screens at the back of the stage which were used to project images and effects throughout the show took preference.
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight was the first chance for the band to up the ante and the first sight of Hackett’s famed tapping technique and also the first real indication of what an impact bassist Lee Pomeroy was going to have on the evening. His work on the double neck bass and 12 string was exemplary in the instrumental section which really took off before Roger King’s choral mellotron effect heralded in the fat old lady outside the saloon (a line from the final verse for the uninitiated).
As advertised, a plethora of special guests were not just in Aylesbury for the craic but were going to get up and perform (and also to give themselves a rehearsal in front of an audience for their prestigious sell out London show the following night). Giving Nad a break from vocal duties on the night were Nik Kershaw (yes – the 80’s pop idol – singing prog!) who reprised his album version of The Lamia and which also featured a guest appearance from Marillion’s Steve Rothery who appeared for the instrumental ending to trade solos with Hackett. Being the perfectionist he is, he grimaced a couple of times when his notes didn’t quite hit the mark, but the solo was made for his trademark sound. Jakko Jaksyk was joined by Amanda Lehmann for a exceptional version of Entangled (always an underrated Genesis masterpiece) while Amanda’s presence also meant the only non Genesis track of the night (albeit one originally forged back at the time of Foxtrot in 1972 with Mike Rutherford’s involvement so strictly speaking it had earned its place in the set) was Shadow Of The Hierophant. Since its inclusion in the more recent live Hackett sets it has extended its reputation as a true epic, with what seems to be such a simple guitar figure prolonging the instrumental build up and climax into something truly colossal. With Lee Pomeroy’s bass pedal work thudding into the audiences chests and threatening the fillings in the molars, it was certainly one of the highlights amongst an evening of highlights.
It was John Wetton who took his place at the top of the stairs to add vocals to Afterglow. It has to be said that for such a traditionally epic track, Afterglow struggled a bit to live up to its reputation. Wetton made a slight hash of one of the verses, while for once visually it didn’t quite hit the mark. For a show with such high production values, it was almost made for an explosion of light and especially a healthy dose of smoke at a key moment when the music swells and the choral keyboards sounds portray a choir of angels (“And I would search everywhere” is the key line which Genesis fans will recognize , but the lights were already full on and showed little variation through the song. Probably the only slight disappointment in the visual aspect of the show which was one of, if not the most ambitious Hackett solo stage production.
Nad Sylvan, the man with probably the hardest job of singing songs from both the Gabriel and Collins eras, was always open to criticism as he could never match the originals but coped admirably. Whilst he had a break from all the vocal duties with the guest slots in Aylesbury, and from a couple of songs which are sung by drummer Garry O’Toole, it’s surprising Hackett hasn’t gone the whole hog and given him him full vocal duties as it would be interesting to hear his take on Blood On The Rooftops and the Fly/Windshield section. Fans will be used to the singing drummer routine with Garry O’Toole, yet some find his vocals a bit ‘shouty’ so a bit of variety certainly wouldn’t go amiss. Not only did Nad sing the songs but also played the part – the clockwork toy in The Musical Box and something approaching a prancing fop in 11th Earl Of Mar complete with cane and erm, unusual little sideways hopping dance; very Gabrielesque.
With the first three songs dusted off, the haunting intro began to Fly On A Windshield – and apart from its stomping rhythm, what was starting to become clear at this point was that there was going to be no let up in hearing one landmark Genesis track after another. Followed by the last of the selection from The Lamb Lies Down album in The Lamia, the first REAL biggie made its bow. Introduced simply with two rings on some tiny finger cymbals by Gary O’Toole The Musical Box rose its menacing head – a portentous tale of Victorian menace, it received perhaps one of the best ovations of the evening. Lee Pomery again played a blinder in coping with guitar and bass pedals as Nad had the unenviable task of portraying what was, back in the early 70’s, Peter Gabriel’s outrageous climax.
With no great surprises as the band ran through the bulk of side two of Wind & Wuthering having played much of this music in solo Hackett gigs, with Steve perched on a stool with the nylon guitar for Blood On The Rooftops and some impressive accompanying slides on the back projection screens which were filled with images and effects throughout the evening. Straight into the instrumental In That Quiet Earth and concluding with the emotional impact of Tony Bank’s Afterglow – it was a stunning twenty minute run which earned another ovation and thoughts of what could follow that.
The answer was to put the foot on the gas for the downhill stretch with some more biggies. Just at the point when you had started to think that the peaks had been hit, out rolled more classics – Entangled this time being linked with another Trick Of The Tail epic in Dance On A Volcano before Steve took his seat with his 12 string for the daddy of them all. Supper’s Ready had been entrusted to a number of guest vocalists on the Revisited album, but the live performance was much less of a patchwork and much more of a proper band effort. Performed last in its entirety by Genesis in 1982, it was remarkable to think that was over thirty years ago and if this was to be the last time we were likely to see and hear what is regarded as one of, if not the prog epic, it was one which was going to be relished by all in the room. It was, of course, the only way to finish a set and was a tribute to Roger King and his remarkable performance on keyboards throughout the night as he weaved his way through the meandering solo in the Apocalypse in 9/8 section. Switching from one keyboard to another and one sound to another all through the set and even mid song, the quiet man of the band, along with Lee Pomeroy, certainly deserve the plaudits for the work they put in to making such a wonderful evening.
Rob ‘Mr Wind’ Townsend’s contribution was possibly one which was underplayed and undervalued. Taking on what used to be Steve’s brother John Hackett’s old role of ‘jack of all trades’ but master of quite a few as well, his flute contributions to some of the Gabriel era material plus his clarinet playing in harmony with Hackett’s guitar in the likes of Los Endos and In That Quiet Earth was right at the forefront of the mix. Although it was Rothery who took the plaudits with his guitar duel with Hackett on The Lamia in Aylesbury, on the tour it has been Townsend who played the duel in a very extended and jazzy ending to the song. Despite his proficiency with anything windy, his contribution with the banana shaped shaker in I Know What I Like has to be the piece de resistance…
Having got the opening night out of the way and the filming of the London show being done, the Liverpool concert seemed much more relaxed. At one point, probably during I Know What I Like (sorry but there was so much to take in), Hackett put down his guitar. Unusual as it means he is about to replace it with another, but not this time; he proceeded to remove his scarf and do a shoe shine for a couple of band members before nonchalantly picking up his axe and carrying on.
Hackett’s Genesis tour de force solo came in the first number of the encores, with Firth Of Fifth even including the full piano introduction played by Roger King – something that even Tony Banks was loathe to do in the Genesis days (there is I believe some notorious bootleg in which his playing of the said piece goes wildly off course – a case of once bitten twice shy). Closing appropriately with Los Endos (“we’ve taken a few liberties with the old girl but here we go”) he did lapse into a signature solo piece by including a chunk of the Slogans instrumental from his 1980 Defector album, but no one minded that he Genesis music had been hijacked for a few moments.
What sprung to mind after seeing these shows was the title of a famous Genesis bootleg from Earls Court shows of 1977 which was known as Beyond Riches. With the Genesis Revisited show, Hackett has taken much of the music from that era and shown that it truly was a period beyond riches, becoming more like an embarrassment of riches. A return to the North West in October will see a date at Manchester Apollo and another show in Liverpool. It may well be worth taking a pop at a ticket as having seriously scratched his Genesis itch with this show, we may never see the likes of this performance again.
Text and photography by Mike Ainscoe