Saturday, 31st October 2015
Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, The UK
For his Defector tour in 1980, audiences at Steve Hackett shows were filled with predominantly long-haired men wearing Genesis t-shirts,
crowding the front of the stage, bouncing up and down and singing along to what was mostly solo material,
with a sparse sprinkling of Genesis material.
A quarter of a century later, Hackett has a massive solo discography to draw from,
and he has taken on the mantle of Keeper of Early Genesis music,
with the Genesis Revisited tours, CDs and DVDs.
Hackett has realised that there is not only a market for this early material, but also a huge nostalgic demand.
While Hackett may be older, he hardly looks it, unlike the audience on this foggy Halloween evening in coastal Essex.
Now, the crowd is somewhat older, too. Portly gentlemen rub shoulders with bespectacled ladies, and the number of bald heads is unnervingly large.
The close-to-capacity Cliffs Pavilion isn't exactly rocking, either. While the affection is clear,
the Acolyte to Wolflight concert is not a raucous event,
each song being met with grateful and loving applause and reverent appreciation for a true musical icon.
What emanates from the stage, however, is far from tame. Hackett is still in blistering form, making it all look so very easy.
He is joined on stage by the masterful guitarist, bassist and vocalist Roine Stolt, best known for his work with Transatlantic and Flower Kings.
Stolt also has an uncanny ability to make the tricky appear simple.
The rest of the band aren't exactly slouches. Roger King on keyboards, vocals supplied by Nad Sylvan, Rob Townsend on sax,
flute and percussion, and Gary O'Toole all have musical CVs longer than a giant's arm.
It all makes for an evening of musical memories, a trip through Hackett's back catalogue, interspersed, as one would expect,
with material from Hackett's most recent release, Wolflight.
The evening is broken into two sets - solo, and Genesis. In spite of having so much to choose from,
it's the earlier material that gets the nod, with music from Voyage of the Acolyte,
Spectral Mornings and Please Don't Touch on offer. No complaints there.
The first set kicks off with the sublime and timeless Spectral Mornings, which sounds as fresh now as it did over 35 years ago.
Yes, it's been that long. The current material is met with warm applause and respect, but every time an old track is brought back to life,
the introductions are warmly applauded, like an old friend entering the room.
Every Day is effortlessly aloft. Icarus Ascending, which was sung by the late Richie Havens on Please Don't Touch,
is given a warm and loving treatment by Sylvan.
The material from Voyage of the Acolyte also sounds incredible. A Tower Struck Down has always been a live favourite,
and it's a good as ever, and Shadow of the Hierophant is simply brilliant.
O'Toole's inventive drumming adds an extra edge to an already great piece. His playing is not only improvisationally astonishing and technical,
it's also difficult to play along with but, of course, none of the other musicians bats an eye. It's quite the way to end a set.
After the break, everyone settles into their seats for set two, the "old stuff" many are here to drool over.
It's Genesis time, and Hackett wryly points out that there are people in the audience that weren't
even born when Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot were released. His trip down memory lane doesn't come with anecdotes,
simply introductions. Get 'Em Out By Friday is a good start,
and of course it helps when you have several stellar vocalists on stage to share the harmonies.
The underplayed Can-Utility and the Coastliners follows, and it's the piece with the legendary
- and difficult - bass line Mike Rutherford played so wonderfully. Stolt not only nails the thunderous riff,
he makes it look simple. And his occasional use of the double-neck also stirs the nostalgic pot.
Then it's off to Selling England By the Pound for another series of pieces that still sound fresh today,
and all are, as one would expect, magnificently played. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is cooking,
and the band are - still looking effortless - well into their collective stride.
They look like they're having fun. The audience looks like they've been trick-or-treating, and the treat isn't chocolate,
it's Genesis music played by the guitarist who was there.
As an aside, while the band don't play Fly on a Windshield, there is a connection,
as all of the vehicles in the immediate area of the Pavilion have a flyer placed on their
windshield - courtesy of the Hackett-endorsed Genesis cover band The Watch,
from Italy, who are also playing in Southend in a couple of weeks. One suspects it will be made up of a similar audience,
assuming everyone has recovered and can handle two late nights in a month.
The closer is the epic The Musical Box and, as one would expect, no one on stage puts a foot wrong.
It's a stunning and surreal closer, although it's not the end. The band take their plaudits,
and Townsend jumps at the audience with fake vampire teeth. The band loves it - who says prog is too serious?
The encore isn't Genesis, but no one is complaining at Clocks, with a simply peerless drum solo,
and Hackett donning a witch hat for the occasion. Then it's Firth of Fifth,
with Sylvan changing costume again to add to the theatrics.
The only mistake of the night comes during the encore, and it's not a musical one,
when Hackett attempts to throw the witch hat from the stage, only to see the ridiculously-light headgear
curve and flop a good six feet from an eager front row.
As everyone leaves into the appropriate fog, there are people milling around in Halloween costumes.
For those who witnessed this show, the spirits of Genesis past haven't been exorcised,
simply brought into the present realm by the medium that is Steve Hackett. Long may he resurrect such beautiful ghosts.
Out of the Body
Love Song to a Vampire
The Wheel's Turning
Star of Sirius
Ace of Wands
A Tower Struck Down
Shadow of the Hierophant
Get 'em Out by Friday
Can-Utility and the Coastliners
After the Ordeal
The Cinema Show
Aisle of Plenty
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
The Musical Box
Clocks - The Angel of Mons
Firth of Fifth
Steve Hackett official Website