Concert Review Archive

The Steppes
(A Tribute to Early Steve Hackett)

Sunday, 28th August 2016
The Curtis Theater, Brea, CA

Article and photos by Patrick McAfee

The relatively small town of Brea, California may seem like a bit of an odd setting for a Sunday night prog show, but The Center Theater proved to be an excellent venue for such an event. The idea behind The Steppes came to bassist Randy George after receiving the Steve Hackett Premonitions Box Set as a Christmas gift. Reminded of the superior quality of the first six Hackett solo albums, he thought about how great it would be to perform some of these songs in concert. From that point, he set forth to put together a group of musicians who could convincingly perform this complex material in a live setting.


Best known for his work with Neal Morse and as a founding member of the band Ajalon, Randy is one of the best bass players in the current progressive rock scene. Chosen for the extremely daunting role of guitar player is Peter Matuchniak (solo artist and former member of prog band Janysium). Joining them, Scott Conner, who is a current member of Circa on drums and Jonathan Sindleman, who has lent his talents to White, Mike Keneally and others on keyboards. Rounding out this gifted line up of musicians is Randy's wife, Pamela George, who performed everything from vocals to keyboards, guitars and even some percussion. If the intent was to put together a line-up of musicians that could handle the material, mission fully accomplished. All of the performances shined throughout this evening of excellent music.


With Steve Hackett still actively touring, my hope for this show was to hear material rarely, if ever performed live. Well, right from the start, the band granted that wish with a rousing rendition of The Air Conditioned Nightmare. That set a tone for what was to come and was immediately followed by equally engaging renditions of Slogans and Clocks - The Angels of Mons. As these opening songs indicated, this was an evening heavily reliant on instrumentals. That said, the band did perform a few vocal numbers and were joined onstage twice by Jimmy Keegan from Spock's Beard to sing Narnia and Racing in A. Emulating Steve Walsh's original vocals perfectly, Jimmy really made these performances special. The setlist also included an excellent version of Hoping love will last sung by Pamela as well as Everyday and Tigermoth with lead vocals handled by Scott.


Ultimately though, classic Steve Hackett instrumentals were the highlight of the evening and the band tore through pitch perfect renditions of Ace of Wands, Jacuzzi, Please don't Touch, The Steppes Hackett to Pieces and the second half of Shadow of the Hierophant. As Steve himself proved on his most recent tour, this is a powerful piece when performed live and The Steppes version was equally as impressive. Hackett's acoustic side was also presented via fantastic versions of Kim, Two Vamps as Guests and Hammer in the Sand.


The concert closed appropriately with an excellent version of the signature track, Spectral Mornings. For any fan of Steve Hackett, this show was a stunningly performed collection of classics. This being the inaugural performance of The Steppes, it would be fantastic if the band could bring this show to Steve Hackett fans across the world. I am not sure of how many Hackett tribute bands exist, but I can't imagine any of them putting on a better show than this talented line up. For a cover band to not disappoint, their performances need to be fun and of the highest musical quality. No such problem with The Steppes. Hearing this setlist performed so effectively really showcased what a unique and original talent Steve Hackett is. The respect that this gifted group of musicians have for the original material was apparent and their tribute show was a corker.

The Air Conditioned Nightmare
Slogans, Clocks - The Angels on Mons
Ace of Wands
Hoping Love will Last
Please dont touch
Lost Time in Cordoba/Tigermoth
Kim/Two Vamps as Guests
Hammer in the Sand
The Steppes
Shadow of the Hierophant
Hackett to Pieces
Racing in A
Spectral Mornings

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