Steve Hackett at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

May 7, 2017 at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Steve Hackett‘s Genesis Revisited tour has become something of a highlight on the prog circuit in recent years with the chance to hear those old classic songs performed by one of the key players. With a reunion of any sorts looking increasingly unlikely, and lets face it, if it is just the three again there will almost certainly be little chance of hearing ‘The Return Of The Giant Hogweed’, this has been the closest you can get outside of a tribute act.

Not to denigrate against any of the sometimes excellent acts, but there is little that can compare to the joy of seeing Steve Hackett performing that iconic guitar solo from ‘Firth Of Fifth’. Songs long lost to the shroud of history have been dusted off and brought back to life, the musical box opened again to reveal its dark, arcane treats. A revealing trip through time to a period when Genesis were arguably at their most original. A world away from ‘Invisible Touch’.

It is perhaps refreshing then that the first half of the show is taken up by Steve Hackett’s solo work, with highlights from new album The Night Siren being played for a rapturous audience. Leading a crack band of musicians in Roger King (keyboards), Gary O’Toole (drums), Rob Townsend (saxophone/flute), the inimitable Nick Beggs (bass and all manner of guitars and pedals) and later on, Nad Sylvan on vocals, this is a show of superior talent with every member playing their part in bringing Hackett’s recorded work to life. One needs only to compare ‘El Nino’, second song tonight, to the album version to gain some understanding into the skill involved tonight.

Through this skill lies an undoubted passion and as the fantastic ‘In The Skeleton Gallery’ demonstrates, a wayward humour in composition. After all, this is the guy who played on ‘The Battle Of Epping Forest’, where there is dark must be light to leaven the situation. There is also politics too as Hackett recounts the story of his ancestry before a stunning ‘Serpentine Song’, following on from the refugee story of ‘Behind The Smoke’. It’s never overstated though, and what shines through is the personable qualities.

With the first set finishing with a climactic ‘Shadow Of The Hierophant’, a quick intermission allows for the ageing audience to refresh and recuperate. With the average age in the 50’s one does wonder about the future of prog, with very few younger fans getting into the genre. In a way that is kind of irrelevant tonight though, as the second half is all about nostalgia with a revisiting of Wind And Wuthering taking centre-stage. Released 40 years ago, it was the final album that Hackett took part in and has long been an understated gem of the Genesis catalogue. Perhaps marking the moment when musical differences started to split the band, Hackett is moved to say that tonight they will be playing the bits that count. Those expecting ‘All In A Mouse’s Night’ or ‘Your Own Special Way’ were in for a disappointment (albeit one fan shouting out for the former, possibly in jest).

Accompanied by Nad Sylvan on vocals, the music is nothing short of a revelation and as the jaunty start of ‘Eleventh Earl Of Mar’ breaks into its almost skittery prog, it is like a curtain on the past has been raised. Making full use of the splendid surroundings of the Philharmonic Hall, the understated, almost psychedelic lighting first lights up the audience, then focuses in on each individual member of the band. Hackett remains front of stage, colouring the music with his trademark sound whilst O’Toole whips up an absolute storm.

It is the turn of Roger King to shine on ‘One For The Vine’, one of Tony Banks’ greatest songs, and he revisits those classic keyboard sounds almost reverentially. Sylvan does a tremendous job of reaching the high notes, with minor nods of theatricality that inherits the character of the song. What really does stand out is how fresh the music sounds and you have to applaud Hackett for not letting the music sink into a simple retread of past glories, instead leading it like it was only written yesterday.

Gary O’Toole takes on vocal duties on a brilliant ‘Blood On The Rooftops’, and this is coming from a guy who has already played for an hour and half in a full suit. Sporadic bursts of air drumming can be seen throughout the audience as the red lighting turns the stage into a living embodiment of the music. By the time ‘…In That Quiet Earth’ does its beautiful morph into ‘Afterglow’, there is a sense of absolute wonder and joy with a few tears being shed.

Whilst each band member plays a vital part it is perhaps Nick Beggs who truly encapsulates the power behind the music. Dressed in kilt, with his long flowing hair, when he isn’t stalking the stage he is sprawled on a chair with his double headed guitar. During ‘Dance On A Volcano’ he is simply sat cross-legged, pounding on his pedals creating an unholy racket as the rest of the band create a maelstrom of noise. He is the beating heart of the band, creating and edgy nervous tension which was always prevalent in those old Genesis songs.

A beautiful ‘Inside And Out’ highlights how Wind And Wuthering could have been an even better album with Hackett having a sly little dig at the EP it was released on. One gets the sense that besides reputed animosity from Tony Banks, it is musical differences which will forever keep the classic line-up from ever reforming although on the face of this show, one imagines that Hackett is more than happy to continue to do his Genesis Revisited shows instead of getting on board the machine once again.

It’s even further back into the mists of time next as the familiar tinkle of ‘Firth Of Fifth’ gives way to one of Hackett’s defining guitar moments. Indeed, to see it performed live in the flesh is a wonder to behold and if you close your eyes, as the flute begins its lonesome call, you can almost imagine you are back in the early 70’s. ‘The Musical Box’ follows in all its dark, creepy glory allowing Sylvan to embody the character of the old man as Hackett positively rips into his guitar. All atonal horror, the release at the end is almost welcome even if the sound of a few thousand adults shouting “why don’t you touch me NOW! NOW! NOW!” is slightly disturbing. It’s a true moment of reflection on how powerful the early Genesis sound was.

Closing with the familiar ‘Los Endos’, you feel like something has been taken from you as the tense beginning evolves into the pastoral midsection. A moment of transcendency, and one to truly appreciate the beauty behind the music that is being presented. The evening has been a master-class in musicianship, this is the final release before we all head home, exhausted and elated. Nearly three hours later, we have been taken on a journey with the Hackett being the thread that has bound us all together. It’s almost too much to take in at first and its only later as the energy drifts off, that you realise what an astonishing show you have just seen.

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