02 May 2017

Gig Review: Steve Hackett – B’ham Symphony Hall 1st May 2017

Review: Steve HackettBirmingham Symphony Hall  1st May 2017

If you attend the Symphony Hall for an evening of classical music, you wouldn’t expect the musicians to leave their seats and go bouncing around the stage like a loon (well, you might if Nigel Kennedy was on stage maybe !!). You go, sit down and wallow in the glorious music in a live environment.

We would take it as read the orchestra know how to play their instruments and that they know the music they’re playing (or at least know HOW to read music), there’s a very good chance you as the listener knows what music you’ll be hearing and despite the fact you may have heard it before and have a recording of it, you go with the expectation of experiencing the music you love in glorious surroundings and a live environment – a total immersion experience.

Mr Hackett, for those of you who don’t know, (ye Gods, you’re into Prog and you don’t know who Steve Hackett is…..you should be publicly flogged !!) was the replacement for Anthony Phillips who played on “Trespass”, the second album from Genesis. The first album he played on was “Nursery Cryme” which also, coincidentally, featured a debut from the band’s then new drummer, a Mr Philip Collins, the rest, as they say, is history.

When Peter Gabriel left the band after the release of “Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, the band adjusted to being a four piece and went on to produce a further two albums with this line up – “Trick Of The Tail” (1976) and “Wind And Wuthering” (1977) which was not only Steve’s swansong with the band, but also the album that’s being featured tonight, in the second part of the evening  – a 40th Anniversary celebration to boot.

As for Genesis, they continued as a three piece until the last album “We Can’t Dance” and achieved major commercial success with singles like “Invisible Touch”, “Land Of Confusion” and “Turn It On Again” – very much a far cry from the Prog classics on offer here tonight (fortunately).

Steve’s latest album (“The Night Siren”) was released a short while ago and featured a varied array of musicians from around the World, a true multi-cultural production and VERY much worth a listen if you want to catch up with what Mr H is up to at the moment.

Tonight’s gig was being filmed for maybe a future blu-ray release and what better venue, the view and acoustics were absolutely superb throughout, it certainly made a change leaving a gig without ringing ears !! The band took to the stage (Gary O’Toole, Rob Townsend, Roger King, Nick Beggs, Amanda Lehmann and Steve himself), at 7.45pm PROMPT, they immediately launched into “Everyday” from the third solo album “Spectral Mornings” (1978), no bouncing around the stage, no back projections, no gimmicks, just quality tuneage from some extremely professional musicians.  You know you’re in safe hands and as for the audience, I believe “preaching to the converted” comes to mind !!

I’ve seen Steve a number of times, both with Genesis and solo and at 67 years old, he could quite easily pass for a guy in his 50s, the man never changes !!! I reckon he has access to a secret fountain of youth (Salmacis ?? LOL). Same goes for Nick Beggs, at 56 with his long blond hair, could pass for a guy in his 40s, maybe he’s drinking from the same fountain !! He is one member of the band who at least looks like he’s enjoying himself and getting down with the music rather than performing it by rote, an extremely gifted guitarist who alternates between bass, 6-string and double neck with ease.

With the first track out of the way, we get three more tracks from the new album (El Nino, In The Skeleton Gallery and Behind The Smoke), “The Steppes” (Defector – 1980) a mighty instrumental with deep bass pedal, mellotron and signature SH guitar work, brilliant, “Rise Again” (Darktown – 1999), beautiful five part vocal harmony and flute courtesy of Steve’s brother John on “Serpentine Song” (To Watch The Storm – 2003) and to conclude the first part of the evening, the FULL version of “Shadow Of The Hierophant” from Steve’s first solo outing “Voyage Of The Acolyte” (1975) with Amanda Lehmann on vocals, admirably handling Sally Oldfield’s input on the original. The lead out on this track builds from a simple melody (almost like a bolero) with more and more depth added until the final climax where it sounds like the band and its dog join in……….so endeth the first half.

A 20 minute break ensues and we ALL know what the second half brings and I do wonder if there are people in the audience who have been waiting for this part of the evening, having “suffered” the first half !! The audience were a mixed bunch. Among the bald heads, receding hairlines and expanding waist lines (comes to us all I’m afraid), it was really nice to see a good number of ladies and one blonde lady in particular caught my eye on the fourth row back, during the second part of the evening, bouncing around, waving her hands around and TOTALLY showing her love of the music  among a sea of static heads – good on yer girl, we need more like you !!

..and so, with bladders relieved, the band took to the stage for a second time and launched straight into “Eleventh Earl Of Mar”, which was the very first track off “Wind And Wuthering”, complete with Nad Sylvan now part of the band taking on the Gabriel and Collins roles with total ease, dressed like a proverbial Earl himself, puffing on an (unlit) pipe to enhance effect. Note perfect, as was every track, there was a standing ovation after virtually every song, but you could tell the crowd pleasers. With such a wealth of quality material from the Genesis back catalogue, every one’s a winner baby !

From “Wind” we had – “One For The Vine”, “…In That Quiet Earth” (I have to admit, I TOTALLY love this instrumental, it gives the band the chance to let rip and get down hard) “Afterglow” and “Blood On The Rooftops” (a chance for Steve to show off his acoustic skills and Gary O’Toole to flex his vocal chords as well as his drumsticks !). Following on from the “Wind Section” (sorry), we had “Dance On A Volcano” (Trick Of The Tail – 1976), “Firth Of Fifth” – classic guitar solo from the man himself (Selling England… 1973) and the inevitable “Musical Box” (Nursery Cryme – 1971) to bring proceedings to a close where I think EVERYBODY in the place erupted and applauded so loudly, I reckon they heard us in Broad Street !! This guy certainly knows how to put a setlist  together !! One very special mention, after “Dance On A Volcano” we had a track that was left out of the original Wind And Wuthering album, but included on the “Spot The Pigeon” EP – “Inside And Out”, it was absolutely brilliant to hear this track again, a lost classic that SO deserved an airing with a memorable air-synth moment part way thru’, again, it was quite frustrating for me to witness a sea of static heads during moments such as these when I SO wanted to get up and have a good ol’ freak out !!! C’mon people, you might be middle-aged, but don’t settle for complacency, embrace your air guitar (or synth) and get involved, we know what you get up to in your kitchen with the broom !!!!!

After the obligatory bows, the applause subsided but retained an expected insistence for more as the band returned for the encore, a mix of “Slogans” (another track from the classic “Defector” album) and “Los Endos”, the instrumental play-out from “Trick” that very much brings the whole evening to a very satisfying close.

As the band left the stage for a second time and the background music kicked in from the PA, I think it’s safe to say, we all left feeling very content and happy in the knowledge that the music we all know and love is in VERY safe hands – Mr Hackett, you reign supreme and as for Mr Beggs, you rock baby……..

The Progmeister (on behalf of Midlands Metalheads)