Steve Hackett is an immense talent, as well as also being a very significant and influential figure in prog rock. He’s in the uniquely enviable position of being lauded for his work with seventies prog luminaries, Genesis, and for his work as a prolific solo artist, which means he has a huge body of work behind him he can choose from when he goes on tour. This album was recorded in the majestic settings of London’s Festival Hall in October 2018. In this show, Hackett performs several Genesis classic tracks and he stays largely true to what was recorded. But unlike on previous tours, this time around the songs are given an added dimension by the backing of the 41 piece Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra, who give the songs that little extra with their subtle and understated backing. The orchestra is used minimally and sparingly, and at no time does it overwhelm any song. Rather, they bring a greater sense of mood and texture to several of the pieces performed.
Dance On A Volcano opens the show and initially it’s strange hearing Nad Sylvan singing a Genesis song with his Peter Gabriel-esqe voice, especially as it’s from the first album released after Gabriel’s departure. Nad is the perfect foil for Hackett with the way he can interpret and put the music across. But tonight’s show isn’t just about Genesis. Steve gives us tracks from across several of his solo works, such as the instrumental Out of the Body (Wolflight), Steppes from Defector and an exquisite rendition of Shadow of the Hierophant from Voyage of the Acolyte – his first solo album.
But as much as the fans lap these songs up, and as good as Hackett’s solo work is, if we’re being honest, we’re equally excited for the Genesis material, and Steve doesn’t disappoint with his choices. He’d already given us Volcano when, three songs into the set, the opening keyboard notes of Firth of Fifth introduce a song from what is rated as, for many Genesis fans, their greatest album, Selling England By The Pound and an album Hackett will be touring in the autumn 2019. He follows this classic with another from the same album, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, and Genesis fans are now purring with delight. But this is only a taster for what is yet to come our way.
The true test for any guitarist is how well they come across on an acoustic guitar. On the short acoustic piece which follows, Hackett demonstrates all the skill and subtlety you’d expect from someone of his class. This segues nicely into Blood on the Rooftops, followed by the instrumental In that Quiet Earth. Afterglow follows and Nad Sylvan now gets to sing a song from the last Genesis album Hackett played on, Wind And Wuthering, a much underrated record.
But like all good troupers, Hackett saves the best till last. And in this case it’s the very best. When Nad Sylvan sings ‘Walking across the sitting room, I turn the television off …’ the audience erupts as the band begin to play the 20 minute plus Genesis epic, Supper’s Ready, an undeniable prog rock classic. The orchestration towards the end of the piece adds an extra gravitas to the proceedings, and the lengthy and sustained appreciation shown from a packed house at the end says it all.
And there’s still more to come. For the encore Nad sings ‘Play Me Old King Cole’ and the band gives us The Musical Box, another classic Genesis piece fans probably never expected to hear performed again, to conclude what was a brilliant gig.
This writer was lucky enough to see this tour and it’s witnessing shows like this which makes me hope talk of a Genesis reformation remains as just talk, because they could never equal the performance of Hackett and his band plus the orchestra. Hackett’s official elevation to ‘Prog God’ surely cannot be too much longer in coming.