4th November 2014 at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham UK.
Steve Hackett has been on a whirlwind tour of the world with his Genesis Revisited shows that have promoted his second Revisited album. It has been a tumultuous occasion, and we finally went to see the show in Birmingham’s symphony hall. At the venue one of the usher’s assured us the venue has some of the best acoustics and is ‘in fact one of the best symphony halls in Europe’. Well, that may be true for strictly symphony, but how does the space fulfill a rock band with woodwinds, thunder drums, screeching synth like guitars and swirling organs?
This is the third stop on the tour for Steve at the Symphony Hall, what’s that old saying about buses? It might even apply here with prog guitarists. It was also the third time he sold out the venue, and from the sounds of things with new faces each time. You can get an impression of the show by buying or reading our reviews for the Albert Hall gig or Hammersmith Apollo show, however in person the whole affair takes on something new and otherworldly.
The gig started with the group MOSTLY AUTUMN (Acoustic).
They opened for Steve Hackett and his electric band,
Mostly Autumn was made up of
Bryan Josh – Guitar, Vocals
Olivia Sparnenn – Vocals, Flute
The group performed around 5 songs, sadly we arrived a bit late into their set so we missed some of it. The part and songs we managed to catch were rather interesting. They are a group hugely inspired by Genesis and related ilk. They’ve released ten albums in almost 20 years together, with Bryan Josh being the primary song writer and leader of the group. They have a very Blackmore Night’s might early Genesis vibe and the stripped acoustic set was very promising indeed. They were gracious for Steve and the audience applauded them thoroughly at the end of their set.
Once Mostly Autumn’s set was concluded the house lights were brought back up for a quick emergency beer. Twenty or so minutes passed speedily when the lights dimmed to practical darkness. A classical string song flooded the hall over the monitoring system and as if by magic the band appeared. The night began under thunderous and swirling strings, as the the production grasped you and you sank inward, enamored by the room filling with sound and lights of precision – and into the volcano we gazed.
The intro to Dance On A Volcano is a perfect foil to the main song. The classical string movement preceding it is almost Night on Bald Mountain territory. The menacing strings and the lights swirling you into submission. As the song faded away an essential Genesis electric guitar phrase started and we were taken up the volcano for a dance. The lighting used careful colours and textures mimicking the atmosphere of being too close to the volcano for comfort. From this point onwards I was in the zone of music and lights.
Squonk takes some hard balls to sing. I think Nad struggled a little at first with this, but he soon had his voice in order and he turned it around. Much respect to him for this because lesser men would have cried and given up.
Dancing With the Moonlit Knight had a particularly stunning ending. There’s a good trick that musicians do where they compress dynamics and let it all unfurl and roll off your shoulders like a draping silk cloth. The ending was all this and more. From bombastic Black Sabbath like riffs to serene twirls of ribbon sounds. Goosebumps, twitching hairs, and caught breath, making this an absolutely stunning performance.
I Know What I Like has become very jazz rock orientated these days and therefore quite aureate but I yearned for more of that ‘vegetarian guitar’ that Steve announces on the album version (1996 Revisited) that for me would have been the cherry on top of an already iced cake. Rob Townsend sure can solo, and as someone who is not a fan of saxophones he manages to get a great range of grit, bite and soul into his solos.
Steve has also opened up a lot on the tour with amusing wit. One particular gag features Steve confusingly stumbling on the chord sequence for Invisible Touch.
Firth Of Fifth with full piano intro intact! Seeing this song performed live cannot be understated in terms of its technical challenge to perform correctly. From the first descending bass on the right hand, to the twinkling high keys it sets the mood of the whole song. Nad sings the lines perfectly and he injects a personality into the subject matter. Another delight.
This live version of The Knife has all the energy and venom of any version I have ever heard, yet to witness it as a live performance was something else. It is clearly a perfect live song that is constrained by a studio performance on an album, needing to be released into a live arena and we have Steve and the band to thank for letting it out. (Can someone now capture it and put it back in its cage?)
Suppers Ready has a peculiar brilliance as it allows over two thousand people to comically blare “a flower” in perfect unison just before Willow Farm. It could almost be a Monty Python sketch however this was simply Genesis fan etiquette at its finest and this was half way through the spectacular spiritual journey that is Suppers Ready. Nad had costume changes but they were not so elaborate because they didn’t need to be and his theatrical body language on top of the rich musical tapestry spoke volumes in each section. Nad was able to lead us all to the New Jerusalem at the end of Suppers Ready. This is something most younger fans who missed the band during the earlier days crave to see perform, and this is no exception.
After Suppers Ready the band took a truly deserved bow whilst everyone; that’s over 2,000 souls; were on their feet and gave the whole band a standing ovation for more than 10 minutes, the band disappeared off stage and the ovation continued.
People were still applauding when the lights dimmed and the band returned to the stage for not one but two encores.
Gary’s interpretation of the original morse code drumming from Watcher of the Skies mixes with the rhythmic bass playing of Nick Beggs creating the soundtrack of an impending Alien invasion, ala the story of Watcher of the Skies. Nad again sang with a rich tapestry, but also dressed up as a modern day adaptation of Galileo Galilei which added to the music and the lighting to fill out the scene before my eyes.
Los Endos is the jazz rock fusion version with some modern twists with the inclusion of Slogans – from the Steve Hackett album Defector. I was still hoping and praying that there was someway for a Samba band to enter from the wings of the stage to add that South American lilt I felt worked so well on the 1996 Revisited album. That said I wasn’t disappointed by what was a different version presented to me and the sell out audience. Suffice to say it still has the important elements and right at the moment when audience participation was required Nad and others on stage got the audience to clap along in time to Gary’s drumming. Bless Steve and Nad for reinstating the important vocal in Los Endos, “There’s an angel standing in the sun free to get back home”. I drew more tears in my eyes than I’ll care to admit but it also closed what was an emotional rollercoaster of the night.
- Intro/Dance On A Volcano
- Dancing With the Moonlit Knight
- Fly On A Windshield
- Broadway Melody 1974
- The Return Of the Giant Hogweed
- Fountain Of Salamacis
- The Musical Box
- I Know What I Like
- Acoustic Ramble (contains fractions of: Invisible touch, Second Chance, Sleepers, Nomads, Every Star In The Nights Sky)
- Firth Of Fifth
- Lilywhite Lilith
- The Knife
- Supper’s Ready
- Watcher Of The Skies
- Los Endos (infused with elements of Myopia/Slogans)
- Steve Hackett – Guitar/vocals
- Roger King – Keyboards
- Gary O’Toole – Drums, percussion and vocals
- Rob Townsend – Saxophone’s, Woodwind, Percussion, Vocals, Keyboards
- Nick Beggs – Bass, Bass pedals, Twelve String, Vocal
- Nad Sylvan – vocals/tambourine
John Hackett – Flute
Too many to mention but they did an epic job.
The show and the band along with the lighting were excellent and well worth the cost of the ticket, the venue provided an ideal setting for this banquet of sound, light and performance.
I would say it would have been a dream had Steve included some of the reworked songs of his own that appeared on Genesis Revisited II, especially the ones that had a connection to Genesis such as A Tower Struck Down or Please Don’t Touch. John Hackett’s appearance was a treat especially on the two songs that he played on, it was nice to see him on stage.
Many thanks to Moth for the photos, click here for his flickr page.
Many thanks to Steve and Jo Hackett for a lovely evenings entertainment, for more information about Steve Hackett please click on the link below.