Steve Hackett, The Total Experience – Live in Japan (Import)

Containing a summer buffet of Steve Hackett’s solo work backed by Genesis tracks, this double live album is a Japanese exclusive limited to just 1500 pressings. This is a premium release that captures Steve and his band at the height of their short tour in Japan 2016. Billed on the back as Acolyte to Wolflight with Genesis Classics, it is reminiscent of the tour dates we saw in the UK the previous year. After a short delay from the proposed release date this double live album was released on the 12th October 2016 in Japan.

This being a Japanese release there is a quality from every angle, included as follows:

  • An OBI Slip
  • Each disc is housed in a plastic miniature style record sleeve.
  • The album is a cardboard style sleeved item much like a mini vinyl complete with notes, replete with very good quality photography.

From the opening seconds of Disc 1 you’re aware that the venue is bigger than some that Steve and his band played in the UK on the tour of 2015, the acoustics certainly give it away. There is enthusiastic hand clapping from a lively audience which subsides long enough for the Corycian intro to segue into Spectral Mornings where the audience lap up the visual and aural display in front of them you can hear a pin drop just before the lightning flash as Spectral Mornings begins. The audience applauded either Steve for this classic song or for being temporarily blinded by the intense light show.

The mix is particularly strong as it suitably balances the band members, with Roger King’s organ on an equal footing as Steve’s lead guitar.

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Rear cover of the 2 CD Live set

Spectral Mornings continues to deliver and the audience listen attentively with a final flourish from the whole band (minus Nad Sylvan) the audience show their appreciation and clap again.

The audience is stunned by the new material; Out Of The Body and Wolflight; giving Steve and the band their full attention. Wolflight sounds really dynamic in the acoustics of the hall with the sampled string passage more prominent than. The bass pedals and rock onslaught pass to a choir triggered via keyboard. The acoustic guitar combined with Rob Townsend’s flute moves the song towards the crescendo as electric guitars sing from the ceilings bringing Wolflight to a close in a baroque fashion. The baroque-esque ending is paralleled with electronic modern age and altered Mellotron samples.

Another slice of Hackett in the form of the classic Everyday from Spectral Mornings is served next and the audience excitedly respond. Moving forward to Icarus Ascending where Nad Sylvan is first introduced and he is warmly greeted to the stage. This particular track is a highlight on the double album.

Assuming that this is potentially the first time any audience in Japan has heard this track live, the composition is faithfully performed live, much as it was on the 2015 UK tour, although this being a professional recording it has that sonic edge over the bootlegs from the 2015 tour. The sound of the reproduced glass harp across the expanse of the hall is very pleasing to the ear and gives a sense of the ambience that the audience had that evening in the hall.

Nad Sylvan does his best Richie Havens and the audience are in for a treat. Nad is working hard here to give passion allied to authenticity as Rob Townsend adds to the dimension of the song. Steve wrestles his electric guitar and it’s here he adds an extra element of soloing that wasn’t present on the original recording. Gary is there from the get go with support from percussion and well oiled pushes keeping the pace of the song flowing. The track closes to encouraging applause.

As Star Of Sirius is announced, the audience can be heard clapping and whooping, a first for my ears. Star of Sirius is at the very least honest, but stick with it because as soon as Nad’s voice warms up you can hear the Mellotron flutes and things pick up. The song is presented in a positive light by able players although minor gripe is there is some noise coming from the bass guitar but it’s not a disaster, just a small niggle. Again this is a live and honest recording so nothing to moan about, just observe.

Ace Of Wands begins with an energetic pulse with no time for the audience to clap or acknowledge that the Star Of Sirius has concluded, with the dynamics of the intricate piano work performed by Roger King and the ascending Flutes of Rob Townsend. With the choir from the keys trying to dominate the headroom in the song it’s still enjoyable and again from the dynamics of the hall, the music is always mixed for the show not the live album. The depth charge, whistle moment still seems a little tame this time around compared to other tours but Gary can be heard either counting or getting into the mood/pace of this part of the song suddenly its like the horse has bolted from the stable hold on tightly to the reigns, there is some entirely new element here in terms of either guitar or keyboard sound that is duelling with Rob Townsend’s saxophone. Before we return to faithful elements of the song, Gary hitting the bell on the ride cymbal – Roger finds a Cathedral like organ sound and Steve is giving the audience some frenetic guitar work.

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A ticket for the show at Kawasaki Club Citta, Kanagawa-ken, Japan on the 21st May 2016 (Many thanks to quiet.earth @unquietslumber for this rare ticket)

The audience applause with some real vim and vigour, before A Tower Struck Down greets them with horror film noir staccato strings, thus a theme and picture begin to emerge, this is not going to be a gentle ending of the first set. It moves into a soundscape of many instruments taking the listener deeper and deeper into the bosom of the earth before a calm emerges signalling the transition into Shadow of the Hierophant. Lead by a piano morphed by watery reverb and the tinker toy glistening glockenspiel, menacing and sinister followed by a quick finger cymbals, the passage opens up the swelled lead guitar as it begins to build into the assault – straight into your senses and emotions, full steam ahead, there is no stopping this.

With hairs standing up on end and goose bumps in full flight all over the body this is feels like you’re there at the hall whilst the main body of the band has to remain honest and true to the version they have rehearsed, it’s Gary O’Toole who gets to play with this and he is able to alter his percussive response to what’s going on by the time someone triggers the tubular bells you’re getting rescued from some kind of personal hell by some angel. With the music getting louder and a cacophony of sound there are still noticeable elements from everyone with a cathedral organ in there and it finally closes with a guitar solo from Steve. The audience clap wildly and call out for more before the band go off for their well-earned half time break.

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Rear of the Obi

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Front of the Obi

Disc 1

01. Corycian Intro
02. Spectral Mornings
03. Out of the Body
04. Wolflight
05. Every Day
06. Love Song to a Vampire
07. The Wheel’s Turning
08. Loving Sea
09. Icarus Ascending
10. Star of Sirius
11. Ace of Wands
12. A Tower Struck Down
13. Shadow of the Hierophant

Disc 2

01. Applause
02. Get ’em Out by Friday
03. Can-Utility and the Coastliners
04. The Cinema Show
05. Aisle of Plenty
06. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
07. The Musical Box
08. Dance on a Volcano (encore)
09. Firth of Fifth (encore)

The second set begins with another applause this time to welcome the band back to the stage this time for the Genesis classic from Foxtrot, Get Em Out By Friday. Next the audience are treated to Can Utility and the Coastliners for which they welcome with enthusiastic applause there is a bit in the middle that sounds very much like elements of Hocus Pocus from the dutch progressive rock band Focus. Now onto the part of the second half of the show which I thought I would resume the review  The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.

Listening carefully to the song on this live album and you’ll hear something that knocked my socks off, right after the opening cross hand piano passage the audience are clapping along to the song. It’s clear they have woken up and dug deep for this performance and they clap in time perfectly, whilst giving the music a chance to do its thing on the quieter moments “On broadway, the lamb seems right out of place etc” they soon pick up from where they left off by regaining their prowess, they clap even louder this is one off surely but here I am wishing I was there clapping along in unison with them.

Dance On A Volcano is the first of two encores, not performed on the European or American leg of the tour here it is a treat for the Japanese fans (thus adding value to this live album). The moment that guitar sound starts the audience go woo collectively and Nad manages the lyrics with aplomb. Pleasant sounds during the middle to give you the illusion of bubbling lava and here we are up the volcano fully immersed in the song even with a few modern twists. We even get Nad singing “Let the dance begin”; this is nostalgia right here.

Firth Of Fifth gives the Japanese audience and the listeners another look at this cornerstone of the Selling England By The Pound album, pretty much from the beginning with the full length authentic piano intro the band give the audience a rendition of this classic piece some real respect. Steve gets a chance to shine on ‘that’ solo and the listeners get goose bumps whilst everyone is transported back to an earlier time.

The audience show their appreciation and I’ll leave you to discover the rest of the live album right here.

Worth every penny!

Personnel:

Steve Hackett – Guitar / Vocals
Roger King – Keyboards
Nick Beggs – Bass / Chapman Stick / Variax
Rob Townsend – Saxophone / Flute / Other wind instruments / Additional percussion / Additional Keyboard
Gary O’Toole – Drums / Percussion / Vocals

Recorded at The Kawasaki Club Citta, Kanagawa-ken, Japan on the 21st May 2016. (According to the sleeve notes).

Recorded by and mixed by Ben Fenner.

Catalogue Number: VSCD4343/4

Record Company: Hackettsongs 2016

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