A Hackett orientated weekend in Zoetermeer

Having only ever seen Steve Hackett in the UK I needed encouragement to take the plunge into Europe. Seeing that the shows at Cultuurpodium De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Zuid-Holland were on sale back in November it was then that curiosity got the better of me and I managed to bag two tickets, one for the Saturday show and the other for the Sunday show. This was down to my friend, Chris Simmons, a guy with a big heart who was able to be in the right place at the right time – a real good egg. Thank you Chris.

Taxiing shortly after landing at Schiphol on Saturday 15th April

Booking the flights in January with KLM (great service for anyone wanting a review of the airline), Chris suggested it would be easier to travel via train to Zoetermeer from Schiphol. We arranged a plan and come a mild Saturday in April we set off.

Saturday

After a minor meeting place faff (about which set of escalators to meet at) we headed off to the train station. The train journey to Zoetermeer was interesting; although the dutch countryside is pretty flat, like a dining room table. With some genuine appreciation we passed through places like Den Haag that was host to the first ever Phil Collins solo gig in 1982, along with Leiden which hosted the Booing concert when a lot of fans did not like the new material – in their defense I can say that Genesis had not toured in Holland for three years (last time before that was 1978) so perhaps Abacab back in 1981 live in Leiden was a shock to them.

Finally we got to Zoetermeer having egressed from a double-decker train. After a short walk from the train station we managed to get booked into a very nice hotel called “The Golden Tulip”, a chain with a slightly more upmarket approach than say Holiday Inn. I first spotted my good friend Lamia who was chatting casually with some of Steve’s band before they got whisked away to the soundcheck. First port of call was to find my bearings and room and then unpack. Shortly afterwards I happened to find the bar where I settled for a coca-cola, for the time being. Chris and Lamia joined in before we retired to our rooms to get prepared for tonight’s gig.

The hotel for the weekend!

Grabbing a Dutch taxi (eventually, luckily reconvening at the same time), with their blue registration plates, our trio set off. It was a short yet pleasant drive to the venue and as we pulled up around 18:30 hours there was already a small queue of fans waiting outside. We went around to the ground floor bar and grabbed a drink, opting to sit outside. Our great friend Lamia had invited along his good friend Frank who he met at a previous Hackett gig at the same venue. This was on the verge of turning into a jolly boys outing but we’re all mostly mature men so we kept the horseplay down to a minimum. All chatting and stirring up a couple drinks, despite the chilly wind, we caught up on all sorts. When eventually returning to the queue for the entrance to the show at around 19:15 we found ourselves joining the back that had now stretched around the block.

We got in with ease and one of our band of brothers managed to bag some show posters. I collected our preshow passes and we made our way around the venue, trying to familiarize ourselves with the surroundings. We got over to the stage curtain and had a brief meet and greet with the lovely Steve and Jo. They were as generous with their time and affectionate as ever but rightly so Steve had a show to perform so tonight’s backstage meet up was brief.

After those lovely 10 minutes concluded, I was ravenously hungry and thankful the venue does a limited menu of food. I opted for the burger and chips but it arrived about 10 minutes before the show, so I was never going to make the opening song. It’s now that I must state the venue was rammed to capacity. Clearly Steve is very well liked in Holland and very much in demand!

The ticket for Saturday’s show!

I soon realized that it was a standing-only venue. Since most of the people in the venue had been there before, they knew the prime spots to obtain early. This meant that I couldn’t see much of the show unless I stayed in the bar with one of the huge televisions which had a camera pointing right at the stage. After about 50 minutes my Wi Fi came to life and I thought I should live tweet for the sister website The Genesis Archive. On the first night I tried not to give any spoilers away whilst standing on tip toes trying to get one or two photos for the live tweets.

Behind The Smoke Steve introduced this song with a pretty serious and stark message about his views on those who have no sympathy for the plight of refugees. He made this abundantly clear and this set the tone for Behind The Smoke, which sounded more dramatic live.

Gary O’Toole – 15th April 2017 © Chris Simmons 2017

The Skeleton Gallery This brand new track from the new album The Night Siren sounds better live and there was a surprise! Steve suddenly pulled out of his pocket a Harmonica which gave a bit of a blues edge to this part of the song. At first he was given the space to solo his harmonica. Steve then traded paces with Rob Townsend on saxophone but before too long they were dueling with each other during this segment. Of course the lyrical passage “Wake up, jump up before the songs ends, get up, hear the shout, the puppet is not your friend” sounds even more menacing when performed live.

Serpentine Song This beautiful song is now back in the set, after a very long break. It was performed to perfection and it brought back memories of when I first saw it being performed back in 2003. Steve took his time to introduce it by talking about how he was inspired to write it about his father Peter. This gorgeous song has been rearranged live because I could clearly hear a more prominent piano sound from Roger King’s keyboard during tonight’s performance compared to the 2003 live arrangement.

Rise Again Having only ever heard Rise Again on the Darktown album, it was with some eagerness that I looked forward to hearing it live for the very first time. The band started and I chilled out and took it all in. The arrangement provided the band sufficient space to let loose a bit and not be restricted by the original studio version. Steve did indeed sing on this song tonight, and one could almost imagine how well it would have been received by an audience, had Steve decided to tour the Darktown album in the UK.

Nick Beggs 15th April 2017 © Chris Simmons 2017

Firth Of Fifth Roger King played the full piano introduction which adds that authentic stamp to this fantastic rendition of this sublime Genesis classic. Steve, of course, was there at its original conception so here he is able to add a slight interpretation of how he would have liked to have done it. All of the group of cohesive performers bring texture and vibrant colour to this live version.

Blood On The Rooftops Back in 2004 when this was first performed in its entirety, it was a very pleasant surprise, giving Gary O’Toole his first outing as a singer in Steve’s band. Gary O’Toole continues to sing this tale of two people watching television and conversing over the weather, a cricket match, and then the war reporting from some conflict on the Israel / Palestinian border. The piece starts off with the iconic acoustic guitar passage played exquisitely by Steve Hackett. Gary’s singing and drumming eventually follows with the support of Nick Beggs’ bass playing. However, it is the tone of Roger King’s keyboards that gives the song a more authentic feel, as it accurately replicates the original tone and texture of the studio album version. Instead of the original usage of the flute, Rob Townsend provides a soprano saxophone accompaniment that weaves in and out of the song in the live setting. Despite being a classic Genesis song from Wind and Wuthering, the band themselves never performed live. It’s easily a strong Genesis track and it is great that Steve has brought it back into the setlist.

Nad Sylvan 15th April 2017 © Chris Simmons 2017

Dance On A Volcano This was a surprise choice in the set for me. From the opening guitar sound until the last note, it really was a trip up and around a nostalgic volcano. Nad Sylvan gave a robust performance on the vocals and it was especially a wonderful cherry on top of an already iced cake to hear Nad sing, “Let the dance begin…”. That part had been missing from the live versions of the song for ages. Nad managed all of that despite having some medical throat problems. What a trooper! Nick, sporting a kilt tonight, was really getting into the groove of this Genesis classic. Steve recently started playing this during the Japanese leg of the 2016 Wolflight tour, so I am grateful that both he and the band brought this back into the live arena.

The band during LOS ENDOS on Saturday night.

Los Endos Another Genesis classic, but I must remark it’s been a Steve Hackett live favourite for many years. He had spiced it up a good decade ago with the inclusion of Myopia but this time he had added Slogans to the mix as well. Of course Nad came out and sang the immortal line “There’s an angel standing in the sun, free to get back home!”, which brought a tear to the eye. With that, the show was over. Pretty much everyone on their feet with an applause going on for a long while afterwards.

With the first of the weekend’s show over, we decided to hang around for a bit. We bumped into Volker Warncke and his lovely friend Michaela who had traveled from Germany for the shows over the weekend. However, we didn’t stay around for long because our band of brothers were worn out with all the traveling, so we retired back to the hotel.

Set List

  1. Everyday
  2. El Nino
  3. The Steppes
  4. The Skeleton Gallery
  5. Behind The Smoke
  6. Serpentine Song
  7. Band introductions
  8. Rise Again
  9. Shadow Of The Hierophant
  10. Genesis set – Nad Sylvan enters the stage
  11. Eleventh Earl Of Mar
  12. One For The Vine
  13. Blood On The Rooftops – Gary on vocals
  14. In That Quiet Earth
  15. Afterglow
  16. Dance On A Volcano
  17. Inside & Out
  18. Firth Of Fifth
  19. The Musical Box

Encore

Los Endos / Myopia / Slogans / Los Endos

END

Band Members

Steve Hackett, Roger King, Rob Townsend, Nick Beggs, Gary O’Toole, Nad Sylvan.

The sound throughout the venue was very good, in part thanks to the continuing efforts of live sound engineer Ben Fenner, who just about remembered being at the first show he did at the venue in 2003. He remarked how the venue PA had improved substantially since that very first gig too, with the venue replacing the original Turbosound PA for this vastly improved system.

(Webmaster note – the venue runs a very nice L’Acoustics Kudo Line Array, so the spread is definitely much better, for all the young sound engineers that wanted to know)

Sunday

Easter Sunday dawned bright and early. One of our lot had to dash back home so we were reduced to just two for the time being. Sitting down for breakfast with Lamia, it was a memorable one as I managed to jam up the printer toaster thing with Lamia coming to the rescue once he had used some colourful language to remind me not to be so dim. The incident has now become known as “Toastergate” (I basically cut the bread for toasting too thick). Norman Wisdom-style japery over, we sat in the lobby and chatted about the night before. A short while later Steve and Jo approached us to confirm that this morning’s interview with them was going ahead at 10am. A quick dash back to my room to freshen up and I was back in the lobby with Lamia for this 10am interview. Steve came past and he told us he was going to get a cup of tea first. He soon came back and we started our interview (it shall appear shortly on this website).

An hour passed and we thanked them for their time. They had a record shop signing to attend to near Delft so we wished them well. Still feeling worn out from Saturday, Lamia and I went back to our respective rooms for some much needed shut eye. However, I turned the TV on and then became distracted by Jeremy Wade on Discovery telling us about how he was going to fish for a huge catfish.

About 4pm, I went and sampled the bar menu at the hotel and it was a tad basic, but then again the restaurant was not yet open! Time soon passed and after deciding that the cider was a bit rubbish at the hotel, I went and got a shower. I rang Lamia and we agreed to meet in reception to get the taxi to the venue at 18:30. We got to the venue and there was a small queue. Having learned our lesson from the day before, we actually joined at this early venture.

Fans in the queue at De Boerderij, they were talking about Steve Hackett, Yes, and Genesis an interesting series in conversations.

We entered the venue and were given our passes for another pre-show meet up. We caught up with Nad Sylvan and Steve with the lovely Jo. The other band members were indeed having a chill out before tonight’s performance. We returned to the auditorium and I managed to get a better spot for tonight, right by the sound desk, because – and I’ll let you in on a little secret – the sound engineer always mixes the sound from his position to sound the best. Although, I forgot to change from my shoes into my trainers, so I knew that this being a standing-only venue meant it was going to be a bit of a workout for my legs and feet.

Everyday began the set much as the previous night. Everyday still has the magic of the tragic tale of drug addiction, all too soon it was followed by the brand new track El Nino.

The ticket for Sunday’s show!

El Nino Clearly on the studio version there is double drumming, so tonight because Gary O’Toole is not an octopus it was Rob Townsend on a Midi Roland Pad joining in, adding that authentic double drum sound throughout the song. This is a new song from the album The Night Siren. Whilst not my favourite, it certainly works well live and was a nice way to awaken any remaining audience members. The strings and flute section sound similar as though they have come from the Hackett songwriting canon before, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

The Steppes This was another treat for me, as I am certain I have not heard this since my first live experience back in 2003. Here tonight Rob Townsend gave a stentorian solo which lead into The Steppes with Gary’s drums triggering some gated reverb style sound which gave a familiar feel to the album version. This was a very nice rendition with one or two moments just to remind us all it was a live performance. Steve’s guitar playing was very faithful to the original – nothing too bizarre or too far off the trusted progressive route of the original. Nick Beggs worked the bass pedals and dominated the sub, blasting out into the venue. This song still would lend itself well to any travel program journeying through the The Steppes.

Rob Townsend, Steve, Nick Beggs © Jan Bracke

The Skeleton Gallery This brand new track from the brand new album The Night Siren, is a feat of the brilliance from the guys on stage. It’s a complex multi-layered song and yet as a team they all bring it to life. Steve’s harmonica playing really adds an element that either was not transparent on the studio version, or was not added. Here we get a trade off between Steve’s harmonica and Rob Townsend’s soprano saxophone. As I learned earlier in the day, we have Jo Hackett to thank for the lyrical line: “Wake up, jump up before the songs ends, get up, hear the shout, the puppet is not your friend”. It sounds even more menacing when performed live. It’s more rocky and faster paced than Darktown, but don’t let that cloud your judgement! It’s still an emotional roller coaster ride between the nightmare world of the night terrors and salvation of the conscious world.

Serpentine Song Steve talked about this piece on the night, saying: “It’s really about London, Hyde Park, about two different people both called Peter, one called Peter Pan that you have heard of, and another called Peter Hackett, who was my father. They both have something to do with Hyde Park. One’s got a statue there… the other guy, my Dad, sold painting on the railings there. This has got something to do with the lake in the middle where he used to swim as a kid and they have boats on it and everything. But this place in London, the Serpentine, was also the place where they had free concerts in the late sixties. I got to see so many acts absolutely for nothing. You’ve all paid a fortune to get in here…I’m sorry – Laughter – So you could see incredible top acts: The ‘Stones, Blind Faith, Traffic, King Crimson… the list goes on. Anyway it all happened on the Serpentine which was just on my doorstep. I got to walk around this place in summer, in the rain and the snow. This song is about all that stuff and music from a gentler time, 1969.” Of course each performance of this song gives you goosebumps in different sections. A huge personal favourite is the bit with the lyric: “In the meanwhile, the hours seem to fly. With busy days and nights take it in your stride, as worrying is interest paid on trouble long before it’s due passing through.” It is a beautiful part of the song. Nick Beggs on backing vocals was an interesting choice and gave the song a bit more depth.

Gary O’Toole and Nick Beggs – © Jan Bracke

Shadow Of The Hierophant took the audience right back to the debut solo album Voyage Of The Acolyte. Tonight’s version was shorter than the one performed on the 2015 Wolflight tour. This version starts from the glockenspiel and then an electric guitar enters the mix and the song grows whilst increasing magnitude. This gave the band a real chance to work out and thrash any demons. It felt aurally as though you, the listener, are heading upwards on a spiral stairway to something more exquisite. Gary was not restrained in his beating, thwacking his china cymbal and bringing a catastrophic intensity to the proceedings. A cacophony of sound seems to increase as the listener climbs more and more steps on this spiral staircase.

Steve announced that he has to be mindful of which electric guitar he picks up for the next song. If it has a tremolo arm he can get carried away and things can get messy.

One For The Vine Before this live performance began tonight, Steve told us all he had changed the key of the song, admitting that it had been lowered a whole tone. I hoped most of the audience understood this, as the key change made it more manageable for Nad Sylvan to sing it. It was not massively noticeable, so the die hard fans would have little to complain about. Steve explained that whilst it was a Tony Banks song, he really enjoyed it, hence why he was performing it tonight (and I bet Tony is happy to receive some extra PRS money). The audience thoroughly enjoyed this nostalgic trip back to the latter 1970’s. Nad was very lively on stage. He was immersed in the song and did exceptionally well to make the character in the song come to life. I really liked Nad’s vocals on this. He really modulated the style despite having a throat problem. It was a triumph over adversity! One minor twinge was the reed in Rob’s saxophone deciding it didn’t want to be part of the live experience any longer. So instead of a saxophone sound, we heard a strangled swan for a few seconds. This is a live show folks, and that happens in live music.

Horizons Steve got out his acoustic guitar and one could have easily assumed it was going to be the start of Blood On The Rooftops. But first, Steve exercised his hands by playing a multitude of finger placings on his guitar, then just by magic he flowed straight into Horizons, which we had not been treated to the night before!

Roger King 16th April, Zoetermeer. © Michaela Ix.

In That Quiet Earth I first heard Steve and the band perform this back in 2003 on my debut live experience. It used to close the show back then. But here we are, 14 years later, and it’s back in the set! And as a homage to Wind and Wuthering, it was performed with an honest, but still a virtuoso pursuit, through a lively track and better live than on vinyl!

Inside & Out was an experience in itself because it had only ever been performed on a sprinkling of shows during the Wind and Wuthering tour. Tonight Steve and his band had brought this dormant song back from the dead (I’m sure there is an appropriate Easter metaphor in here but you can work that one out). Steve announced this song and he told the audience that the lyrics were written by Phil Collins. The song itself is about an injustice, which is a rare theme for Phil’s writing, as he became more known for love songs and ballads in his own solo career. Steve was being very tongue in cheek. Nad sang valiantly despite his throat problems and the band all supported him. It was a pleasant experience and it’s of course a nice song. On the previous night Steve remarked how he thought it should have been on the album instead of it being on the EP (Match Of The Day / Pigeons / Inside & Out).

Steve and his Fernandes Electric Guitar – 16th April, Zoetermeer. © Michaela Ix.

We caught up with Volker Warncke and his lovely friend Michaela again on Sunday. We had a little bit longer to chat, and these are die hard fans much like our band of brothers. Volker and Michaela had seen a few shows around Europe. Michaela met up with the convivial Nad Sylvan and they compared their hair styles, which suspiciously look incredibly similar. We all caught up at the end of the show and Michaela offered very kindly to give us a lift back to the hotel (we were in the same hotel), which was very nice. It was lovely to get 5 minutes with the busy Gary O’Toole. We thanked him for a great show and promised to catch up later on the tour.

Set List

  1. Everyday
  2. El Nino
  3. The Steppes
  4. SH speaks to the audience and says “It feels like home a very special place”
  5. In The Skeleton Gallery
  6. Behind The Smoke
  7. Serpentine Song
  8. Band intros
  9. Rise Again
  10. Shadow Of The Hierophant
  11. Genesis set – Nad Sylvan enters the stage
  12. Eleventh Earl Of Marl
  13. One For The Vine
  14. Horizons
  15. Blood On The Rooftops – Gary on vocals
  16. In That Quiet Earth
  17. Afterglow
  18. Dance On A Volcano
  19. Inside & Out
  20. Firth Of Fifth
  21. The Musical Box

Encore

Los Endos / Myopia / Slogans / Los Endos

END

Band Members

Steve Hackett, Roger King, Rob Townsend, Nick Beggs, Gary O’toole, Nad Sylvan.

Sunday

Lamia dropped me off at Den Haag train station. I caught the train to Schiphol and then did all the necessary things and waited at my gate for the flight back to Birmingham. On the flight home I had plenty of opportunity to fondly look back on what a wild weekend it had been.

Birmingham Airport, just touched down on the runway…. home after an interesting weekend.

It was a fascinating weekend, my first time in the Netherlands. Unfortunately I did not see a huge amount of it. Much of it was just the airport, hotel, gig and gig, hotel, airport. The people of South Holland were very friendly. Most of them speak English better than some English people! The roads are pothole free, the trains run on time, and the staff are friendly and helpful. The streets barely have any litter on them and things seem more organised. It really makes you want to take a piece home with you.

My thanks to Chris Simmons and Lamia. My thanks to Steve and Jo Hackett for the pleasant conversation and the time they afforded me at the venue and for the interview on Easter Sunday morning. It was exceptionally nice to meet Volker and Michaela (I’ll talk slower next time). Thank you to all the band – I gather most of you were very tired, but it was nice to have a quick conversation with Gary O’Toole. Thank you to the crew who worked hard and looked like they needed a long vacation. Thank you to Ben Fenner on sound for a pleasant live sound. Thank you to the new tour manager who was professional but also kind. Lets do it all again soon!

Thank you to everyone who provided photographs for the article.

2 Comments on "A Hackett orientated weekend in Zoetermeer"

  1. Johnny Martin | April 20, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Reply

    Sounds like a great set. Going to see SH and Band in Glasgow in May. How long was the set and was there a support?
    JM

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