Steve Hackett – Fire and Ice (2011)

Steve has finally released the long over due official DVD of his latest band’s live production, along with the new members whom provide a new sound.

Since Steve returned to touring with a vengeance in 2009, fans have been waiting for a more up to date DVD of Steve’s material and live show especially when you consider that the last official electric band DVD was released in 2004.┬áSteve has since changed Bassists, and gained a female Singer who is also a dab hand on the Guitar.

This DVD documents the 2010 tour well, although only filmed at one venue The Shepherds Bush Empire. However, it includes the bonus guest appearance of John Wetton for the cover of Bob Dylan song “All Along The Watch Tower” in the Electric style of the late Jimi Hendrix and also a guest appearance of Steven Wilson during “Clocks”. It is quite an accurate visual record of the show that Steve and his band presented throughout the tour.

Visually although it is not Blu Ray it is still with sharp clarity for the most part; I know some purists will moan about Hi Def and the grainy picture in a few places but Blu Ray’s are very expensive to produce and Steve and the production firm did this on a budget, which made it affordable for the majority.

There are some interesting angles that appear in the final edit – a close up of all the members with various band/audience shots make for a balanced DVD. One thing that I found impressive was the fact that at times there is a perfectly angled shot of Steve’s guitar where you can see both hands that really give a sense of how intricate his performance is, something that modern DVD’s tend to be incapable of doing correctly.

One criticism would be the editing of the film as well as the varying quality cameras. Some have picture perfect quality, yet other ‘key’ cameras are noise ridden, not as sharp, and occasionally staring at the back of a microphone stand. Does it detract from the quality of the performance and audio? Not much, but in a number of places it is noticeable that is a pity.

Sound wise the Dolby Digital 5.1 is very impressive with some interesting rear channel action. Alas, a DTS track might have been a bit better however I was reliably informed that Steve and his management team considered this option but they had to scrap it because it would have compromised the picture quality and hogged too much of the disc space. So I am glad that they stuck with the Dolby Digital option, listen out for the way the Ticks and Tocks are placed in all the channels in ‘Clocks’, to put it simply they are maniacal! In fact, ‘Clocks’ features the most action in terms of surround madness. The band are well balanced with crystal clear drums throughout, a bass sound set on stun mode and Steve’s guitar work set on awe difficulty.

The Set List is an impressive choice, Steve has so much to draw from catalogue wise that if health and sanity did not limit things he could be on stage for five hours, but who would want that? Steve and his band have chosen a balanced mix of his solo career and some of the more striking Genesis songs from Steve’s time in the group, do not forget that other touring Genesis members barely perform any Genesis repitoire in their shows preferring to concentrate on their own solo work.

‘Valley Of The Kings’ opens the DVD and I know full well that Steve and his band had trialed a different order of the set list, in terms of opening the show on this tour, yet the choice of ‘Valley Of The Kings’ works so well.

I bet nobody would have dared to guess that Steve would find the qualities in Amanda Lehmann for her to perform vocals on ‘Shadow of the Hierophant’, or to utilise Gary’s voice on ‘Watcher of the Skies’ and parts of ‘Carpet Crawlers’ aided by Amanda and also Nick Beggs!

Nick Beggs’ Chapman stick work on ‘The Darkness of Men’s Hearts’ is intriguing and portrays the expertise Beggs’ carries, it truly adds to the DVD and performance.

The Psaltry bow intro on ‘Tubehead’ and funky bass helps bring alive the track from his 2009 album “Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth”. It is a mad dashrock of thunderous guitar trickery with Digitech Whammy employed on Steve’s guitar. The entire band spring into life with Pogoing from Mr Beggs.

‘Los Endos’ still has that free jazz feel to it which makes it fun whilst still retaining the classic elements for the die-hard Prog heads out there even though ‘Los Endos’ (Original) was inspired by non other than Santana. One can only dare Steve Hackett to get Gary O’Toole to sing the line from the Genesis “A Trick Of The Tail” album version “There’s an Angel standing in the Sun, free to get back home!”

The one night only appearance of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ is admittedly a risky move and clearly some self indulgence by Steve and John Wetton. Oddly it works, a blending of both Dylan and Hendrix versions of the song and a bit of Steve guitar madness weld together splendidly.

Look out for Gary’s tasteful drum solo during “Clocks” clearly inspired by the likes of Simon Phillips, Billy Chobham and in parts John Shearer! “Clocks” also features Steven Wilson, however if I am entirely honest his contribution was not easily noticeable. I am not saying that he was not doing anything, it just was hard to notice at first.

This DVD delivers the live show of 2010 perfectly with Steve Hackett, Roger King, Amanda Lehmann, Nick Beggs, Rob Townsend and Gary O’Toole at the top of their playing ability, all of whom seem to be able to pull the wool over our eyes as to how easy it looks!

The DVD rekindled memories of the show I saw on this tour at Leamington Spa and for that reason and more I would recommend it to anyone!

Also if I could have had a hand in it I would have swapped the camera angle of Gary’s feet for an above shot from the Lighting Gantry overhead Gary’s Drum kit.

I reviewed the current PAL version; I do believe there is an NTSC version in the works for those that need one, please note I tested the DVD to see if I could find a Stereo mix, my Home Cinema system folded down the Dolby Digital Surround mix and it lost a lot of detail doing so. My advice is as follows just leave it on the Dolby Digital Surround mix of 5.1!.

Sound: Ben Fenner

Visuals: Tigger Matthews/Ian Holmes

Set –

  1. Valley of the Kings
  2. Every Day
  3. Emerald and Ash
  4. Golden Age of Steam
  5. Watcher of the Skies
  6. Carpet Crawlers
  7. Fire on the Moon
  8. Ace of Wands
  9. Shadow of the Hierophant
  10. Sierra Quemada
  11. The Darkness in Men’s Hearts
  12. Blood on the Rooftops
  13. Tubehead
  14. Sleepers
  15. All Along the Watchtower (John Wetton on vocals and Acoustic Guitar)
  16. Still Waters
  17. Prairie Angel/Los Endos
  18. Firth of Fifth
  19. Clocks (Steven Wilson on Guitar)

Do not delay or hesitate purchase your copy today from Steve Hackett’s Official Web store (the only place you can buy this from at this time).

PS – Happy Birthday Mr Hackett