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Pacific Road, Birkenhead 20 November 2009
Noel Buckley and Lee Millward
three tracks from 1980's 'Defector', Steve Hackett referred to music
from a gentler time - and that indeed is what much of his music
reflects. The all-strobes-blazing opener perhaps the one major
exception. But tonight we could revel in key moments from an engaging
solo career and a residency in early Genesis.
Hackett's classic eighties line-up (with brother John Hackett and Nick
Magnus) was pretty unbeatable but his current band runs it pretty close.
Sax and flautist Rob Townsend lent several songs a jazzier feel, whilst
drummer Gavin O'Toole doubled up - impressively - on vocals for the
Genesis songs. Amanda Lehmann was not just eye candy: although her
second guitar appeared lost in the mix her backing vocals were
Kajagoogoo bass player Nick Beggs provided a striking visual focal point
looking like a S&M Gladiator rampaging with a Chapman Stick whilst Roger
King on keys looked like a businessman staring at a very poor set of
That opener - 'Mechanical Bride' - wouldn't have sounded out of place in
a King Crimson set but the band quickly got into the new album, with the
excellent 'Fire On The Moon' highlighting the ensemble performance and in
particular the backing vocals and lush keyboard textures. This was
repeated on 'Emerald And Ash' and 'Ghost In The Glass'.
until mid-set (very often a dip in many shows) that Hackett moved things
up a notch with three instrumentals, contrasting the old and the new. 'Tubehead'
off the new album demonstrated his versatility with sonic texture,
slightly Jeff Beck-esque in its off-the-wall-ness. 'Spectral Mornings'
and 'Firth Of Fifth' turned the clock back to those gentler times again,
showcasing exquisite melody cutting through the ether with Gilmour-esque
A further dip into Genesis back catalogue ('Wind And Wuthering', 'Lamb Lies Down On Broadway') pleased this older crowd before the
home run of 'Sleepers' and the bluesy 'Still Waters' from the new album,
and 'Los Endos'.
It's not been an easy year for Steve Hackett with a landmark court
battle with his ex-wife for his royalties, but the crowd was right
behind him tonight. The two and a half-hour show - part of an annual
guitar festival - never dragged but could only brush the surface of a
thirty-year solo career and a talent equally at home on acoustic guitar.
Steve Hackett's music is a rare thing of quality and longevity in these more hectic times.
Review by David
daughter and I don't live a million miles away from Pacific Road so it was
a bit like having your guitar hero play in your front room. Well not
quite, as the venue was jam packed with the prog faithful. The Yes,
Genesis, Ash, Dream Theater T-shirts came to see a master class in guitar.
Hackett's set was a fine balance between the old and the new. Yes we got
Genesis, Acolyte and the true classics like 'Clocks' plus the timeless
title track from 'Spectral Mornings'. But also the excellent new album,
Out of the Tunnel's mouth were proudly paraded.
From this, 'Fire on the Moon' was highlight but 'Sleepers', 'Ghost in the
Glass' and 'Emerald and Ash' and the sexy 'Still Waters' stood up well
against the older faves, ably peppered by the vocal (and visual) talents
of rhythm guitarist, Amanda Lehmann who gave the choral parts added umph.
The band were tight. Although we join in the jollity surrounding Nick
Beggs' attire, it mustn't detract from the fact that Beggs is an
accomplished musician and great showman, whose mastery of the Rickenbacker
interlaced well with Gary O'Toole's immaculate drumming provided the
foundation for the minstrel to play.
O'Toole was a surprise package on the Genesis songs too. I thought Steve
was singing without moving his lips on the mercurial, 'Firth of Fifth',
but it was the drummer who delivered the Gabriel and Collins lines with
verve and feeling as if they had been written yesterday.
A word though for the quiet one and a stalwart in the Hackett set up come
rain or shine. Roger King. Keyboards are of course essential to any prog
show but King's knack is to be able to complement the guitar and not
compete with it.
guitar is a test of the emotions and I confess to a lump in the throat at
times, as he has always evoked a sense of time and place with his
compositions. 'Valley of the Kings' is a fine example.
No backdrops here. No pretensions. It's all about lost lands, the
retelling of a myths or childhood visions. A cliché maybe, but the music
really does speak for itself. And it still works live.
It's strange but I was never a huge Genesis fan but could always identify
with what Steve Hackett was trying to achieve musically during and after.
If I want 'Invisible Touch', I can turn to a million other artists who do
schmaltz better. There's only a handful though who can hold a candle to
Hackett's ability to paint a landscape with his guitar.
One guy behind me shouted "The Real Genesis" and I couldn't have put it
For £18.50 we got value for money. I stood there transfixed to the spot
two and a half hours and it was only when I reached down for my jacket at
the end that it dawned on me that my legs wouldn't work. Maybe age, but I
prefer to think of it as awe.
Photos by Noel
Buckley and Lee Millward
Review (London) with setlist
Steve Hackett podcast
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