Can you light a fire…

Who: Steve Hackett

What: Classic Hackett and Genesis Revisited

Where: The Palladium, Argyll Street, London

When: 19th May 2017

In the last few years, Steve Hackett’s career has found a whole new momentum. Not for him the way of some older artists who peddle their glory years alone. Rather he has record a succession of varied and interesting albums which he brings to venues across the UK and pairs in live performance with a set emphasising that he was once lead guitarist with Genesis.

This way everybody wins…, the venue sells out… and the fans love it.

This is how it was at Steve’s Palladium gig. One half made up of his solo career, one half made up of the band’s tracks from the era when he was at the forefront as the lead guitarist.

The solo set delivers with several tracks from his new album, “The Night Siren” but also traces his career back to his first solo venture with “Shadow of the Hierophant” lifted from “Voyage of the Acolyte”.

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The Genesis set concentrates on “Wind and Wuthering” but also takes time to go back to “The Musical Box” from “Nursery Cryme”.

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The audience is exultant, the band triumphant.

The set which features material from his solo career opens with “Every Day” from “Spectral Morning” with Mr Hackett taking lead vocals with Amanda Lehmann on second vocals and second guitar.

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The first track from the new album is the instrumental piece “El Nino” which to these ears is the track which finds Steve coming as close to the sound he achieved on his previous disc “Wolflight”. Where “Every Day” has a memorable chorus, El Nino is chiefly memorable for its long and expansive guitar work.

Another step back in time, and again in the instrumental mode is “The Steppes” from the “Defector” album. The band, made up of Nick Beggs on bass, Roger King on keyboards, Gary O’Toole on drums and Rob Townsend on wind instruments and additional keyboards, are now really flexing their muscles.

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Steve’s vocals are to the fore on “In the Skeleton Gallery” and “Behind the Smoke”, a pairing from the new record. Hackett doesn’t look a day older than he did on previous tours and certainly his fingers show no sign of slowing or becoming less ingenious as he moves around the frets.

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We then move into more acoustic territory with “Rise Again” from the “Darktown” album and especially “Serpentine Song”, a tribute to Steve’s father for which his brother, John, joins the band on stage for an exquisite solo.

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Speaking of exquisite, that’s a good word to describe Amanda Lehmann and her vocal on “Shadow of the Hierophant” which is tender and gentle. By contrast, the instrumental sections seem to threaten to make the ol’ Palladium’s foundations shake as vibrations build and build.

A 25-minute break follows whilst the audience gets their mindset into Genesis mode.

As previously mentioned, it has been promised that the bulk of tonight’s 2nd set will come from “Wind and Wuthering”, the 1977 set which was the band’s second after the departure of Peter Gabriel. Now I’m much more of a fan of the Gabriel years than the records that feature that other guy but if we must have post-Gabriel than I’d much rather have “Wind and Wuthering” than “A Trick of the Trail” so I’m intrigued.

Also for this reviewer, a massive part of the Genesis section of the show is the presence of lead vocalist, Nad Sylvan who, for my money, is the most capable and charismatic vocalist in modern rock – able to hold his own with the Daltreys, Mercurys, Connollys, and indeed the Gabriels of this world.

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The opener for the first set, as for the Wuthering album is “Eleventh Earl of Mar” and it quickly becomes evident which songs from that album, Hackett esteems the highest. There is “One For the Vine” but no “Your Own Special Way”. There is “Blood on the Rooftops” but no “Wot Gorilla?”. There is “….In that Quiet Earth” but no “Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers”. “One For the Vine” is a particular highlight with an outstanding vocal from Nad. All of this leads on to “Afterglow”, the beautiful song which ends the album and here is a magnificent blend of Hackett and Sylvan.

All the “Wind and Wuthering” vocal material is handled by Sylvan with the exception of “Blood on the Rooftops” where Gary O’Toole delivers in gutsy voice.

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The band hop back a year to “Dance on a Volcano” before going all obscure on us with “Inside and Out”, the 1977 track which was an outtake from the record and landed on the “Spot the Pigeon” EP. This is an opportunity for some more wonderful guitar work from the band leader, in this poignant tale of a former prisoner.

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“Firth of Fifth” features some great keyboards from Roger King and more tremendous performances from Steve and Nad.

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The highlight of the night was “The Musical Box” with the audience energised and Nad Sylvan in his pomp. A wonderful performance from the whole band.

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If there is one lack-lustre moment it is the encore, a slightly strained and untidy blend of the Hackett-solo “Slogans” and the Genesis piece “Los Endos”, which really went nowhere.

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But no-one seemed to mind very much. A great night for band and audience alike and which hopefully leaves us all waiting for next time.

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