Who: Steve Hackett and Band
Where: Hammersmith Apollo, London
When: 29th November 2019
What: Selling England by the Pound, 40th Anniversary of Spectral Mornings and other songs
Someone I know was complaining how expensive concert-going is getting. “Soon”, he said, “no-one will be to afford to go to a show”.
His thoughts have some merit, but my concerns are in a different area. Too many concerts are able to charge their inflated prices because they revolve entirely around nostalgia and people ARE willing to pay to relive a certain period from their lives
The keyword in that paragraph is “entirely” and this is the beauty of Steve Hackett’s current series of tours – which seem to me to get better as year turns in to year.
Mr Hackett is not afraid of appealing to his audience and that does mean that nostalgia factor – and so “Selling England By the Pound” (for some THE classic Genesis album) is performed in its entirety. But Mr Hackett also liberally sprinkles his shows with new compositions from his new albums.
And this is where Steve has hit the goldmine. I don’t mean financially (I don’t care about that and anyway it’s none of my business) but artistically and in the popularity of his shows. The new albums come along year-on-year. They are good and they hit the top 30 of the album charts (this doesn’t mean as much as it used to, but it was way back in the early 80s that the ex-Genesis guitarist achieved that fact).
Tonight, as well as the older songs we have “Under the Eye of the Sun”, “Fallen Walls and Pedestals” and “Beasts in our time”. Each of these are cooked to perfection and come from Steve’s most recent studio album “At the Edge of Light” which reached number 28 on the aforementioned album chart upon its release in February of this year.
Steve has a new drummer, Craig Blundell, who for my money is a slight upgrade on his predecessor, Gary O’Toole – although the trade-off is that you lose Mr O’Toole’s vocals on a couple of songs that he previously took lead on. But no matter, those songs don’t make the set-list this year so that is an issue for another tour and another year. No matter also in this show because the marvellously talented Amanda Lehmann (guitar and vocals) guests tonight and shares vocals with Hackett and the ebullient Nad Sylvan.
From “Spectral Mornings” we have “Every Day”,”The Virgin and the Gypsy”, “Tiger Moth”, “Spectral Mornings”, “The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere”, and “Clocks – The Angel of Mons”. Amongst the highlights are the numbers (Virgin and Gypsy and Red Flower) where the band is joined by John Hackett and a drum solo by Blundell on Clocks.
Also, very notable is the confidence that Mr Hackett has in his audience, shown by the extensive amount of instrumental material included in all the show, but particularly in this first set. A lesser audience would find time to take a comfort break at that point, but this consummate musicianship is just what the audience has come for.
The second half of the show has the entirety of “Selling England…” but here developed and fleshed out – particularly by Rob Townsend who takes several of the numbers in new directions with his solos.
“Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, “The Battle of Epping Forest”, “Aisle of Plenty” and “After the Ordeal” were among my favourites but everyone seemed to have their own songs which brought them out in raptures.
The hidden secret of this band is the lead vocalist, Nad Sylvan, who after being a little low key in the first half, is at his most extravagant visually and shows himself capable of excellent vocals on the Selling England material. For those who don’t know Mr Sylvan has delivered three albums of his own during his time with Steve andhe also used to be in the band “Agents of Mercy”. All of his albums will delight you if you caught him on this tour.
What else? Well, Roger King is a consummate keyboardist, Jonas Reingold delivers earthy bass which drives the show. And at the centre of it all is Mr Hackett who looks ageless and shows no sign of losing his limber ability of flying around the fretboard of both electric and acoustic guitars.
So, is there anything not to like? I don’t think so. Catch this show when it is doing the rounds in 2020.