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ConcertsSteve Hackett's Genesis Revisited Live @ Royal Albert Hall, London 10/24

Posted on Tuesday, October 29 2013 @ 15:28:33 CDT by Pete Pardo
Progressive Rock

As I looked around the vast Victorian hall, the audience was in one moment collectively transfixed and silent, then 60-year old men would begin punching the air with the abandoned joy of 18-year-olds, and there were numerous standing ovations from the whole crowd. All were at this event to experience in their own way a unique collection of songs that had been part of their lives for nearly 40 years, and they reveled in every twist and turn of the music.

It's 36 years since Steve Hackett went solo from the seminal Prog Rock band Genesis, at a time when there was simply no space left within the ever-expanding song-writing team of this extraordinary group. Yet, partly because of this concentration of ideas, the albums created in this period (between Nursery Cryme in 1971 and Wind and Wuthering in 1976) hold a particular potency, packed full of invention and contrast. In this music you can hear not only many of the so-called hallmarks of Prog Rock, but also the specific elements which made Genesis so powerful; finely-wrought arrangements, a blend of classical, church, pastoral, burlesque, surreal, and epic music, and most significantly the juxtaposition of heartfelt naivety with a burgeoning sophistication. Tonight's concert showcased all this, and with a line-up of musicians who were more than capable of the task of revisiting it.

Hackett's band played with conviction and obvious enjoyment. They included the wonderful singer Nad Sylvan who was nimbly able to imbue each song with the essence of early Gabriel idiosyncrasy, yet also make them his own. For the Collins-era songs we had a curious glimpse into what this material might have sounded like if Gabriel had remained the front man. Hackett's own playing was fluid and mature, showing just what a deft sonic artists he is. His choice of notes, often playing in extreme registers blended with carefully crafted treatments, was utterly beguiling. He sang through his guitar with no need for mannerism or false grimacing, showcasing his trademark, and highly individual playing. His 'tapping' and 'sweep picking' techniques were often at the fore, alongside his subtle approach to the sustained line. At one moment his lines are folded between chord changes and main phrases, acting as a telling counterpoint, and at others, they break out into ecstatic wailing, employing skillful use of feedback. There is a confidence and ease with the way he crafts his sounds, knowing where to become the texture and where to become the focus.

The engine house of the band was provided with precision and control by keyboardist Roger King who's attention to detail was unfaltering. Performing many of these arrangements requires not just reproduction computer patches for each of the sounds, but a nifty and complex choreography of the hands. Many of the original figurations created by Tony Banks were conceived using multiple keyboards and some particular ways of executing patterns and effects. King was able to provide the audience with an authentic 70's approach but using twenty first century technology, and he seemed utterly at home with the anchorman job which Banks did so well. Bass and double-neck guitar was provided by Lee Pomeroy, again doing a superb job. His delight and love of the music seeped out of him at all times and added an infectious element of joy to proceedings. With the ever-reliable Gary O'Toole on drums and multi-instrumentalist Rob Townsend covering all the extras (including fake teeth in Willow Farm), the band were perfectly balanced in temperament. Guest artists contributed to a range of different songs, adding a welcome interruption to the flow of the set list; John Wetton, Ray Wilson, Roine Stolt, and Amanda Lehmann.

From the iconic opening tri-tones of Dance on A Volcano to the closing anthemic power-synth of Los Endos (mirroring the arc of the 1976 album A Trick of the Tail), the set included songs from seven albums in all. High points? For me, and perhaps many of the audience, this had to be Suppers Ready, and (despite it being almost overplayed over the last few decades), Firth of Fifth. During this song, the woman just in front of me was punching the air, but this time, not to the power-chords, but to every single note and nuance of the iconic guitar solo. Low points? I would have loved more material from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging or The Colony of Slippermen would have been just right for Nad Sylvan. I love the idea of stripping some tracks down to just guitar and vocal, as this can sometimes reveal the inner workings of the song, but I wasn't convinced by the version of Ripples on this occasion, and what seemed to be a hurriedly prepared middle section. I would loved to have heard Robbery Assault and Battery, and Get 'Em Out By Friday, but I guess I'll have to wait for Genesis Revisited 3? The band also played for over two hours, so who am I to quibble?

Many other reviews will no doubt describe each track in turn, but I think there are other important things to say. This world tour says something about both Steve Hackett himself, and about the changing face of the audience for rock.

Firstly, Steve Hackett's contribution to (and love of) the music of this period of Genesis is significant and the audience witnessed a re-affirmation of this. His subtle re-workings have placed his guitar, (both on the album, and live), slightly higher in the mix and they have emphasized clearly what his contribution to the Genesis of this period was. It should not be underestimated. His influence and respect is felt across a wide spectrum of musicians, and from what was on offer tonight, you can see exactly why.

Secondly, this tour reveals that we may be entering a new phase for rock music in general. Perhaps the music of a whole range of bands can be reinvented and celebrated without accusations of 'living in the past'. I think that rock (and all forms of popular music) has grown up in many respects with it's audience. This audience now understands that it is not just the personality that drives the music, but also the notes themselves. Modern classical audiences don't for example demand that only Mozart himself can play his piano concertos, and this composer, as we are all aware, has a huge longevity! Reinterpretation is a healthy thing. So it is right and proper that the group of musicians on stage tonight, who believe passionately in the actual notes of this music, should be performing to an ecstatic sell-out crowd at London's greatest venue. Well done to everyone involved.

Set list
Dance on a Volcano
Dancing with the Moonlit Knight
Fly On A Windshield
Broadway Melody Of 1974
Carpet Crawlers
Return of the Giant Hogweed
The Musical Box
Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers
In That Quiet Earth
I Know What I Like
Firth of Fifth
Fountain Of Salmacis
Supper's Ready

. Encore .
Watcher of the Skies
Los Endos

Concert review by Colin Riley

Photo courtesy of the Royal Albert Hall website

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