Hearing this live recording of the Steve Hackett bands' headlining gig at NEARfest 2002 is both a revelation for myself as well as an extremely frustrating experience. A revelation in that Hackett and his band were in amazing form that night, and the sound clarity of this 2CD set is simply amazing. Frustrating because I was in attendance at NEARfest 2002, but due to the delays before Caravan's set that prompted Hackett to go on later than expected, I had to leave the festival to make my two hour plus commute back home to get some shut-eye before getting up early for work in the morning. Sad story, and a decision that I regretted many times, now more so than ever after enjoying this CD.
Live Archive NEARfest is Steve Hackett in loud prog rock form, as the maestro sounds ever at ease and brimming with confidence on the 22 songs included in this set. His tone is impeccable, his technique flawless, and his band, including Roger King on keyboards, Rob Townsend on woodwinds, Terry Gregory on bass, and Gary O'Toole on drums, top-notch. They rip through many classic Hackett pieces from throughout his solo career, as well as snipetts of vintage Genesis songs. Chills went up and down my spine as King hits the opening notes to "Watcher of the Skies", and Hackett drops in a perfect note for note "Firth of Fifth" guitar solo that will bring tears to your eyes. Solo gems like "Spectral Mornings", "Camino Royale", and "Riding the Colossus" are all punctuated by Hackett's tasty guitar lines and the tight instrumentation of the rest of the band. New pieces like the rampaging "Mechanical Bride", with its almost prog-metal intensity, and the lush "Serpentine Song", really shine and are sure to be regular additions to the Hackett live set for years to come.
The only thing really missing from this glorious release are some notes on the festival itself, and perhaps some live photographs. This "bare-bones" packaging might be a bit of a disappointment to those unfamiliar with NEARfest or where not there in attendance. For everyone else though this is prime Steve Hackett fully in his element. Highly recommended!
To purchase a copy of this limited edition CD, go to: www.nearfestrecords.com/nfr