Steve Hackett- Royal Festival Hall, London (04/10/18)

Following his chat with GIGsoup last month, ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett is taking his successful Genesis Revisited tour around the UK, this time recreating the tunes from his old band as well as solo material, alongside a stunning 40-piece orchestra.

Opening with one of the many Genesis tunes of the evening, ‘Dance On A Volcano’, Hackett’s guitar mastery is apparent immediately. Despite a few issues with balance between Hackett and his orchestra (who don’t seem to be overly necessary as of yet), his hands jump around the neck of his golden Les Paul, replicating his unique 70’s sound. The two following solo tunes (‘Out Of The Body’ and ‘The Steppes’) start to give the orchestra more relevance, and multi-instrumentalist Rob Townshend provides a spine-tingling saxophone solo, before, finally, ‘Firth Of Fifth’ allows the brilliance of this show to kick in.

The time signature shifting piano intro immediately excites the audience, and when the section returns fully orchestrated, it really is quite impressive. Long term vocalist Nad Sylvan takes control of Peter Gabriel’s parts with similarly theatrical prowess, with the opening A Capella of ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’ sounding like Gabriel (who performed the performed the opening of the track for the first time since Genesis only 2 years ago) was in the room. The first set came to a close with ‘Blood On The Rooftops’ (showing off Hackett’s excellent control of the acoustic guitar) and the entirety of Hackett’s far-reaching composition ‘Shadow Of The Hierophant’, with the incredible Heart Of England Philharmonic Orchestra really coming into their own. Amanda Lehman’s vocal performance during the pseudo-operatic final number was a particular highlight.

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The second set opened with the interesting decision to take from Genesis’ second non-Gabriel album ‘Wind And Wuthering’, before moving on to ‘Serpentine Song’ alongside Hackett’s brother John. It was ‘El Niño’, however, that stole the show. The James Bond style composition allowed for huge brass sounds to shriek from the orchestra, with tubular bells and timpani punctuating the dramatic rhythms and mesmeric melodies. When the piece unexpectedly came to a close, it was hard to work out how the orchestra could have been used to a greater extent. That was until the opening arpeggios of arguably one of the greatest works of the progressive era, ‘Suppers Ready’ echoed around the Royal Festival Hall.

Despite an early tempo issue that prompted Hackett to swivel in his seat to face his band (obviously his musicality has never waned, as the 46 musicians on stage were back in time again within seconds) the replication of the conclusion of 1972’s ‘Foxtrot’ was almost incomprehensibly brilliant. Every detail, moving from the folk influenced opening, to the hard rock, tapping heavy middle sections, light-hearted, bouncy ‘Willow Farm’ and the epic ‘Apocalypse In 9/8’ are blended with the orchestra with both subtlety and superb depth where required- by the end, conductor Paul Hilliam is jumping on his podium. It’s unsurprising that the ovation that greets the finale lasts a solid 5 minutes before the band return.

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The show is ended with an equally brilliant ‘The Musical Box’, which closes the door on an idea worth every penny. Despite a few problems towards the very start of the set, the gradual improvement over the course of every piece was something special to witness. With Peter Gabriel virtually refusing to acknowledge Genesis in his live shows, Phil Collins (sort of) retired, Mike Rutherford avoiding the prog days and Tony Banks fading into angry obscurity, Hackett’s masterful replications are best way of reliving the glory days of Genesis’ wonderful music.

Hackett’s ‘Genesis Revisited’ tour continues to roam the UK this month.

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