Review by Paul Quinton, photos by Rich Ward
There was a somewhat dispiriting review in The Guardian of the Hammersmith date of Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited Tour, which trotted out the tired ‘tribute band’ cliché, and claimed that the guitarist was living in the past, ‘obsessively rerecording and tweaking’ old Genesis songs, the culmination of which was this tour. Quite apart from whether two albums in eighteen years constitutes ‘obsessive tweaking’, if Steve Hackett, guitarist in the band at its artistic, if not commercial, peak, can’t play these songs, I certainly don’t know who is more entitled. As for ‘obsessively rerecording’, Hackett had always thought that the early Genesis material was overshadowed by the band’s later commercial success and the recording technology of the time had not done it justice, much less the cursory performances of older songs by the band’s later Phil Collins fronted line-ups. I can only add the Symphony Hall was sold out for this gig, and another has been added for October, so there is quite obviously a desire to revisit what many still consider the zenith of Genesis’ career.
Although the tickets said ‘no support,’ at a late stage Anne-Marie Helder had been added to the bill to warm up a slowly filling hall. Those who’ve seen her with Mostly Autumn and Panic Room know what a huge talent she is, both as a singer and a songwriter, and it was a real pleasure to hear her voice soaring out into Symphony Hall. She entered the stage in darkness, tapping out a steady beat on her acoustic before singing ‘How Does It Feel’ almost acapella. She only played five songs, and if her Eastern-style guitar tuning didn’t quite work on ‘Wheels Within Wheels’, it was a well-received set, and I do hope it has encouraged those who enjoyed it will give Panic Room a try when they play The Robin on July 12th.
If there had been any doubts about the validity of the Genesis Revisited project as a live entity, they must surely have been blown away when the band began the show with ‘Watcher Of The Skies’. The band took their places on a darkened stage, and as the first note of Roger King’s intro sounded, the stage and much of the hall was flooded with a multitude of individual beams of white light. It was a stunning opening and as the show continued with old favourites like ‘Dancing With the Moonlit Knight’ and ‘Blood On The Rooftops,’ the show should really have taken off spectacularly. However, for some reason, the audience were very quiet. Certainly there were loud cheers at the end of all the songs, and standing ovations at others, including the conclusion of ‘The Musical Box’, but for a lot of the show, it seemed to be lacking in atmosphere. It’s possible that that old bugbear, a fully seated hall didn’t help things, even that the luxurious surroundings of the hall made it hard for the crowd to really let themselves go, or maybe just that they were wrapped up in what was mostly a scintillating performance by the band.
Musically, the band were almost faultless. The vocals were divided between Nad Sylvan and drummer Gary O’Toole, and at times it was almost creepy how much Sylvan sounded like Peter Gabriel. Lee Pomeroy worked his socks off switching between guitar and bass in the Mike Rutherford role. The encore of ‘Firth of Fifth’ and ‘Los Endos’ along with a magical reading of ‘Entangled’ were worth the ticket money on their own, and closing the main set with ‘Supper’s Ready’ finally brought the crowd to life. There was the occasional glitch with the sound, Nad Sylvan’s vocals were inaudible during ‘Eleventh Earl Of Mar’ for example, and there was the occasional problem with Hackett’s guitar sound, but Symphony Hall more than lived up to its stellar reputation for acoustics. It wasn’t just fine playing, the band worked really hard to get the crowd involved, with a lot of humour, including one interlude during ‘I Know What I Like’ when Hackett unstrapped his guitar and made a show of cleaning the shoes of Pomeroy and Sylvan. Definitely more entertaining than a six minute tambourine solo.
Whatever the reservations about the venue and whether it overawed the crowd, there was so much that was memorable about this gig, not least the pleasure of seeing Steve Hackett himself bringing this seminal progressive rock to life. He’s done so much other great work in his career, he doesn’t need to do this, but the fact that he doing this as much for himself as those who loved this music the first time round just adds to the sheer joy of the whole thing.
See more of Rich’s photos here;
Agree with both comments really. Rival Sons at Birmingham recently was a case in point where shouted conversation mid-way back drowned out the band at times (Face of Light, Jordan etc) and I agree with Martin it is a problem
Symphony Hall always makes for a reserved atmosphere and this was the case at the Hackett gig. The venue can really come alive (Chris Cornell, Crowded House, Ian Anderson being examples in recent years) without getting out of hand but at Hackett it just didn’t quite happen as Paul says
Hi Martin, thanks for taking the trouble to post. I hear what you say, but I would make a distinction between what you describe at the Flowerpot (and I was probably at that gig) and creating an atmosphere. For want of a better word, a buzz. I’ve been to some Hackett Band shows were the audience has really been into it from the off, and the band fed off that. This didn’t happen last week and is why I mentioned it.
Just a little note. You say that the audience were quiet during the performance. About time an audience shut up and let the artist be heard. Back in the day when a band played – the audience listened. Sadly nowadays a lot of people think it is quite alright to chatter away at the tops of their voices while the band perform. I saw Panic Room at the Flowerpot in Derby and during the lighter sections of some of the songs it was hard to make out what the band were playing because of the racket being made by the audience, This seems to be a particularly big problem in the Midlands compared to say Manchester or London where audiences have some respect for the artists.And for once it seems to have happened in Birmingham. Don’t decry it – applaud it.
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