Steve Hackett @The Assembly, Leamington Spa, February 24th, 2012

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Review by Paul Quinton

The Steve Hackett Band’s tour in support of the excellent Beyond The Shrouded Horizon album swung into Leamington on a rainy Friday evening and pulled off a show that was easily the equal to, and possibly even surpassed, the magnificent show at the Robin in late 2010. Since the previous tour, there had been a line up change, with bassist Nick Beggs away being part of Steven Wilson’s touring band, Lee Pomeroy of It Bites, and lately of Take That’s touring band, had stepped in and proved to be a more than capable replacement.

The show had originally been scheduled to start at the surprisingly early time of 7.15, but it was nearer 7.40 when the band took the stage, but that gave the crowd chance to swell out to what appeared to be not far short of capacity. The opening song, Loch Lomond, the lead off track on the new album, set the tone, brilliantly played and superbly sung, with five of the six band members singing in very close harmony. The opening songs came in quick succession, with the magnificent Loch Lomond followed by The Phoenix Flown, Prairie Rose and A Place Called Freedom, all from the new album. Then came The Golden Age of Steam, with its slightly odd marching beat, before an absolutely sumptuous Everyday. This was one of the biggest highlights of the gig, with the crowd singing along and Hackett playing some quite brilliant guitar and making it look completely effortless. At one point he was playing a solo most progressive rock guitarists can only dream about equalling, while smiling and joking with the front row. The applause at the end of the song seemed to go on forever.

It was then time to look back to his time with Genesis, or as he referred to the band ‘that promising beat combo’. First it was the gentle nostalgia of Carpet Crawlers, with Hackett playing some superb slide guitar, then an absolutely epic Firth Of Fifth. It says a lot about the band’s confidence in their current material when they can play this song, which probably includes Hackett’s signature guitar solo and is one of progressive rock’s most iconic songs, in the middle of the set, rather than use it as a climax or an encore. That wasn’t the last nod to Genesis. Later in the set drummer Gary O’Toole, who took lead on most of the Genesis material in the set, gave a brilliant performance of Blood On The Rooftops, and in a brief acoustic melody, there was a blissful Horizons from ‘Foxtrot’.

The main set ended with a tremendous Los Endos which raised the level of performance to an even higher level than before, but included one small moment that just made the gig for me. At the end of the original version of Los Endos, you can hear Phil Collins sing a line from Squonk on the same album ‘A Trick Of The Tail’, which shares the same riff. Lee Pomeroy is clearly as a big a Hackett-era Genesis fan as the rest of us, and toward the end of this performance, he couldn’t help but sing the Collins line. I don’t know how many others noticed, but it was a lovely moment. The encores brought more joy for old school Genesis fans as Roger King’s huge keyboard chords heralded Watcher Of The Skies, which, outside the world of tribute bands, was a song I never thought I’d see performed live, and the show was finally rounded off with Spectral Mornings, which was merely yet another example of superb playing, bringing to an end around 140 minutes of pure Prog heaven.

I’ve already been to several excellent gigs in 2012, including Thin Lizzy, Rammstein and Pain of Salvation, but I don’t think I’ve enjoyed any so much this. There was nostalgia, excellent new material, superb musicianship and a tremendous atmosphere. It’s only February, but this is already a serious contender for Gig of The Year. There really should have been a sign outside The Assembly: ‘Quiet, please – Genius at Work’.