Steve Hackett – Foxtrot At Fifty – Live in Brighton


You know the drill, solo stuff, take a break, then Genesis numbers. Don’t knock it, the system works and as keeper of the flame, Steve Hackett ensures nothing less than a fine performance. The chances of you coming to this without knowing what to expect are slim, what you have be convinced is that there’s enough variety here that it’s not a repeat of the last live opus from the legendary guitarist.

The show opens with ‘Ace Of Wands’, its compelling melody weaving in and out offering as much as intrigue and mystery as when this wee lad first heard Hackett’s debut solo album, Voyage Of The Acolyte, round at his mate’s house. This rendition’s sprightly paced, Craig Blundell (who took over the drum stool in 2018) cracking away hard, as guitar and keyboards lead each other a merry chase on this instrumental. Derived from the early 70s’ kids TV show of the same name, featuring crime-busting psychic magician Tarot, little of the original series exists, and a reboot in the Dr Who manner is long overdue, especially if they use Mr H’s rendition as theme music.

The slow gothic melodrama of ‘The Devil’s Cathedral’ draws forth from Roger King’s organ next, Hackett’s guitar somewhat bluesy between the fast-fingered prog razzle-dazzle, Jonas Reingold’s bass nicely punching out, the vocals earnest and dry; lacking the inspiring tones of the music. Another classic instrumental follows in ‘Spectral Mornings’, once uniquely featured on Radio 1, and the piercing, clear-cut sound of Hackett’s guitar persists with quest-like noble vigour throughout, while once more the shifting heave and push of the rhythm section is felt in its undertow. The pull of ‘Every Day’ has never truly appealed to me, a post-Gabriel Genesis semi-Beatles type number there’s a sharpness to the guitar on this rendition that bites nicely in the main song then soars admirably in solo, alongside horns and keys.

More classic haunting sounds blow out from Rob Townsend’s wind instruments as the creaking of an old staircase is evoked either percussively or on some instrument or other, developing to what would be a fitting full-on musical accompaniment to the classic German impressionist vampire film Nosferatu during ‘A Tower Struck Down’, leading into ‘Basic Instincts’, a bass solo from Reingold, that good as it is feels out of place. Fortunately, the full band attack ‘Camino Royale’ with a hard rocking fusion of textured variety, Hackett demonstrating age has not diminished the creative versatility of his playing.

Amanda Lehmann is guest vocalist on ‘Shadow Of The Hierophant’, another from Hackett’s debut solo album, and with all the fantastical whimsy of classic Genesis, a fine way to end the first half of the show and prepare fans for what comes next. One can’t fault instrumentation or voice on this track, and the escalating echoed glissando trills of Hackett’s guitar about halfway through delightful, then some three-quarters through interesting to note how the rhythm section, particularly drums, moves the movement with tempered force through its changes.

And so, onto the 50th anniversary live rendition of the classic Foxtrot, that hit No. 12 in the charts back when the world was young in 1972. For this section of the evening, Nad Sylvan takes on the role of lead vocalist – His voice a Marmite flavour for some, not least when it’s pitched naturally somewhere between both Gabriel and Collins and these Genesis Revisited are intended to present those songs of times gone by with respect, if not reflection and the clarify live of modern technology. Anyway, I rather like some of his solo work.

Following the original vinyl album’s running order, ‘Watcher Of The Skies’ opens the second half of the show. Sylvan delivers the lyrics in a weary manner, an outlook befitting the song’s omniscient sci-fi father-of-time viewer. Musically, King’s keyboard intro is faithful but feels also of the moment, while Reingold’s bass really pops through with vigour once the tune gets going. Piano led, ‘Time Table’, said to be about the posh Genesis members days at Charterhouse Public School, is likewise given a little fresh tweak – Now less the mild, wistful meandering of its original (that vaguely bore early Beatles and Bee Gees influences) now more something akin to a Leo Sayer/10cc mash-up, its melodic bass another highlight. So pleasing to hear how they’ve tweaked this less number.

One of the highlights of the original album for me, is the several-person narrative of compulsory home purchases, conniving councillors and devious developers alongside some sci-fi shrinking experiments that is ‘Get ‘Em Out By Friday’. If you’ve an opinion on the thorny subjects of the government’s HS2 network, housing developments used to launder money, and possibly even illegal migration and AI technology, but haven’t heard this one before it may raise an eyebrow or two, and I doubt the original composers had any inkling of how the great British public might view it 50-years down the road. It’s mad, bad and raucously loud one minute, Presbyterian church mouse quiet the next as it goes through assorted emotions and scenarios. An Ealing comedy turned tragedy. It’s not quite as precise or savage a rendition as I’d like, but it’s good to have the rarely played tune given airing, and while Sylvan’s vocals are a little light overall here, he bests Gabriel at doing an Otis Redding impression on the latter line: “In the interest of humanity, they’ve been told they must go – Told they must go-go-go-go!”

I’ve but recently discovered Hackett had a large role in the writing of ‘Can Utility And The Coastliners’. Another lesser-none tune from the Genesis canon, but for me personally this is where it all came together stylistically for that band. Initially not too dissimilar in style to the passive nature of ‘Time Table’, but its retelling of Canute calling back the sea, and more besides, really shifts gear as the guitars begin to strum joyfully while and bass pedals explode like dynamite. This live rendition works, with important contributions from all involved, and the roar of the crowd shows they agreed.

Slip the original vinyl over to its B-Side and it opens with Hackett’s classical acoustic number ‘Horizons’, certainly part of his very first live solo tour and I daresay rarely left out of his set. The rendition here embellished during its opening, perhaps a little slower in performance throughout but that does offer greater clarity to the actual notes played. And then, it’s the big one. Can the original be beat? Well, the Seconds Out live version paled for me, but any chance to hear the epic leaves far too many old men sobbing their hearts out. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Steve Hackett and his band give you just under 28 minutes of one of progressive rock’s highlights… ‘Supper’s Ready’. It’s genuinely modern technology you appreciate on this one, it makes the various nuances stand out, the clarity and definition of the instrumentation impressive, and some of the things Hackett does on guitar bloody amazing, and yet so often done subtly. The crowd shout out “A Flower?” at the appropriate time, and there’s interestingly far stronger group backing vocals a little later, an eerie deep synth (or is it a guitar?) appearing as we get to the homerun and “the guards of Magog, swarming around”, either way King shines on the keyboard solo that follows, Townsend playing round the edges on flute and then we hell breaks loose and “666 is no longer alone” reprising the intro section with solar-flared intensity from Hackett’s guitar acting like St Michael’s sword of truth slays all demons before it, latterly joined by King and Townsend, as salvation is found in “New Jerusalem”. I’m sure we can pick faults if we try really hard, but overall fans won’t be disappointed with this rendition.

The record finishes with two other Genesis golden oldies, presumably as encores. First up is  ‘Firth Of Fifth’, that feels like it’s been given a very slight adjustment in its arrangement, then leading off from a drum solo, the instrumental tour parting gift that is ‘Los Endos’.

This is both a superior recording and overall features strong performance too. You may not need this in your collection but if you’re a fan of Steve Hackett you will appreciate it and enjoy comparing it to even remastered editions of Foxtrot. Filmed by long-time Hackett collaborator Paul Green there is also a Blu-ray 2DVD edition, with behind-the-scenes interviews, and possibly more audience interaction from the guitarist vocally.

  • Reviewed by Paul H Birch.
  • Foxtrot At Fifty – Live In Brighton is released via Inside Out Music on 15th September 2023 (available here).
  • Official Website

Track List:

  1. Intro/Ace Of Wands,
  2. The Devil’s Cathedral
  3. Spectral Mornings,
  4. Every Day
  5. A Tower Struck Down
  6. Basic Instincts
  7. Camino Royale
  8. Shadow Of The Hierophant
  9. Watcher Of The Skies
  10. Time Table
  11. Get ‘Em Out By Friday
  12. Can Utility And The Coastliners
  13. Horizons
  14. Supper’s Ready
  15. Firth Of Fifth
  16. Los Endos