Steve Hackett @ The Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Tuesday 22nd October 2013.


Review by Paul H Birch and photos by Mark Lloyd

Keyboards take up the opening theme from ‘Watcher of the Skies’ as stage lights project outward towards the seated middle-age audience and Steve Hackett steps forward, Gold Top Les Paul Gibson in hand, ready to lead them back to their youth.

Back by popular demand this is the Genesis-Revisited Tour: drums kick in, guitar and organ growl riff and melody line back at each other and the sound gets louder and ever more ominous with three screens playing films, images and effects across the backline. A six-piece flank the stage with vocalist Nad Sylvan dressed like a renegade from a Phillip Pullman novel acting out theatrically as the music advances forward with military precision until Hackett slides his right hand up the fretboard, double-hand taps the neck and exquisitely concludes matters with a solo.

Steve Hackett
Steve Hackett

“Welcome back, Steve!” cries a member from the audience on the song’s conclusion. “Welcome back, yourself!” he replies agreeably, and will continue to joke and share stories between songs throughout the evening.

‘Dancing With the Moonlit Knight’ follows with scenes of the English countryside and former industries at work playing on the screens as increasingly those seated become aware just how much emotional baggage they’re taking down memory lane recalling, if not better, at least more innocent times, but before we can become maudlin bass player Lee Pomeroy starts bopping about as the tempo builds, facing him Hackett’s  guitar roars, chimes, and solos, supported beautifully by all concerned.

“There’s something solid forming in the air” sings drummer Gary O’Toole as the six piece become four to deliver a deep prog blues take on ‘Fly On A Windshield’, Hackett whipping out a slide early in the number. We’re promised “a bit of a stomper” and invited to get up and dance for ‘Return of the Giant Hogweed’ but polite foot tapping is about as rock and roll as the audience gets; still there are a couple of cosier Beavis & Butthead cartoon characters mimicking Hackett and Pomeroy’s heavy drama riff intro to watch on the screens, giving way to a Rob Townsend alto saxophone solo and before long we’re watching a comical jungle explorer discover the hogweed, bring it back to the Royal Gardens and then it all turn into a cartoon episode of Dr Who as the plants become monsters. Amidst it all musically we get intricate time changes, a precise biting flute solo from Townsend and Hackett applying his signature sound.

Steve Hackett
Steve Hackett

Those fun scenes give way to some eerie Victorian dolls on a rocking chair and I’m thankful I’ve not been asked to wear 3D glasses as ‘The Musical Box’ ensues with sinister sounds reverberating from Roger King’s keyboards and Hackett joining in with heavy metal power chording before delivering a rip-roaring solo that scrapes and trills between runs before ending on a loud vibrant note to massive applause.

“A bit of agnostic guitar” is offered with ‘Horizons’, harmonics echoing and rippling with enchanting clarity from his acoustic all about the symphony hall. His playing verges towards ragtime jazz before returning to a lengthy classical opening for ‘Blood on the Rooftops’, again sung by O’Toole with Townsend’s sax soloing in mellow mood underneath throughout and glockenspiel styled keyboards rising to the fore during the mid-section. One of the night’s many highlights.

‘In That Quiet Earth’ has Hackett switching from classical to electric half way through for a rather Willie Dixon styled blues section before Hackett and Townsend trade solos as they race towards its conclusion. Next, things slow down for ‘Afterglow’ wherein I notice Sylvan may look like Robert Plant rehearsing for a role in The Three Musketeers but he can capture the intonation of both Collins and Gabriel well, while being more clear and precise in his diction, not bad for saying he’s Swedish.

Steve Hackett
Steve Hackett

Hackett claims he had his doubts about them being able to pull off ‘The Fountain of Salmacis’ but it’s one of four new songs in the set and works rather well. The rest of the band joining in on vocals and giving it an almost sixties pop vibe while Hackett plays a musical question and answer game with them, teasing notes out as prequels to latter solos. ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’ begins with African drum beats and seagull swooping guitar effects  as the band are joined by the audience for a singalong version with a most unexpected sexy little Stax-styled honking sax solo from Townsend  even as Hackett drags out distorted guitar noises before going for a double-hand tap and brief wailing solo, only for Towsend to end it all with one played on a penny whistle. Sure beats the Collins tambourine solo for me.

‘Dance on a Volcano’ is suitably majestic and manic as the time changes require. Pomeroy sits with electric 12 string in hand while Hackett returns to acoustic and as the crowd again roar out approvingly everyone knows now is not the time to take a toilet break because ‘Suppers Ready’. The Genesis magnum opus ends powerfully, Sylvan rocking his heart out with “the seven trumpets blowing sweet rock and rock” and Hackett’s guitar soaring like the proverbial angel, extending into a solo with melodic metal phrasings, trilling and giving the pentatonic scale a good seeing to!  The crowd rises to extend their applause, and you can see a lot of happy smiling faces.

On returning to encore, King delivers a deep vibrant piano  opening to ‘Firth of Fifth’, the still standing crowd clapping along throughout, even to the slower parts. By ‘Los Endos’ most of us old-timers should be wrapped up in bed with our cocoa but if Steve Hackett’s still willing to create sawing noises rubbing his forearm across the guitar’s strings after all these years then we’re still quite happy to watch him, and plus we get some classy keyboard and sax solo interchanges to boot. Then Sylvan returns centre stage for the song’s only lyrics: “There’s an angel standing in the sun. Free to get back home” and too soon the show ends.


See more of Mark’s photos here;