October 16, 2021

Steve Hackett
Bradford

Bradford St George’s Hall 1st October 2021

It hardly seems like six years since I last saw this band but the COVID years seem to have warped time, as has Steve. Still sporting the same haircut and looking no older than he did when he was just a youngster first drawing his pension; his fingers and confidence have taken no knocks.

Re-scheduled from last year and delightfully clashing with Genesis themselves touring, Steve Hackett and his band celebrated just the earlier years and in high quality with a top-notch experienced band. This evening was to be a complete run through of ‘Seconds Out’, the 1977 live album. It was Hackett’s last work with the band and if you ever thought he was deliberately mixed down on the set, that isn’t the case tonight.

There was a ‘short’ first set – 5 songs in 35 minutes (I remember a Joy Division lead set running the same sort of length!). A tasty old cut, ‘Clocks’, a couple of new ones (Steve is still writing and recording) and an oldie – ‘Shadow Of The Hierophant’. A good amuse-bouche before the two-hour second set.

Hackett remarks that the venue management reminded him he’d first played there fifty years ago! Some of the audience may have been there too and there looked to be a lot of gentle smiles and reflection in lieu of a moshpit. The playing wasn’t mellow though. This album blends the crazy imagery of the Peter Gabriel years and the warm Phil Collins vocal sound before the schism and popularity / sell-out (pick a side, fight fans). Great tunes like ‘Afterglow’ or ‘I Know What I Like’ alongside prog epics like ‘Firth Of Forth’ or ‘Supper’s Ready’. Nad Sylvan has a nice vocal knack of leaning towards either Gabriel or Collins, depending on the song, possibly due to his lengthy experience with Hackett, performing the earlier years of Genesis.

The band play through the material perfectly but not slavishly. I don’t remember a funky Prince-style section in ‘I Know What I Like’ but the funky sax, noodling guitar and penny whistle add a certain something. Up front, Rob Townshend is a whirlwind of activity, adding colour with a cornet solo, a plethora of wind instruments and plenty of percussion. His foil, Roger King, on keys, exchanges looks as they find their way through complex passages. Jonas Rheingold has a stack of basses to add burble alongside Craig Blundell’s drums (and very occasional Collins-style run). Steve Hackett is, of course, the lead and his range is terrific. The long lyric sections of his playing are wonderful and his noodling or stratospheric solos exciting. The lights and smoke add a lot of atmosphere and the rig recreating the iconic album sleeve is a great touch.

It is thematic programme music and we know what to expect, delighting in flourishes such as the harpsichord sound in ‘Cinema Show’ and classical-style arpeggios or madrigals. We were waiting for ‘Supper’s Ready’ and hoping, just hoping, that Nad would pop on a flower hat. Sadly he didn’t, but Townshend acknowledged the legendary moment to the audience so we could chip in; “a flower!” All that remained was ‘Side Four’ of the album and a big drum solo (‘Dance On A Volcano’).

This was an evening packed with two and a half hours of quality musicianship. I know seventies Prog isn’t for everyone but plonk them down in front of a good live band and surprising discoveries are made and tastes changed. Steve and his band are as close to pre-1977 Genesis as you’ll get but with their own personalities and skills adding a twist.