Posts Tagged ‘Steve Hackett’

Re-Genesis – Steve Hackett Live.

October 13, 2013

Steve Hackett Goes Back to Beginning at Keswick Theatre

With Yestival this past summer, gearing up for Hawkwind’s sadly postponed tour,  and now Steve Hackett revisiting his work with Genesis, it’s been a year for Progressive Rock nostalgia.  Guitarist Steve Hackett was with Genesis for their glory years and then stuck around for two post-Peter Gabriel Genesis albums before striking out on his own. He’s never really ignored his Genesis heritage, but for years, he never cashed in on it either, instead concentrating on his own compositions and occasional forays into classical guitar.

Steve Hackett Live at Keswick Theatre

Steve Hackett Live at Keswick Theatre

But in 1996 he released Watcher of the Skies: Genesis Revisited (re-issued as Genesis Revisited) and iin 2012 he followed it up with Genesis Revisited II.  Both albums were dominated by Genesis materiel from the Hackett era with a few originals tossed in.  And all featured singers that sounded nothing like Peter Gabriel. But when Hackett hit the road, he remedied that with singer Nad Sylvan from the group Agents of Mercy. With mascaraed eyes and long, curling straw-like hair, he looked like the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz only in a pirate suit. Given the context, you might be fooled by his voice in a blindfold test as being Peter Gabriel except on the post-Gabriel songs where he sounded like Phil Collins.  But there is a difference in authenticity between an artist’s original statement and his replicant and you could hear it here.

While Gabriel’s Genesis was always theatrical, Hackett eschewed the costumed recreations of tribute bands like The Music Box.  But given that, Sylvan was overly theatrical for the occasion: peering through a spyglass on “Watcher of the Skies,” banging an illuminated tambourine and generally playing the portentous rock star.  That may have worked in 1975 but for many in this audience  of 50-somethings, it came off as unnecessarily histrionic in 2013.

Steve Hackett at Keswick Theatre

Steve Hackett at Keswick Theatre

The band played flawless renditions of Genesis tunes, but it always took off when Hackett stepped up and blazed on guitar solos.  He’s far better at 63 than he was at 23 with Genesis and every piece was elevated by his performance. “The Musical Box” was sweetly performed, until Hackett swooped in like an avenging angel with a solo full of wailing sustains and serpentine bends, every note squeezed with impassioned emotion. Likewise, “Return of the Giant Hogweed” was feeling lugubrious until Hackett stormed the ramparts with some wild contrapuntal two-handed tapping.  Hackett is one of those wizard guitarists who make it look easy.

The audience in this first of two sold-out nights at the Keswick,  was totally engaged, singing along with many tunes, whacking tomahawk chops in the air to the “Touch me now” crescendo of “The Musical Box,” shouting out “A Flower?” at the appropriate moment on “Supper’s Ready.”

Genesis RevisitedThat Genesis epic was the climax of the set and the band nailed it, especially the “Willow Farm” segment with its tongue twister lyrics.  Sylvan captured the nuance, drama and humor of the song better than anything else that evening.  But once again, it was a Steve Hackett solo that built with volcanic intensity and exploded in a delirious climax.

This past summer I was put off by the performance of The Music Box at Yestival.  Their recreation, from Gabriel’s’ elaborate costumes right down to hair-styles and stage demeanor, seemed morbid, like a puppet rendering of the real thing.  Hackett could’ve fallen into that trap, and getting a Gabriel sound-alike was dangerously close, but Hackett himself, and a fine band, made this music come alive.  It was an exercise in nostalgia, but there was nothing nostalgic Hackett’s dizzying forays of electric guitar magic.  Hopefully, he’s gotten his history out of his system and can return to making music for this century.

The last date on the US leg of of Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited Tour is tonight at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood, NJ.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

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Last Thoughts & Merit Awards for NEARfest 2010

June 24, 2010

Another NEARfest is over, and a festival I avoided for its first 6 years because it seemed too retro and nostalgic has become an annual event for me in the last six years.  NEARfest 2010 was one of the best, a great mix of old and new, nostalgic reunions  and edgy directions.  A tip of the hat to Ray LobodaJim Robinson, Kevin Feeley,  and founders Chad Hutchinson and Robert LaDuca for another perfectly organized festival.  For these guys it really is about the music and the fans.

My NEARfest Awards

Best guitarist of the festival: Steve Hackett.

He should be mentioned in the same breath as Jeff Beck.  Honorable mention: Dave Bainbridge of Iona who had the most expansive timbral pallette at the Festival.

Most atypical guitarist of the festival: Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief.

He did more with a couple of chords and a lot of overdrive than a lot of guitarists did with a million nano-notes.

Most exotic axe: The uilleann pipes of Martin Nolan.  Instruments actually don’t get very exotic at NEARfest.  We need more musicians slamming on metal pipes like Present.

Most Versatile Musician: A lot of musicians did double duty on keyboards and guitar, but I thought the bassist with The Enid had the toughest job, doubling up on timpani, field drum and xylophone, providing the percussive bombast of this symphonic rock group.

Best Singers: Joanne Hoag of Iona and Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief.

Artist who would be best served by getting another singer: Steve Hackett. Hackett has pleasant pipes, but his limited range and expression really holds his songs back.  There isn’t one piece of his that I couldn’t hear improved by someone else singing it.

Most Bizarre Appearance: Nick Beggs, bassist for Steve Hackett. From 16 rows back, he looked liked a very masculine woman with his black leather skirt and vest, mid-calf boots, blond pigtails and Madonna arms.  He strutted and bounced across the stage, often with his back to the audience and shaking his ass.  As my friend Gino said, “That was the most unsexy butt shaking I’ve ever seen in my life.”  Imagine my surprise the next morning when I saw Beggs at a table at the Comfort Suites with his former bandmates from Iona.  My vision was blocked by an umbrella, so the first thing I noticed was the Madonna arms.  As I peered beneath the umbrella I saw long bleached blonde hair….. surrounding three days beard growth.  Turns out the leather skirt was a leather kilt. He can play the bass though.


With the exception of Magma in 2007, the Sunday headliner is never my favorite act and sometimes my least favorite.

The seats at Zoellner are just too small.  While my gut stayed well within bounds, my shoulders were a good 3-4 inches into the adjoining seats.

Even though they seemed to be using a smaller PA system, I thought  NEARfest 2010 had the best sound I’ve heard there in 6 years.  Loud, clean and well-balanced.

The lights at NEARfest are rarely innovative, but this year they were especially utilitarian.

I really need to start going to the After Show Party.  They always sound like such fun, but I’m always so tired by days end as it is.  How do people do it and still get up for the 11AM morning act?

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Nearfest Night One: Steve Hackett & Riverside.

June 20, 2010

Nearfest 2010 is underway, and it started out spanning generations with a musician who started his career in 1970 and a band who started in 2002 .

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Riverside is a Polish band that mixes elements of progressive rock, heavy metal and a touch of screamo in a sound that had me floored when they played Nearfest a few years ago.  Mariusz Duda, Piotr Grudzin’ski, Piotr Kozieradzki, Michal Lapaj played mostly materiel from their latest album, Anna Domini High Definition.  Typical of Riverside, it was an energetic performance with slashing, overdrive guitar chords from Grudzin’ski and storm clouds of rhythm from Kozieradzki.  At one point they even evoked Deep Purple with swirling Jon Lord style organ But overall the performance lacked the energy of their previous Nearfest set, because the materiel of Anna Domini isn’t quite up to Rapid Eye Movement or Second Life Syndrome.  Even Mariusz Duda’s vocals, a focal point for the group, seemed sparing and lacking the passion you usually hear from this intense musician.

A musician who started some 40 years earlier provided the night’s highlight as Steve Hackett took the stage fronting a 6 piece ensemble that essayed music from across his career, including songs from his first 4 solo CDs, his latest album, Out the Tunnel’s Mouth and lots of Genesis music from both incarnations of the band with whom Hackett played.

Hackett is the second veteran guitarist who has floored me in as many weeks.  Like Jeff Beck, Hackett is a master of extended guitar techniques, turning his six strings into a mutant orchestra.  If Beck is the Wizard of the Whammy bar, then Hackett is the Sultan of Sustain. He can turn one note into a siren cry, echoing through processing, bent by whammy bar imprecations and milked for every resonant emotion.

The set opened with “Mechanical Bride,” a wild ride from To Watch the Storms given an even wilder treatment that recalled King Crimson‘s “Pictures of a City,” replete with a free jazz vamp featuring Rob Townsend on tenor saxophone.  From there Hackett alternated Genesis tracks like “Dance on a Volcano” and “Firth of Fifth” with solo tracks from Voyage of the Acolyte (including a nice penny-whistle arrangement of “Ace of Wands”) and a searing take on “Spectral Morning.”  Hackett introduced one Genesis tune as a special treat for the audience, but I think all of the Genesis materiel would have been a treat if they’d gotten a better singer than drummer Gary O’Toole who has a pleasant “camp-fire” voice and can carry a tune, but…. it ain’t Peter Gabriel.  Hackett only sang on his own songs.

Hackett’s new materiel from Out the Tunnel’s Mouth stood up next to his earlier work and may be his best solo album in years.  “Fire on the Moon” and “Sleepers” in particular benefited from some harmonized vocal processing on the former and triumphal harmonies on the latter.  The instrumental “Tubeheads” is a stop-start barn-burner that gave Hackett a chance to get his Jeff Beck Squonk out.

The encore was a majestic rendition of “Clocks” marred only by the stage shtick of bassist Nick Beggs.  He’s a monster player but his strutting androgynous stage persona with black leather kilts and vest, blonde pig-tails and butt wagging antics were a distraction.  He reminded me of that half-assed saxophonist/model who Peter Gabriel toured with in the late 1970s.  But Beggs held down the bottom which he had to do as Hackett soared with impassioned, sonically bent, but melodically sinuous  solos throughout the night.  Why he isn’t mentioned in that rare pantheon of guitar gods is beyond me.

I had a great interview with Steve Hackett.  Look for it on Echoes sometime in July.

Part Two of Nearfest 2010 ahead.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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