Steve Hackett - Hammersmith Apollo
1st November 2014 (with Gina Franchetti, Neil Jellis, Jim Knipe and Richard Page)
This show was part of Steve Hackett’s Genesis Extended tour and the first time I’d seen him in this particular venue since May 1983 on the Highly Strung tour, when the only Genesis song in the set was Horizons.
Mostly Autumn, reduced to husband and wife team Bryan Josh and Olivia Sparnenn, performed a competent 30 minute acoustic opening set that was politely applauded by the audience. Hackett and band appeared on stage at 8.15, opening with an energetic Dance on a Volcano and he addressed the audience when it concluded, hinting at the gulf that appeared to have opened up between him and some of his former band mates following the airing of the recent Genesis TV documentary, suggesting that the “museum was still open” and that he was dusting off some real gems.
The relative stability of the band, Roger King on Keyboards, Rob Townsend on flute, sax, bass pedals, keyboard and sundry percussion, Gary O’Toole on drums and vocals, vocalist Nad Sylvan and the inimitable Nick Beggs (unavailable in 2013 due to touring commitments with Steven Wilson) on bass, guitar and Chapman stick, meant that the material was really well performed. Sylvan somehow managed to sound like Phil Collins for the opening song and the subsequent Squonk, but then sounded like himself for the rest of the evening. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight and the Lamb mini-medley of Fly on a Windshield and Broadway Melody of 1974 were followed by a large slice of Nursery Cryme: The Return of the Giant Hogweed, The Fountain of Salmacis, and The Musical Box. At the start of Fountain, Sylvan appeared to have some difficulty with the vocals, a difficulty that also recurred later on in the set. Perennial favourite Firth of Fifth (Firth of Firth in the tour programme!) featured Steve’s brother John Hackett on flute and Jakko Jakszyk on vocals, who put in an appearance in the stalls before the performance started, as though he was looking for his seat. This song embodies the culmination of melodic Genesis, the piano overture, the instrumental development and Hackett’s sublime guitar. Though very different from the multi-part Supper’s Ready (another highlight of the evening) Firth of Fifth was possibly the greatest treasure dusted off from custodian Hackett’s Museum of Prog. Lilywhite Lilith fitted in a little awkwardly and would have worked better had it been appended with The Waiting Room and The Evil Jam. Sylvan theatrically raised a sword to signal The Knife.
The encore consisted of Watcher of the Skies and Los Endos (including Slogans from Defector) and brought the evening to a triumphant climax.
Always understated, Hackett may be more communicative than he was in his Genesis days but he does the sensible thing and lets this wonderful music speak for itself, orchestrated by a really tight band. There was even a stage invasion by a lone fan right at the end, something that none of the performers can have expected, which was resolved without force as the band and special guests took a well-deserved bow.