We don’t always turn to the leading lights of progressive music for our daily dose of politics (see: Phil Collins 1997), so it was interesting to hear Steve Hackett’s thoughts on world events last night.
This happened mid-way through his set at Southend’s Cliff’s Pavillion, introducing “Behind The Smoke”, the middle-eastern (think Led Zep’s “Kashmir”) tinged opening track from his new album “The Night Siren”.
“You may think that the refugee crisis is a modern thing” ventured Hackett to warm applause. “A hundred years ago my family suffered religious persecution in Poland and if those had not been more enlightened times, I wouldn’t be here (entertaining you) tonight…”
Hackett was in sunny Southend-on-Sea as part of a world tour in which he is playing an hour of solo material, old and new, and then ninety minutes of songs by the band with which he made his name, Genesis. In all of this he was supported by his tremendously prodigious band.
At the risk of simplifying things too much, there are three types of Genesis follower. There is The Gabriel Fan. Those who fondly recall the theatre, the meshing of audio and visuals, the release from three minute verse/chorus/repeat song structures.
Then there are those who followed The Collins Eighties Years*. Snappier songs. Turn It On Again, Mama, that dancing Levi’s Ad one.
And then there’s the “Genesis?! You’ll never get me listening to all that rubbish” type. Those who find themselves tainted by the view of progressive rock as being all mellotron solos, daft song titles, capes and real ale, an unfortunate idea, because as we all know the quota of such things in Prog is well below 80%.
Quite why we have this state of affairs – an almost universal suspicion of competence in musicians, perhaps only surpassed by the mistrust of competent politicians – is unclear. But we do. I’m struggling to think of a less fashionable band than Genesis, except perhaps Kasabian…
And yes, Genesis: this peculiarly English band – especially in their ’70s guise – feels to many like it has as much to do with life in 2017 as a Findus Crispy Pancake.
Which makes it all the more refreshing to hear Hackett’s views on the world around him, and also begs the question why, if the band is so unfashionable, Steve Hackett is packing out theatres across the globe by revisiting the Genesis back catalogue?
Could tonight’s large and enthusiastic crowd suggest that, far from being a horror show of capes and solos (the former of which are conspicuous by their absence), the music Hackett is revisiting has plenty of merit? That it isn’t all inscrutable lyrical themes (well, it is a bit) and endless noodling (Fact: Genesis was seldom about endless solos and far more about arrangements and song structures).
Perhaps now, when we are defined less by musical tribes, there’s room for a little prog in our lives, alongside the soul, the pop, the indie and the whatever else you like…?
Steve Hackett left Genesis in 1977 after the recording of LP Wind and Wuthering, two years after Gabriel’s own exodus from Genesis. The Collins-led version went on to headline Knebworth in short order, and conquer stadiums a decade later. Hackett went solo, occasionally teaming up with like minded souls (his eighties AOR collaboration with Steve Howe under the moniker “GTR” stands out in the memory).
Indeed Hackett released a solo album whilst still in Genesis, the fan-favourite Voyage of the Acolyte, an album that perhaps revealingly featured all but Tony Banks from the band.
In recent years Hackett has toured regularly under the banner of “Genesis Revisited” playing a mix of Hackett’s solo work and his Genesis-era songs. It’s certainly the best way to hear the early Genesis work in a live setting until there’s a reunion (which may never happen).
Highlights in the first half of solo material included the lovely “Serpentine Song” from 2003 LP To Watch The Storms, plus the aforementioned “Behind The Smoke”, and the crescendo (and showcase for drummer Gary O’Toole) of “Shadow of the Hierophant” from 1975’s Voyage of the Acolyte. The band whip up a storm during “…Hierophant” with Beggs pounding his bass pedals with his fists and O’Toole flying around his kit in a quite mesmerising fashion. It’s astonishing to hear the track has lost none of its freshness and energy in 42 years.
What we do hear is the likes of “…In That Quiet Earth” and “The Afterglow”, “Firth of Fifth” and a stunning “The Musical Box”, the highlight of 1971’s Nursery Cryme.
“Los Endos” brings the evening to an appropriate close.
A Genesis reunion has been much spoken of recently, and whilst a five-man reunion appears less likely than a three man reunion, it’s clear from the ovation of Southend’s packed audience that there is much love for the old tunes.
Who knows, perhaps the public are ready for Peter Gabriel to don his flower costume and go a little deeper into the music than the band that wrote “We Can’t Dance”…
*Collins actually took over from Gabriel on A Trick of the Tail in 1976.
Categories: Live Reviews