By John Curley
This past week was a very good one for me in terms of seeing legendary British guitarists in concert. On Wednesday night, November 12th, I saw Johnny Marr live at the Gramercy Theater in New York City (and that was only three weeks after seeing Marr’s show at the O2 Brixton Academy in London.) And then, on Friday night, November 14th, I went to see former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett perform his Genesis Extended show at Town Hall in New York City. I’d never seen Hackett live before, and was absolutely floored by his guitar pyrotechnics. Hackett’s two-and-a-half-hour performance had the very enthusiastic crowd roaring and giving numerous standing ovations.
Hackett’s Genesis Extended tour is an extension of his Genesis Revisited II World Tour. Regarding the current tour, Hackett stated in a press release, “I’m thrilled to return to the States due to popular demand with my Genesis Extended show. It’s exciting to play the Genesis music again with renewed energy from a fantastic band.” The band that Hackett mentioned in his quote was indeed fantastic at the Town Hall concert. The band features Nad Sylvan (vocals), Roger King (keyboards), Nick Beggs (bass), Gary O’Toole (drums, percussion, and vocals), and Rob Townsend (sax, flute, and percussion).
When the band took the stage, Hackett looked somewhat taken aback by the roar from the crowd. New York City crowds tend to be an energetic concert audience, and Hackett’s show at Town Hall proved to be no exception. There were loud cheers from the crowd as Hackett and company played the first number, “Dance On A Volcano.” Hackett spoke to the crowd before he and the band played “Squonk,” the second song in the set, and he couldn’t help smiling at the things that members of the audience were shouting as he spoke. The energy in the crowd never dissipated during the show, which is somewhat surprising considering that the show was two-and-a-half hours long and that it was an older crowd. But it was clear that the audience at the Town Hall show has great affection for the older Genesis material. And since Phil Collins recently stated in an interview that a reunion of the classic Genesis lineup will not happen because he can no longer play drums, Hackett’s tour is likely going to be the only place that these songs will get a live performance by a band that includes a one-time member of Genesis.
There were numerous highlights in the show. Massive cheers and an extended standing ovation from the crowd greeted the performance of “The Musical Box.” There was another standing ovation after “Firth Of Fifth.” But the biggest ovation of the night went to the 25-plus-minute performance of “Supper’s Ready.” It was astonishingly good, and deserved every one of those cheers.
After seeing Hackett perform live, I can’t understand why he isn’t mentioned in discussions of great rock guitarists. The distaste for progressive rock by certain snotty rock-music critics probably has something to do with that. Hackett’s guitar work at the Town Hall show was a sight to behold. While Hackett played his Gibson electric guitar for the majority of the show, he did play acoustic on “Horizons” and on the opening portion of “Supper’s Ready.” He played very intricate bits and standard rock riffs with equal reckless abandon. Hackett’s guitar work on “The Knife” was absolutely sinister and totally thrilling to behold. He is a master of his craft, and the joy that he takes in performing was clearly evident to the packed, cheering audience at Town Hall.
While Hackett was clearly the focus of the crowd’s attention during the performance, it certainly helped that he had such a talented band backing him. And the band members proved to have numerous talents. Drummer Gary O’Toole sang lead on “Fly On A Windshield” and “Broadway Melody Of 1974.” Rob Townsend played a terrific saxophone solo during “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardobe).” Vocalist Nad Sylvan may have had the most difficult task of the evening, bringing to life songs that were originally sung by the massively talented Peter Gabriel. It was not an easy job, but the crowd seemed to enjoy Sylvan’s performance and gave him a nice hand at the end of the show.
Hackett’s current North American tour continues until December 11th. Tour dates can be found at http://www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html. A trailer for the tour can be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2LlZQDS0Ls. For those who want a preview of what Hackett’s live show sounds like, the recently released CD/DVD Genesis Revisited—Live At Hammersmith can provide that. Hackett’s tour is, without question, one of the must-sees of 2014 for any fan of classic rock and / or progressive rock.
The set list was as follows:
Dance On A Volcano
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
Fly On A Windshield
Broadway Melody Of 1974
The Return Of The Giant Hogweed
The Fountain Of Salmacis
The Musical Box
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Firth Of Fifth
Watcher Of The Skies