By John Curley
At 69, the legendary British guitarist Steve Hackett plays like a man four decades his junior. The guitar pyrotechnics that Hackett exhibited at his outstanding show at New York City’s Beacon Theatre on Wednesday, September 25th were jaw dropping. And his playing ranged from some seriously ferocious heavy-metal leads to gentle acoustic stylings. On his current tour, Hackett and his very talented backing band are performing the 1973 Genesis album Selling England By The Pound in full as well as highlighting songs from his 1979 solo album Spectral Mornings and his 2019 solo offering At The Edge Of Light. (Editor’s Note: See the May 2019 issue of Goldmine for our review of At The Edge Of Light.)
In addition to Hackett on guitar and vocals, the touring band includes Nad Sylvan on vocals, Roger King on keyboards, drummer Craig Blundell, Jonas Reingold on bass, 12-string and bass pedals and Rob Townsend on saxophone, flute, brass, woodwind, keyboards and percussion.
Performing without an opening act, Hackett and his band took the stage to thunderous cheers and kicked off the show with the propulsive, driving rocker “Every Day” from the Spectral Mornings album. The song sounds a bit like Yes of the late 1970s and contained fantastic work by King on keyboards, Blundell on drums and Hackett on guitar. “Under The Eye Of The Sun,” a song from the new album, received a nice performance highlighted by Townsend’s flute playing. The new songs “Fallen Walls And Pedestals” and “Beasts In Our Time” both were given outstanding readings.
Prior to the performance of the Spectral Mornings track “The Virgin And The Gypsy,” Hackett introduced it as being inspired by a D.H. Lawrence story. Considerably less heavy than the material that had preceded it in the show, it featured good performances by Hackett, Townsend and King. During the song, light was projected off of a mirror ball and it reflected all over the theater, adding an impressive visual effect that complemented the song.
The instrumentals that followed, the intense and brief “Tigermouth” and the title track of Spectral Mornings, both contained outstanding guitar work from Hackett. Blue spotlights that were beamed into the crowd during the performance of “Spectral Mornings” were quite effective. Hackett’s solo instrumental performance of “Horizons” from the 1972 Genesis album Foxtrot drew big cheers from the crowd. And Hackett played Spanish-style acoustic guitar during the airing of the Spectral Mornings song “The Red Flower Of Tochai Blooms Everywhere.”
The Spectral Mornings portion of the main set came to a close with the performance of the intense instrumental “Clocks – The Angel Of Mons.” Percussion was used to make clicking sounds that sounded like a clock ticking at different parts of the song. Blundell played a fantastic and lengthy drum solo near the end of the song.
Following an intermission of about 20 minutes, Hackett and the band returned to the stage for the full performance of Selling England By The Pound. And they breathed new life into the 46-year-old songs. A great band effort on “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” was up first. It contained nice vocal work by Sylvan, who sounds uncannily like a young Peter Gabriel. The outstanding performance of “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” showed that there are no passengers in Hackett’s band. The crowd sang along heartily to the vocal parts and Hackett and Townshend, in particular, delivered spotlight performances. The song picked up pace considerably toward the end, with Hackett providing some spectacular slash-and-burn guitar leads.
King was in the spotlight during his terrific keyboard intro to “Firth Of Fifth,” which also included stellar vocals from Sylvan and more outstanding guitar work from Hackett. Sylvan and Hackett also shined brightly on “More Fool Me,” with Hackett contributing some nice acoustic guitar. The terrific, epic “The Battle Of Epping Forest” featured great work by Townsend on flute and Blundell on drums at the start. King and Hackett also provided some excellent playing during the song. Hackett’s guitar work was the centerpiece of the outstanding instrumental “After The Ordeal.”
The highlight of the show was the back-to-back performances of “The Cinema Show” and “Aisle Of Plenty.” The band was on fire, with King, Blundell and Hackett, in particular, giving it their all. A deafening and sustained ovation followed, the volume and force of which seemed to both shock and please Hackett and the band. Hackett appeared to be genuinely moved by the crowd’s enthusiasm based on the big smile on his face. Hackett and the band then performed “Déjà Vu,” an unfinished Peter Gabriel song from 1973 that was intended for Selling England By The Pound but did not make the final cut. It had nice vocals from Sylvan, great work by the band and stellar playing by Hackett.
The main set ended with an incendiary performance of “Dance On A Volcano” from the 1976 Genesis album A Trick Of The Tail. The song has off-kilter bits mixed with outstanding guitar work from Hackett. The song got heavier in the second half, with Hackett really shredding and the band firing on all cylinders. The crowd gave it a massive cheer, roaring loud and long after the band had exited the stage.
The band returned for the encore after a very brief break. The encore consisted of a heavy “Myopia / Slogans / Los Endos.” Hackett and the band brought the crowd to a new level and were rewarded, once again, with deafening cheers that were still echoing around the theater over a minute after Hackett and the band had taken their bows.
Hackett’s North American tour runs through October 20th and concludes with a show in Oakland, CA. The tour moves to Hackett’s native UK in November. Full tour dates can be found at http://www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html.
The setlist was as follows:
Set 1: Spectral Mornings 40th Anniversary, At The Edge Of Light highlights:
Under The Eye Of The Sun
Fallen Walls And Pedestals
Beasts In Our Time
The Virgin And The Gypsy
Horizons (Genesis song)
The Red Flower Of Tochai Blooms Everywhere
Clocks – The Angel Of Mons
Set 2: Selling England By The Pound:
Dancing With The Moonlight Knight (Genesis song)
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) (Genesis song)
Firth Of Fifth (Genesis song)
More Feel Me (Genesis song)
The Battle Of Epping Forest (Genesis song)
After The Ordeal (Genesis song)
The Cinema Show (Genesis song)
Aisle Of Plenty (Genesis song)
Déjà vu (unfinished Peter Gabriel song from 1973)
Dance On A Volcano (Genesis song)
Myopia / Slogans / Los Endos (Genesis song)