Story and photos By Andy ArgyrakisThere are a few items attendees must realize before buying tickets to a Steve Hackett performance. First up, his days with Genesis are long over, in fact so ancient that he's recorded as a solo artist or with other outlets for three decades. Second, they must understand his reason to be on the road these days isn't to promote material from his 1970s reign with that super group, but rather current projects and styles (most of which avoid his prog rock beginnings in favor of classical or jazz guitar). And finally they should be prepared to display proper decorum and not yell idiotic phrases out from their seats like "Where's Peter?" (referring to the group's iconic original singer Peter Gabriel), calling out ludicrous requests (especially ones with Phil Collins fronting) or asking annoying questions about a pending reunion tour. No, nothing's been officially announced or contracted and despite several teases over the years (including vague allusions Hackett's drummed up surrounding the triple disc release of Genesis' 2005 Platinum Collection) there's plenty of skepticism across the recording industry.
So now that we've gotten all the basics out of the way (which nearly all those packed into the Abbey Pub appearance seemed to fully grasp) it's possible to assess Hackett's new American tour for what it is and not where he's been. For starters, the incredibly talented guitarist has just released his fifth classical album Metamorpheus (the follow-up of sorts to 1997's Midsummer Night's Dream). This was one of the main courses on the menu, as were a handful of progressively tipped solo selections, recollections of various French Impressionists, the occasional jazz number, and yes, the intermittent reference to what Hackett teased as "that band I was in, the mother ship if you will."
The first of a generous two act show was simply Hackett seated on a chair with an acoustic guitar in hand. The entirely unplugged portion pinpointed his remarkable dexterity and expertise on a wide array of genres not restricted to any particular time period within his career or any span of musical history for that matter! Despite the constant stream of contrasts between eras, Hackett's precision made them flow seamlessly, such as with the tender hearted serenity of "The Skye Boat Song" and the lullaby-like Genesis recollection "Horizons." Throughout several moments of improvisation and some short song explanations, the close quarters of the typical rock and roll club were transformed into a cozy coffee house where Hackett seemed incredibly comfortable. Admittedly though, he was a bit too easy going at times, risking moments of dull demonstrations and pretentiousness at points
Yet the second half took on a much different direction and was performed as a trio with brother John Hackett on flute and Roger King on keyboards. Throughout their time together, the threesome covered much ground including Hackett's solo catalogue for "Kim" (off the Please Don't Touch album) his days with GTR (a group also featuring Yes' Steve Howe) for the glorious ballad "Imagining" and a stripped back version of the former rock and roller "Jacuzzi." "Ace of Wands" was an example of the trio's combined influence of rock and folk set to what the front man called a "weird time signature," while "Next Time Around" highlighted John's soothing wind instrument skills. Yet the most genuine point of joy for diehards was an extremely rare visit to the Selling End By the Pound for a track Genesis never performed on American soil. It was the beautifully and delicately arranged "After the Ordeal," during which some people hollered so loud that they were met with stern shouts to be quiet from their annoyed neighbors. Of course this was merely a tease of what could've come from that classic album or other significant projects Hackett was involved with, but it sure was satisfying none the less.
This set list choice was also representative of the fact that this particular player doesn't need to rest entirely on past laurels or what originally brought him fame to still get high off musicianship. He's certainly content playing to niche circles that are incredibly appreciative and understand what they're getting into when they walk through the door rather than giving into gimmicky and commercialism. Sure, one of his former band mates may be on the ridiculously titled "First Final Farewell Tour" playing rote set lists to stadiums and making a fortune (that would be Mr. Collins) but Hackett is making a fine living doing what he loves and actually takes the time to meet the faithful after concerts. And with autographed copies of old vinyl like Nursery Crime, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and Voyage of the Acolyte in hand, those departing beamed with acceptance and approval.
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