Genesis’ fourth studio album, ‘Foxtrot’, was released in 1972, five years before I was born, so you’ll forgive me if I missed it first time around! Since my foray into the world of music reviewing has led me down the progressive rock route from when I started in 2013, it was inevitable that I would eventually seek out early Genesis material.
I have delved into everything from ‘Trespass’ right up to ‘Abacab’ and everything in between and now have a definite soft spot for the earlier stuff like ‘Nursery Cryme’ and ‘Selling England By The Pound’ but it’s only recently that I discovered what an absolute classic ‘Foxtrot’ is.
Steve Hackett was the guitar player on ‘Foxtrot’ and five other studio albums, plus numerous live releases, before leaving the band in 1977 to pursue a solo career. His rewarding solo career has spawned many great albums but, in recent years, he has returned to the Genesis material he helped to create with a number of very successful live tours and recordings.
Steve has stepped up the Genesis Revisited idea with playing a classic Genesis album in its entirety and the latest record to get this nostalgic treatment is, yes you guessed it, ‘Foxtrot’ and I was invited to review Steve Hackett’s latest tour when he stopped off in York to play at the Barbican.
The concert was split into two parts with the first set being some choice selections from Steve’s stellar solo career.
The band came on stage to a very warm welcome and Steve has a great rapport with the crowd, they launched into an excellent version of Ace Of Wands from Steve’s debut solo release ‘Voyage Of The Acolyte’ which, for someone new to his solo material, was a real eye opener and a great starting point. Steve is a virtuoso guitarist and is fascinating to watch. He has surrounded himself with some of the best musicians around and to experience it felt like a privilege, even a short lighting malfunction only seemed to release any tension and provide an amusing moment between Steve and the crowd. Steve’s long time vocalist Nad Sylvan joined the band for a dark and determined version of The Devil’s Cathedral from Steve’s latest solo release ‘Surrender Of Silence’, quite a brooding track that maybe seemed slightly out of place in the set list but was delivered perfectly nonetheless.
Next was a simply stunning version of perhaps his best known solo work (even I’d heard this one before!) Spectral Mornings, it was filled with so much passion and his guitar just bled emotion, something I just need to experience again, it was almost like an epiphany! The uplifting, joyous Every Day came next and saw this incredibly tight band deliver with a wonderfully inspiring version, keyboard player, and main orchestrator, Roger King was in fine form and is there a finer player behind the drum kit than Craig Blundell? add in the king of cool Jonas Reingold on bass and the hyperactive, energetic and just plain brilliant Rob Townsend on sax, clarinet, flute and keys and you really have musical eminence personified.
A monstrous version of A Tower Struck Down (another from ‘Voyage Of The Acolyte’) sent a bolt of electricity through the audience and this song came with one of the funkiest bass solo’s ever to close it out, Jonas and Steve exchanging smiles and knowing looks. Camino Royale was next and was a highly intensive jam before the first set came to a satisfying close with a tightly played Shadow Of The Hierophant although, due to the absence of Amanda Lehman, it was the closing section only.
So, onto the main event and what the majority of the audience had come to hear, ‘Foxtrot’ and this was obvious from the huge roar that erupted on the first opening notes of Watcher Of The Skies! This band have obviously played together a few times and are a few gigs into the current tour and you could tell as they were in perfect synchronisation and feeding off each other’s energy and bonhomie. The knowing looks, smiles and laughter were a real joy to see and really added to the fantastic atmosphere that the gig had already engendered. The superb version of Watcher… became a grand, piano led Time Table, which was played to a rapt audience who were totally engrossed in the music. Craig Blundell is a power house behind the drum kit but he has real finesse and nuance as well and really showed it here. The uproarious Get ‘Em Out By Friday is a proper 70’s prog jam and it was on this track that I began to realise what a great voice for this material that Nad Sylvan has, I’d listened to the original in the car on the way over and his vocal delivery and inflections were superb and I loved his spoken parts too. Also on the top of his game was Rob Townsend, his flute work here was a particular highlight but he is accomplished no matter what instrument he is playing, and he never stands still! This involving and convoluted piece of music was one of many highlights from the night.
Can-Utility And The Coastliners is a song that has that feel of Old-English progressive rock to it and was played flawlessly on the night. I was watching Craig’s drumming throughout the track and he was in perfect unison with his rhythm section partner in crime Jonas. Roger King is the opposite of flamboyant behind his keyboards but he lets his playing do his talking and he really shone all night but especially on this track. To be honest, I couldn’t take my eyes off any of the band as they were utterly flawless. Steve then got himself a stool and an acoustic guitar and delivered a beautiful version of Horizons with a wonderfully fluid flamenco opening, as my friend Jim, who I went with, said, “It’s real showcase guitar playing…”.
And so to the main course and what I had especially been waiting to hear, Genesis’ most loved epic track Supper’s Ready. From the first gentle acoustic guitar notes it was utterly magical and totally blew me away. Nad’s vocal was perfect, the musicians were on another planet and it’s (well) over twenty minute running time just flew by. Jonas was amazing, duelling guitars with Steve at one minute and then swapping over to deliver his perfect bass lines. I took a moment to look around the venue and everybody was just spellbound and captivated by the show that was being put on in front of them. This isn’t just music, it is an actual experience and one that will live with you for along time, the epic guitar solo at the end nearly tipped me over the edge and I admit I had a tear in my eye as the song came to a close and everyone stood up in unison to applaud, whistle and just show their appreciation in a way they felt appropriate.
Encore? Of course there was an encore and one that opened with a spine tingling version of another Genesis classic Firth Of Fifth. This is a particular favourite of mine and I was totally absorbed in it, it was just bewitching. We then got a melody of Myopia/Slogans and a particularly fine Los Endos to bring things to a resounding close and an ovation that seemed to go on forever!
This wasn’t just a live concert, this was a life-affirming musical experience and one that has leaped into my top five gigs of all time, check out the remaining tour dates on the poster below and get yourself a ticket, you can thank me after (and you will, oh yes, you will!).