Steve Hackett and his band recently treated York to the some of the most theatrical and eclectic songs of the period in which Hackett was a member of Genesis, one of the leading progressive rock bands of the 70s. This was one of the last UK performances of his Genesis Extended tour before going abroad.
Hackett began with ‘Dance on a Volcano’ followed by ‘Squonk’. I was instantly bowled over by how heavy the sound was. I will not lie: I was air-drumming during most of the pieces. I encourage any rockers who like a heavy beat to have a listen to ‘Squonk’ with the stereo turned up. Hackett is a stunning musician. The sounds he could make from his guitar and the variety of ways in which he created those sounds were remarkable; the gorgeous ‘Firth of Fifth’ solo was the highlight of the night.
The audience was full of Genesis fans. Between almost all the songs I would hear, “That were good, were that,” from some men near my seat. In some songs like ‘Dancing with the Moonlit Knight’ or ‘The Musical Box’, the audience became a choir, singing iconic Genesis lyrics like ‘Selling England by the pound!’ or ‘A flower?’. One fan was more devoted than others, leaping from his seat and energetically dancing to the final number, much to the astonishment of the stewards.
At one point Hackett engaged in a little discourse with the audience. “Haven’t been to York for some time. Last night and this morning we were in Glasgow. Any Glaswegians in here?”
“Yes!” came calls from the front row.
“Hello!” said Hackett. “Nice to see you. Are you happy you’re still in the, uh, the – ”
“No!” came the reply.
“Oh. Democracy’s shit like that sometimes,” said Hackett.
I must admit that Hackett and his band remained so faithful to the originals that it perhaps compromised the performance. “No, no, sorry,” said Hackett to members of the audience shouting for his songs, “only Genesis tonight.” To Genesis fans like myself it was great to hear the old songs performed so well – even the sounds of the keyboards were almost exactly like the old voices – but on reflection, I do wonder if Hackett could have added to the originals, not replicated them. Bands play their own songs when they perform live, but individual members with their own bands would surely put their own spin on them, or else they might become just an outstanding tribute act.
There was one arrangement, however, that was especially interesting. Hackett’s drummer began a piece with a shuffle rhythm, causing us all to wonder what was coming next. ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’ followed, a song that does not have a shuffle beat. It gave the piece a much funkier and upbeat edge, moving away from the more anthemic original. I was astounded to hear the song pulled off so well, even with the funky saxophone and guitar solos in the middle.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Hackett’s show. He finished his set with Genesis’s progressive rock masterpiece, ‘Supper’s Ready’. The evening was perfectly summarised by the man to my right, as he turned to me after the song and barked: “Class!”