It was great to see Steve Hackett return to Grand Rapids with his latest Genesis Revisited show. It was also great to catch up with fellow Progarchist Bryan Morey again! Brian’s review of the show is admirably thorough, so just a few points from my perch (20 Monroe Live’s left upper mezzanine, nicely depicted in the photo above):
Hackett has changed rhythm sections every time I’ve seen him: Lee Pomeroy and Gary O’Toole were on bass and drums in 2013; Nick Beggs and O’Toole in 2017; Jonas Reingold and Craig Blundell this time. Reingold and Blundell gave the low end a slightly heftier vibe throughout the show, while being every bit as fleet and fluent as their predecessors. I especially enjoyed how Reingold wielded a double-neck 12-string guitar/bass a la Mike Rutherford with both delicacy and devastating power on multiple songs. And Blundell brought the thunder throughout the night; as I said to my wife afterwards, “believe it or not, that’s how Phil Collins played before he became a star.”
I enjoyed both halves of the show about equally — partially because, unlike so many Gabriel-era Genesis fans, I’ve never warmed to Selling England by the Pound. Perhaps it’s because of the way I was exposed to Genesis’ music (starting with — horrors! — … And Then There Were Three … and working backwards), but I’ve always thought Selling England to be five-eighths killer and three-eighths filler (“More Fool Me”, parts of “The Battle of Epping Forest”, “After the Ordeal”, “Aisle of Plenty” — rather a lot, really). Between The Musical Box’s 2018 tour and Hackett’s current show, I’ve heard two bands make an excellent case for the album, and I’m still not convinced; Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, A Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering all strike me as better Genesis records.
But my point of view isn’t germane here; Steve Hackett obviously loves all this music, so who am I to carp at his choices? Ably supported by Reingold, Blundell, Rob Townsend (consistently taking courageous improvisational chances on sax and flute), Roger King (the bedrock of this band — understated yet wonderfully dexterous on the keyboards) and Nad Sylvan (a solid singer and an arresting stage presence throughout), Hackett was on top of the music all night, whether sticking to his guitar parts as written or stretching out in new directions, taking strong lead vocals or deftly harmonizing with the ensemble. If you haven’t seen him, you should; if you have, he’s worth seeing again. Either way, I’d argue he’s at the height of his powers — making some of the best music of his career with At the Edge of Light, and still enjoying the music that made his bones, both from Genesis and (in the well-considered highlights of Spectral Mornings) from his earlier days as a solo artist.
As Bryan mentioned, it was a rowdier audience than usual — he didn’t even get to see the, uh, interpretive dance that an audience member treated the mezzanine to on “Dance on A Volcano” and “Los Endos”. (I’ve had to work hard to unsee it.) Fortunately, I can put on At the Edge of Light, Spectral Mornings or Selling England, close my eyes, and hear Steve Hackett’s supple, soaring guitar work instead …
Steve Hackett’s current Genesis Revisited Tour plays North America through October, plays the UK in November — then returns to North America in March 2020! Check out the tour dates here.
6 thoughts on “In Concert: Steve Hackett At the Edge of Spectral Mornings’ Light …”
Without getting too Angry Old Prog-Rocker about it — though starting out on Genesis with …AND THEN THERE WERE THREE is DEFINITELY something for which one should ask forgiveness — some of this alleged “filler” on SELLING ENGLAND… should be put into more context, at least as I remember it. “After the Ordeal” and to a lesser extent “Aisle of Plenty” was the kind of stuff that was included on Genesis albums in order to support the stage show, i.e., this was often the stuff the band played while Gabriel changed costumes. “More Fool Me” was the green shoots of Collins wanting to sing, and at the time this is the kind of stuff he wanted to sing. Note the striking similarities both musically and lyrically of “More…” to the two songs that Phil sang on Anthony Phillips’ (with much help from Rutherford) THE GEESE AND THE GHOST only a few years later — and of course, to the only really good song on WIND AND WUTHERING for my money, “Your Own Special Way.”
As for “…Epping Forest,” I can’t think of a second of it that’s any less than brilliant. But maybe you have to have gone from grade school to middle school to high school during “Eight Miles High” to “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” to “Revelation” to “The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet” to “Tomorrow Never Knows” to “The End” to “In Held ‘Twas In I” to “As You Said” to “1983…” to “The Court of the Crimson King” to “Take a Pebble” to “Wind-Up” to “Roundabout” to THICK AS A BRICK to “Ashes Are Burning” and to so many other epic songs and albums by those artists and others to hear it that way…
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I appreciate your gentleness with a latecomer and a schismatic (if not a heretic)! I can certainly grasp the argument that the core albums of my personal prog awakening years – 1977-79, the era of Works Volume 1 & 2, Songs from the Wood, Going for the One, … Three … and Exposure – aren’t in the same league as the classics you mention above, though in my book they still have worth. In retrospect & over a lifetime of listening, I’m grateful that I’ve come to also value & love most of the great music on your list.
And I’ll cop to the charge that I sold Selling England short above. For me, its high points — “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, “I Know What I Like”, “Firth of Fifth”, “Cinema Show” — are very high indeed, and shouldn’t be damned with faint praise.
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I love SONGS FROM THE WOOD and HEAVY HORSES, other latter-day “progressive,” as we called it back in the day (not “prog”), and many other iterations and offshoots of what started out as progressive rock. Some of which, by the way, goes all the way back to some of the most out-there jazz and R&B of the 1940s and ’50s — you can hear a lot of the ideas on albums like SGT. PEPPER’S… and THE NOTORIOUS BYRD BROTHERS first explored in that kind of music decades before the late ’60s. But yes, context is everything, and sometimes we don’t really understand things if we weren’t there to experience them in real time. Libby Holman leaves me absolutely cold, but years ago I’d talk to any number of old-timers who swore to her brilliance and importance. I remember the rise of progressive rock vs. the AM radio establishment as well as I remember the rise of the AFL in the face of the stodgy old NFL, so we should all honor the living history that others offer and represent. I speak in a distinctly different voice about anything that happened before I was old enough to witness and process it myself.
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