Steve Hackett in Concert: From Spectral Surrender to Seconds Out

Steve Hackett — Seconds Out + More, GLC Live at 20 Monroe, Grand Rapids, Michigan, May 4, 2022

Once again, Bryan Morey has beaten me to the punch with a live review of Steve Hackett. (My excuse this time: he had ten days head start on me.) Like Bryan, I was impressed with the energy and delight Hackett and his merry band projected as he returned to my hometown venue for the third time. “The weekend starts here!” he crowed to the capacity crowd (quoting the classic BBC-TV pop show Ready Steady Go) and boy, did he make good on that pitch! Hopefully without repeating Bryan’s many excellent points, a few more comments follow . . .

While I was delighted when I heard that Seconds Out would be the focus of Hackett’s show, I wondered how well it would work in concert — because Genesis never played this exact setlist in 1977! The original live album is a construct, with the music re-sequenced for maximum impact over four sides of vinyl (that year’s encore, “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway/The Musical Box” was moved forward to the end of side two), excerpted from onstage medleys (“Afterglow” immediately followed “In That Quiet Earth” back then, the way I heard Hackett perform it in 2013) and even flown in from the previous tour (“Cinema Show” had been recorded in 1976 and shelved).

But arguably, those interventions are part of why this album made such an impact on both Genesis fans and the broader public over the years; as it’s endured, it’s gained stature as a balanced, thorough survey of the band’s proggiest era, with an unhurried pace and flow that gradually gains in both momentum and excitement. Which explains why the whole thing did work live, this time as a multi-course banquet of Hackett’s finest hours in his defining group. And in that light, the whirlwind trawl of Hackett’s solo career that kicked things off, informed by both the poised classicism of 1979’s Spectral Mornings and the manic energy of two tracks from last fall’s Surrender to Silence, served as the perfect appetizer.

But all that’s conceptual; what about the execution? Briefly, this was the most free and most daring that Hackett and his supporting cast have been in the four times I’ve seen him. Rather than reverentially presenting the material as if fixed in stone, the players took this music by storm; throughout the night the band consistently pushed Hackett musically — and he consistently delivered.

Continue reading “Steve Hackett in Concert: From Spectral Surrender to Seconds Out”

Live Again – Steve Hackett Plays St. Louis – 4/26/22

Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisted – Seconds Out + More – Saint Louis, Missouri, April 26, 2022
Set 1: 
Clocks – The Angel of Mons, Held in the Shadows, Every Day, The Devil’s Cathedral, Shadow of the Hierophant (instrumental version)
Set 2: Squonk, Carpet Crawlers, Robbery, Assault & Battery, Afterglow, Firth of Fifth, I Know What I Like, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, The Musical Box (Closing Section), Supper’s Ready, Cinema Show, Aisle of Plenty
Encore: Dance on a Volcano, Drum Solo, Los Endos
Players: Steve Hackett, Nad Sylvan (vocals), Rob Townsend (all things blown), Roger King (keyboards), Jonas Reingold (bass, twelve string), Craig Blundell (drums)

I wasn’t planning on attending Steve Hackett’s show here in St. Louis at the River City Casino. For one I couldn’t really afford it, and two I didn’t want to buy tickets months ago since I wasn’t sure if I’d still be

River City Casino - Steve Hackett Show
Great view from the risers inside the River City Casino convention center

living in St. Louis. But a friend from church is a big prog fan, and I knew he was going. Monday night he told me he had a spare ticket, and he offered it to me! Well I sure as heck couldn’t turn that down. Thanks, Eric!

I haven’t been to a live concert since October 2019 when I saw Steve Hackett in Grand Rapids on his Selling England By the Pound tour (check out my review of that show). This tour features the same talented lineup. I have all of Hackett’s live albums from the past decade or so, and while I’ve only seen him in person with this current lineup, I think it’s the best he has had in the last decade of Genesis Revisited shows. Everyone plays so well together, and it’s clear they’re having a blast. They play like a proper band rather than touring musicians supporting a big name musician.

The band’s vibe together was quickly established in the short first set, which featured some excellent selections from Hackett’s solo career. If I had to pick five songs from his solo career for them to play, I couldn’t have picked a better set. “Clocks” was a great instrumental opener followed by “Held in the Shadows,” one of the best songs off Hackett’s most recent solo album, Surrender of Silence. Hackett’s vocals were so effortlessly smooth. This was followed up by a rousing rendition of “Every Day,” another classic from Spectral Mornings.

After that they played “The Devil’s Cathedral,” my favorite song off Surrender of Silence. Nad Sylvan was stellar on vocals, as he was the entire night. This song displays what this band can do when they make music together. I would love to hear an entire album of new music from this band, perhaps with Nad and Steve sharing lead vocals. The instrumental version of “Shadow of the Hierophant” followed – the greatest solo Hackett song that should’ve been a Genesis track. Genesis lost a lot when Hackett left. Sure they may have become the most popular pop rock band in the world, but they lost their soul.

After the intermission, the audience (which seemed to be pretty inebriated by this point – especially the four talkative blokes in front of me) was treated to the entirety of the Seconds Out setlist. Every song was brilliant. This band plays so well, and they do justice to the music. They take a few artistic liberties as they’ve done for several years now, but I think it adds to the sound. For instance some of the keyboard parts are either replaced or layered with Rob Townsend’s saxophone, and his saxophone replaces the flute in “Firth of Fifth.” He also plays Irish whistles on parts of “Supper’s Ready” instead of flute. In some ways these changes add to the music. 

Nad Sylvan really stole the show on “Carpet Crawlers.” Vocals dominate that track, with the music taking a bit of a back seat, and Nad rose to the occasion with a phenomenal rendition. Nad sang effortlessly on every song, hitting all the high notes with ease. He sounds a little more natural singing the Peter Gabriel songs, although he sounded great on everything. “Robbery, Assault & Battery” must be a very difficult song to sing, but he did a great job. The song shows the playful storytelling side of Genesis, which still remained after Gabriel left the band. I don’t think Hackett’s band has played that song live before, or at least not in the last decade, so fans who see him every tour will get to hear some “new” material.

Since they played all of Seconds Out, there was a fair bit of overlap with the music played at the last tour, which is fine by me since I love Selling England By the Pound. “Firth of Fifth” was exquisite as always. So good that I even pulled out my earplugs. I think that guitar solo is just about the best ever, and Hackett does such a great job with it in a live setting. No one can play it like he does. Roger King is an expert with the piano intro too, something Tony Banks gave up a long time ago.

And since I mentioned the earplugs, I’ll make a quick comment about that. I always bring earplugs to concerts since I never know how loud it’s going to be. Both Hackett shows I’ve been to have been fairly well mixed with reasonable sound levels and minimal distortion, which is good since this music deserves full dynamic range instead of distorted rock crunch. With that said, it was still a bit too loud for much of the concert for my comfort, so I was taking them in and out all night. That didn’t really bother me. I probably could have left them out without permanent damage, but I’d rather be safe than sorry when it comes to my hearing. My eyesight is bad enough – I don’t need to lose my hearing too.

Like on the original live Genesis album, Hackett’s band played the ending section of “The Musical Box,” which Nad nailed on vocals. The epic “Supper’s Ready” followed that, and I’m so happy that I got to see that played live. The band performed flawlessly. The music and lyrics carried me away, as all good music should. Sadly I was drawn out of it a little bit by the perpetual yapping from one particular inebriated bloke in front of me, but I found that the earplugs actually helped drown him out, which helped me focus on the music. It’s a shame to be drawn out of those special musical moments where you really feel a connection with the band.

Steve Hackett - Live

It’s no wonder Seconds Out is such a legendary live album. What a setlist! “Cinema Show” right after “Supper’s Ready” – it doesn’t get much better than that. The band deviated from that original setlist by adding “Aisle of Plenty” at the end of “Cinema Show.” The songs flow together, so it’s only natural to include “Aisle of Plenty,” which serves much the same purpose on Selling England as “Afterglow” does on Wind and Wuthering. It’s a cool down after an intense musical and lyrical journey.

Following that the band took their bows and left the stage to a standing ovation and thunderous roar. They were cheered for a couple minutes by the loudest encore cheer I think I’ve ever heard at a live show. It reminded me of some of the cheers I’ve heard on live prog albums recorded in Europe. It was great to hear that from an American audience in a relatively small venue. The band came back out and blew us away with “Dance on a Volcano” and “Los Endos.”

The real treat was Craig Blundell’s blistering drum solo between those two songs. Absolutely phenomenal. Drum solos can often be kind of boring, but Blundell’s solos are very… musical, if that makes sense. He grabs your attention and holds it. The speed at which he played was impressive, but he also adds in brilliant chops. It was one of my favorite parts of the evening. Even Jonas Reingold came back out on stage near the edge to watch his bandmate play. The bit of jazz-infused “Los Endos” made for an excellent final encore to a memorable musical night.


Much was made of Genesis’ final (supposedly) tour, especially their final show, which both Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett attended. I’m sure that attention was deserved, but I watched some clips on YouTube from those shows, and I’ll take Steve Hackett’s shows over the latest iteration of Genesis any day. There’s more energy, better musicians, and better vocals. The songs sound like the albums, and Hackett’s guitar is virtually unrepeatable. His tone is so unique, and his style of playing is unmatched.

Another plus is Hackett’s band is a who’s who of current prog names. I may never get to see the Flower Kings or the Tangent (Jonas Reingold), Frost* (Craig Blundell), or Nad Sylvan play his solo stuff, but I get to see them play legendary music with my favorite guitarist. It’s hard to beat that. The band also clearly enjoys what they are doing. Hackett was obviously having fun, and I saw Jonas playing air drums at one point in the show when he wasn’t playing for several seconds.

If you’ve been following Hackett’s live shows over the last decade, there may not be many surprises in this current setlist, but there doesn’t need to be. The music is phenomenal, and I’ll leave it at that. If he’s coming near you on this tour or the upcoming Foxtrot at 50 shows, definitely grab a ticket. Last night was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. 

http://www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html

Steve Hackett Live
Dancing on a Volcano

 

Steve Hackett Sells England By the Pound – Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI – 10/3/19

Steve Hackett, Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI, October 3, 2019
Band:
Steve Hackett, Nad Sylvan, Craig Blundell, Jonas Reingold, Rob Townsend, Roger King

Setlist:
Set 1
Every Day
Under the Eye of the Sun
Fallen Walls and Pedestals
Beasts in Our Time
The Virgin and the Gypsy
Tigermoth
Spectral Mornings
The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere
Clocks – The Angel of Mons

Set 2
Dancing With the Moonlit Knight
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Firth of Fifth
More Fool Me
The Battle of Epping Forest
After the Ordeal
The Cinema Show
Aisle of Plenty
Deja Vu
Dance on a Volcano

Encore
Los Endos

I had been looking forward to this concert ever since I bought tickets at the beginning of the year. I had never seen Steve Hackett live, but it had been at the top of my bucket list for a while. He’s my favorite guitarist, and I’ve loved all of the recent Genesis Revisited live albums. I consider Selling England By the Pound to be one of the finest albums ever made, so I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to see Mr. Hackett and company perform it live. They didn’t disappoint.

During the first half of the show, the band played highlights from Hackett’s 1979 solo album Spectral Mornings and this year’s At the Edge of Light. The whole set was very strong, but I particularly enjoyed Craig Blundell’s drum solo. Some drum solos can be a little boring, but not this one. Very engaging, interesting, and complex. The opening “Every Day” really highlighted the light and airy style of Hackett’s solo music, while “Beasts In Our Time” showed how heavy his music can be. Jonas Reingold’s bass was exceptional all night, but the bass line on “Under the Eye of the Sun” really allowed his talent to shine.

Continue reading “Steve Hackett Sells England By the Pound – Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI – 10/3/19”

Stupidity Will Inherit the Earth: The Regressive Arrogance of Nick Beggs

The Mute Gods, Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth (InsideOut, 2017)

Tracks: Saltatio Mortis (1:57), Animal Army (5:00), We Can’t Carry On (5:11), The Dumbing of the Stupid (7:08), Early Warning (3:57), Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth (5:02), Window Onto the Sun (6:00), Lament (2:01), The Singing Fish of Batticaloa (8:25), The Andromeda Strain (2:57), Stranger than Fiction (4:23)

press_cover_01I’m going to catch hell for that title. I really don’t want to get political, but it seems that the regressive leftists are taking over this beloved genre we like to call prog. (I am, after all, the one who just last year wrote an article entitled, “Keep Your Politics Out of My Prog.”) Anyways, the first part of this article will be a subjective rant. The second half will be a relatively objective review. Both are neatly titled, in case you want to skip the rant part.

Continue reading “Stupidity Will Inherit the Earth: The Regressive Arrogance of Nick Beggs”

The Mute Gods: Coming In Loud and Clear

The Mute Gods

I’m old enough to remember those halcyon days of the early-to-mid-’70s when FM radio was full of great music. Every time I turned on my J.C. Penney clock radio, I knew the odds were good that something great would come blasting out of that tiny speaker. The likes of Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull, Kansas, Bowie, 10cc, and many others dominated the playlists of my local “progressive rock radio” station, WKDF.

Artists like the aforementioned walked a tightrope between pop accessibility and progressive complexity with an ease that today seems miraculous. Garnering lots of radio play, a group like Electric Light Orchestra could appeal to teenyboppers as well as college-age music geeks.

Fast forward a few decades, and those of us pining for that golden age of FM radio are now well-served by Nick Beggs’ new project, The Mute Gods. Right out of the gate, the album’s title track, “Do Nothing Till Hear From Me”, is a tour de force of instrumental prowess and spectacular vocals. Set in a totalitarian dystopia where no one can be trusted and the singer is on the run, the song is 7-plus minutes of aural bliss.

There’s a reason Nick Beggs has played with everyone from Celtic-prog band Iona to Steven Wilson: the man is a monster on the bass and stick. I’ve always been a sucker for inventive and melodic bass work, and Beggs delivers on every track. At times sounding like Chris Squire and others like Tony Levin, Beggs is able to go from providing a discreet pulse to thundering beats in a flash, all the while maintaining a unique melodicism. I’m now a huge fan.

That said, this is not a bass showcase. The band is tight as hell and every member makes significant contributions. In addition to bass and stick, Beggs also plays guitar, keyboards, and handles lead vocals. Marco Minneman (drums, percussion, guitars, sound design) played with Beggs in Steven Wilson’s band, while Roger King (keyboards, guitars, backing vocals, programming, and production) played with Beggs in Steve Hackett’s band.

This is one of the best-produced albums I’ve heard in quite a while, with a mix that allows each instrument to shine without overwhelming the overall sound. Little details are there for the discerning listener to enjoy, like the brief retro organ solo in “Your Dark Ideas”, or the Frippy guitar in “Praying to a Mute God”.

And how about the songs themselves! They move from peak to peak, with gorgeous melodies. I am often reminded of prime Alan Parsons Project as well as Hackett-era Genesis (especially on “Strange Relationship”). Lyrically, they tend to deal with alienation, paranoia, and the irrationality of current times. As Beggs states on their official site, “The record has a number of moods. But overall, it’s a rather disgruntled rant at the dystopia we’ve created for ourselves and our children.”

“Feed the Troll” is a very creepy look at an internet stalker who could have come from the dark imagination of Steven Wilson. “Swimming Horses” is a meditation on the passing of time, while “Father Daughter” is a beautiful duet between a father and daughter in which he confesses his regret at not being there for her as she grew up. “Praying to a Mute God” addresses the nutjobs who claim to speak to speak on God’s behalf. Heavy stuff, but the stunning music helps it go down easily.

There’s only one slight misstep, “Nightschool For Idiots”, which gets dangerously high on my cheese-o-meter. But hey, even that one is a pleasant listen.

So is this album pop, or is it prog? The Mute Gods successfully walk that tightrope with a superb collection of songs – it’s both and it’s more; it’s just great, great music. With Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me, The Mute Gods have set the bar very high for everyone else in 2016.