Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Eric Idle of Genesis?

Running tirelessly headlong from one new high to another...
It is said that Eric Idle is the one of all the python boys who has never quite let Monty Python go. Co-writing ‘Spamalot’ is just one example of him (supposedly) harking back to yesteryear. If this is the case then perhaps we can call Steve Hackett the Eric Idle of Genesis! I’ve seen Peter Gabriel many times and he has never played a Genesis song. Admittedly I’ve never seen Mike Rutherford or Tony Banks outside of a Genesis gig and I would never go and see Phil Collins even if you paid me more than he was earning. Steve Hackett on the other hand has always slipped a Genesis song or two into his set. Recently he has been doing even more than that – his last tour was even entitled ‘Revisiting Genesis’ - and at tonight’s gig he promises a second half of the ‘G thing’!

Yet, is it a simple yearning for times past? On his Genesis Revisited II Album he talks about now having the musical technology to make the sounds he had envisaged back in the ‘70’s and so part of the rationale for the album was updating the songs. The tour that accompanied the album was proof that as much as he wanted to revisit these songs, so did the many others who flocked to see the shows. Perhaps Eric Idle and Steve Hackett both recognize that in this post-modern world, running tirelessly headlong from one new high to another, the paying public sometimes crave an evening of the familiar! Or perhaps Idle and Hackett are simply proud of what they did and want to keep sharing it!

It is not that Hackett hasn’t produced an impressive solo back-catalogue. He has been prolific in his writing, performing and recording over the years since he left Genesis. Tonight is a mixture of the two - the old and the new – recognizing that it is 40 years since his first solo album, recorded when he was still a member of Genesis, and that 40 years on he is still writing and recording.

Slide as gracefully from one pose to another...
I have seen Hackett many times, the first in 1980. I have seen him with full band, with his brother John and Roger King as a classical trio as well as the aforementioned full Genesis Revisited concert. Tonight I’m disappointed with the mix and the first half also highlights a weakness in Hackett’s performance - the vocals. Perhaps it is because he is not the strongest vocalist in the world that his songs are best in their instrumental sections! He has an ability to write the heaviest of riffs that wouldn’t be out of place at a Heavy Metal concert, and yet in the same song incorporate an ethereal flute solo! However, too often the vocal sections let the songs down. It’s not that I am not enjoying the first half, it is just that I have seen better sets from him than this one.

I do not know Steve Hackett, but I always get the sense that he is a reluctant star! Often, although not tonight, I have seen him hide behind ‘70’s US Police TV Show sunglasses. He seems ill at ease with acknowledging the audience and rarely speaks to us. As he plays each song, between his parts, he painstakingly checks his pedals, making sure his lead is not under his feet. In getting his left hand into the right position it feels as if he barely notices us. Just occasionally, as he holds a note, does he glance up and offer a smile at the front row.

He is the least likely looking guitar hero. From his clothing to his stance, and from his smile to his wave nothing seems natural for him. So many guitarists slide as gracefully from one pose to another as they do from one note to another, but not Mr Hackett! This apparent awkwardness on stage sometimes makes it seem that he has not one musical note in his bones, which of course, could not be further from the truth!

Constantly changing time signature...
And strangely enough many in the audience seem exactly the same! As they mouth every word their bodies move in an ungainly and constantly changing time signature that even Genesis in their heyday wouldn’t have attempted! Their fashion sense and hairstyles seem rooted in the past, and above the stench of old age sweat and alcohol is a cocktail of BO and halitosis! But they love him. I love him. The person next to me loves him. Even the hanger-on’s love him because he is who he is, and he plays what he wants, and despite what he looks like he is a fantastic musician!

The first half ends with a standing ovation and during the interval the air is heavy, not just from the BO and halitosis, but with the expectation of some obscure ‘G thing’ stuff!

As one, the crowd love the second half. Can anyone who grew up listening to Genesis not love the chance to hear ‘Get ‘Em Out By Friday’, ‘Firth of Fifth’, ‘The Musical Box’ ‘Cinema Show’ and (the obscure one) ‘Can-utility and the Coastliners’!

As with the first half, the second is given a standing ovation. Hackett has never been at the forefront of musical fashion. Those of us who have admitted to being Genesis fans have had to put up with a lot of stick over the years. But we know what we like and we like what we know, and after tonight’s show its safe to say Hackett knows what we like. Long may he continue to make the music he wants, because it is the music we want too.

Gig: 26 of 50
Date of Gig: Wed. 7th October 2015

Shepherd's Bush Empire

Steve Hackett

Running total of artists seen 54

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