Progressive rock legend Steve Hackett conquered the stage while ending his Genesis Revisited 2018 Tour at the London Palladium on October 11. Perhaps most famous for his contributions to Genesis as a guitarist, Hackett also has a remarkable solo career that cannot be overlooked by fans of the genre. In this tour, Hackett brought an orchestra with him, allowing an already vast sound to extend even further.
Hackett opened with “Dance on a Volcano” from A Trick of the Tail; the first album Genesis recorded after Peter Gabriel left the group. A great performance, as expected, but it raised some questions regarding what the orchestra actually contributes with. Obviously you could hear that they were there, but the symphonic elements were usually created by various synthesizers, which does sound fine on the recordings (and in other live shows, for that matter). Furthermore, could the use of the orchestra create a less ‘hard’ sound, and thus move away from the ‘rock’ part of progressive rock?
My scepticism was luckily pushed back upon hearing “Out of the Body” from one of his recent solo albums, Wolflight. Here Hackett displayed that prog-rock is in fact very compatible with orchestras, seamlessly blending his distinct guitar with both strings and brass. This was followed by the unmistakable piano intro to “Firth of Fifth”, one of Genesis’ most beloved tracks, which continued on to “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, a surprising, but much welcomed choice.
A woman then entered the stage, which could only mean one thing; that we were to experience “Shadow of the Hierophant” from his solo debut in its full length. This is one of the few songs that simply cannot be played loud enough, although both the band, the orchestra, and Hackett himself did a very good job to prove otherwise. Towards the end of the song you could feel the bass shaking your seat, just as you should.
The setlist was well-balanced between Genesis songs (revisited, as the tour name suggests, and thus slightly rearranged) and his own catalogue. In the second act we got to hear gems from Wind and Wuthering, such as “In that Quiet Earth” (a reference to Wuthering Heights), “Afterglow” and the beautiful, yet melancholic “Blood on the Rooftops”. Hackett proved once more that he does sing well with “Serpentine Song”, which was succeeded by another great solo track, “El Niño”. If anybody had doubts about Hackett’s virtuosity up until this point, they certainly got disproven now.
Lengthy songs are not uncommon in prog-rock, but some are longer than others, and to my surprise we got to hear Genesis’ very longest song. “Supper’s Ready” covers roughly 23 minutes on recording, and was even longer live. This is not only one of Genesis’ most famous tracks, but possibly one of the most legendary and defining songs in the genre. The atmosphere is impeccable when the audience shouts “A flower?” in unison.
At this point, we must bring up the vocalist Nad Sylvan, who bravely agreed to fill the shoes of both Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. He makes no attempt to copy either of them, which is appreciated as that would be futile. Instead he takes an approach of his own, which works remarkably well at times. I was amazed at how well he interpreted the whimsical lyrics, melodies, and time signatures. This was particularly evident during “Supper’s Ready” and during the encore, “The Musical Box”. Simultaneously he was very conscious of his position, and made no attempt to present himself as the ‘main attraction’ of the night. He was simply a singer doing his job, while still daring to be theatrical enough to convey the material. The only thing missing was him stepping out with a giant flower around his head, in classical Gabriel-style. Sylvan did, however, change into a wizard-like costume towards the end of the show, much to the audience’s joy.
A concert on a common Thursday night turned into a massive experience bound to please any progressive rock fan. By showcasing both Genesis songs and solo material it becomes evident how much he contributed to the band’s general sound. Hackett gave us great melodies, whimsical lyrics, complex time signatures (which was further complicated by the excellent drummer) all in one night. Steve Hackett’s tour-ending show truly displayed a legend still in top shape.