Saturday, 20th November 2010
Pontardawe Arts Centre, Wales
Article & Photographs by Jez Rowden
Sunday, 28th November 2010
The Sage, Gateshead, UK
Article by Bob Mulvey
Jez Rowden's Review
2010 has been a very good year for gigs and I’ve seen some great shows but my last of the year turned out to be just about the best. Having seen Steve Hackett a few times over the years in various settings including GTR last year’s Summer’s End set was the first time that I had seen the solo electric band. They didn’t disappoint then and having the opportunity to see them again only a few miles from my home was a no brainer.
Pontardawe is a small crossroads town in the Swansea valley and the 450 seat theatre is a lovely space with an open floor and seating in the balcony around three sides. The venue is used for a broad range of arts and entertainment with rock, jazz and folk music regularly on the bill but the audience tonight was clearly anticipating a great show from the Genesis legend and his excellent band.
This year’s line-up features members of long standing Roger King (keys), Gary O’Toole (drums) and Rob Townsend (sax, flute, etc.) with bass and Chapman Stick handled by the extraordinary Nick Beggs who played on Steve’s latest album
Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth and joined the touring band last year. The addition of Amanda Lehman on guitar and vocals has been a masterstroke which has certainly broadened the versatility of the band.
With no support and expectation in the air the Eastern themed intro began at 7.45 sharp, Steve and colleagues arriving on stage to a warm reception. Cheers greeted opener Every Day, a great way to start and played to perfection, the sound crystal clear with the volume pitched just right to let the material and performances shine. What followed was a master class of how to put on a rock show, the pace and interest maintained throughout the twists and turns of some widely varied material which included classical, acoustic, blues and world music amongst the more traditional rock motifs.
Needless to say the set included a selection of songs from ...Tunnel’s Mouth in the shape of Emerald And Ash, Tubehead, Sleepers and Still Waters plus pieces from many eras of Steve’s 40 year career. The band were up to the job of delivering the songs both in terms of the playing which throughout was crisp, energetic and fascinating to watch and also the vocals, stunning 4 and 5 part harmonies employed where required.
With Amanda on board a stunning new addition to the set is Shadow Of The Heirophant from Steve’s first solo album Voyage Of The Acolyte which was bookended with that albums opening track Ace Of Wands in great style and with added bass pedal action from Nick. Like a cross between the Child Catcher and a Victorian undertaker Mr. Beggs was a focal point as usual and contributed some wonderful bass, particularly the Rickenbacker, and a lovely Stick solo piece, The Darkness In Men’s Hearts.
Steve’s acoustic solo spot featured beautiful renditions of Horizons and another piece the name of which I didn’t catch, the skill with which he wields a classical guitar truly mesmerizing. Also noteworthy during the set was the appearance of a very nice new track called Prairie Angel which Steve described as being enjoyable to play as it hadn’t yet coalesced into the finished article.
Needless to say most of those present were eager to hear some Genesis classics and they were not disappointed with impeccable performances of Watcher Of The Skies, Carpet Crawlers, Blood On The Rooftops, Los Endos and Firth Of Fifth, the latter opening the encore with some beautiful keyboards from Roger King and a marvellous rendition of one of Steve’s finest solos. Lead vocals on the Genesis tracks were handled by Gary O’Toole who really does the songs justice. All were greeted with rapture by the very appreciative crowd.
The two and a half hour show was pulled together in a finale of the classic Clocks from Spectral Mornings with much energy and clowning around from O’Toole, Beggs and Rob Townsend who deserves special mention for the depth his stunning woodwind adds to the pieces.
After the show the merchandise stand was doing a roaring trade and Steve appeared to chat, shake hands and sign whatever he was asked to. This seems to be a regular occurrence and a lovely touch for the many who wish to show their appreciation and puts Steve right up there with the true gentlemen of the genre.
Before the gig I was not intending to write a review but it soon became apparent that a write-up was required. As I had no means of making notes I apologise if some of the details have eluded me and am particularly sorry that I was unable to get any better photos but suffice to say that this was a fantastic night in the company of a true rock legend and a band that has gelled into a fearsome live unit. Steve Hackett has become the true keeper of the Genesis flame and the set is masterfully paced through a variety of styles, wonderful solo highlights and classic Genesis crowd pleasers. Miss this at your peril.
Bob Mulvey's Review
I was to catch the Steve Hackett band a week or so later than Jez and at the purpose built and multi-functional The Sage in Gateshead - an impressive venue indeed. Tonight's concert was hosted in Hall 2 - an intimate, almost circular, tiered room, holding a couple of hundred people.
Now the day didn't bode well, as winter in the North East of England had arrived somewhat earlier this year and with 6 inches (15cm) of snow falling in the preceeding twenty four hours, travelling to the gig was an off and on affair all day. Eventually we took up the challenge and thankfully arrived in plenty of time. On the journey up we discussed when we had last seen Hackett, which we all got wrong as it was in fact March 2004 at Middlesbrough Town Hall - (reviewed here). From that concert, the Hackett band of Roger King (keyboards), Gary O’Toole (drums & vocals) and Rob Townsend (saxes, flutes & clarinet) remains the same. Taking over on bass was Nick Beggs and additionally this time around was a sixth member and the equally impressive Amanda Lehman on guitar and vocals.
Looking at the set-list below provided by Jez, it would appear that we witnessed very similar shows. With a few minor variations in the order...
The evening kicked off in fine style with Valley Of The Kings and appeared to settle the band straight into the evening. Following this was the sparkling Every Day and an early indication of how special this band are. The sound was awesome, the performances exemplary and the four and five part harmonies being the icing on the cake. The material for the evening was chosen wisely covering Steve's long solo career as well as a few tunes from that other band he used to be in. And from that band we were treated to versions of Watcher Of The Skies, Carpet Crawlers, Blood On The Rooftops, Los Endos and Firth Of Fifth.
Firth Of Fifth, the first of the encores, was played in its entirety and with Roger King totally nailing the piano sections. Watcher Of The Skies was the first of the Genesis tunes for the evening and as soon as those distinctive mellotron sounds emerged from the speakers the audience showed their appreciation. Perhaps the track that worked least well was Carpet Crawlers, a tricky one to do live, but certainly the majority of the audience enjoyed the chance to sing along. Blood On The Rooftops also saw the majority of the audience joining in. Preceded by Steve's acoustic set this was one of the highlights of the evening.
I mentioned Blood On The Rooftops as a highlight, but this should in no way be seen as a reflection on the rest the performance. For me the whole set was beautifully balanced with light and shade, acoustic delicacy through to thunderous highs. And as mentioned earlier the balance between the older and newer material was well thought out. The band didn't rely on the Genesis legacy, merely incorporated it into a fascinating show.
Other highlights for me were Shadow Of The Hierophant, a nice touch with Amanda Lehman doing justice to Sally Oldfield's original contribution. Fire On The Moon (my favourite track from Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth) was breathtaking and again the addition of the vocal harmonies was a real treat. I suppose the reality of it is, that the whole evening was just one highlight and the lulls in the set more than likely my own personal preferences emerging. So Tubehead and the bluesy Still Waters from the last Hackett album did little for me. It was nice to hear a new track, Prairie Angel, albeit in embryonic form segued into Los Endos.
I've said little about the band so far... Well they all seemed very relaxed and the interactions on stage came across as natural and warm. Gary O’Toole's conducting during Shadow Of The Hierophant demonstrating some of the lighter moments, whilst the twin lead guitars from Hackett and Lehman added greatly to the visual in Sierra Quemada. Nick Beggs proved to be somewhat of a revelation on the evening. Prior to the gig I heard a few people discussing him and perhaps wary of his less proggy past during the eighties. I feel, however, they may have been persuaded to change these opinions - possibly by his strong stage presence and strange attire, or by the Rickenbacker bass or thunderous Roland bass pedals. They might have been swayed by his Chapman Stick playing or his excellent vocal harmonies. I doubt by the end of the evening there was a sceptic left in the house. New to the camp, Amanda Lehman also proved to be a fine addition to the line-up. Certainly the most attractive member of the band, but let this remark not take away from her fine guitar playing throughout and again her lovely vocal harmonies.
Of the old guard - Roger King remained perched on his stool throughout and that's all he needed to do. The sounds and his performance were awesome. Gary O’Toole is a formidable drummer - enough said. Rob Townsend's contributions are far too numerous to mention adding saxes, flutes and clarinet both subtly and quite often taking the limelight. Steve Hackett - well he was and is Steve Hackett.
If you didn't manage to catch any of these concerts - bookmark the next chance you get! To get a flavour of what you missed the Steve Hackett band have just released a new live album. So all we need now is a DVD?
Over the past year or so I've witnessed several of the "stalwarts" of prog and not all, I have to say, have stood the passage of time, however based on this performance and by the looks of Jez's glowing report, Steve Hackett and band are still on top of their game. This was two and quarter hours of top notch prog, which seemed to go like a blink of the eye...
Valley Of The Kings
Emerald And Ash
Golden Age Of Steam
Watcher Of The Skies
Fire On The Moon
Ace Of Wands
Shadow Of The Hierophant
Acoustic solo (Horizons +1)
Blood On The Rooftops
The Darkness In Men's Hearts (Nick Beggs solo)
Prairie Angel/Los Endos
Firth Of Fifth
Steve Hackett Official Website
Steve Hackett Myspace