To Genesis fans, 2017 is a milestone year for two reasons. First, it was 40 years ago that the British prog rock legends released their eighth studio album Wind & Wuthering (the second one to feature Phil Collins on lead vocals after Peter Gabriel‘s departure), as well as the double-live record Seconds Out.
But perhaps most noteworthy, that was also when guitarist Steve Hackett left Genesis to pursue a solo career. It was a major turning point for both parties: stylistically from a prog rock perspective, Wind & Wuthering marked one of the last remnants of the band’s classic period; Hackett went on to a long-lasting and eclectic solo career, and Genesis, as the trio of Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, gradually evolved into a hugely-successful commercial pop group into the ’80s and early ’90s.
Those 40th anniversary milestones weren’t lost on Hackett, and served as the basis for his current tour, Genesis Revisited With Hackett Classics. It’s a continuation of his ongoing exploration into his former band’s back catalog that began with the 1996 Genesis Revisited album. That is exactly what happened on Feb. 25 when Hackett and his four-piece band performed at New York City’s PlayStation Theater, focusing on over four decades worth of material he’s made with Genesis and as a solo artist.
The show kicked off with the Hackett Classics portion, starting with the gem "Every Day," from the musician’s Spectral Mornings album from 1979, and followed by other deep cuts such as the ominous "The Steppes," the anthemic "Rise Again" and the rip-roaring "Shadow of the Hierophant," which originally appeared on Hackett’s 1975 solo debut Voyage of the Acolyte.
Not focusing entirely on the past, Hackett also previewed material from his upcoming album The Night Siren, due out on March 24. Among the new songs from the record included the powerful and tumultuous instrumental "El Nino," and the dramatic Middle Eastern-sounding "Behind the Smoke", a timely song about refugees past and present.
The rest of the concert consisted of the music that Hackett made during his time with Genesis from 1971 to 1977, with him and the band devoting a good portion of that to the Wind & Wuthering album. Featuring mostly lead vocals by Nad Sylvan (who soulfully sounded uncannily like both Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel), the live performances of Wind & Wuthering were almost letter-perfect recreations from the original studio versions: the ebullient "Eleventh Earl of Mar," the epic "One for the Vine," the hauntingly beautiful and elegiac "Blood on the Rooftops" (featuring drummer Gary O’Toole on lead vocals) and the stirring "…In That Quiet Earth" before concluding with the gorgeous ballad "Afterglow," a Genesis live standard.
The Genesis classics continued during the show with the frenetic and fusion-influenced "Dance on a Volcano" from 1976’s A Trick of the Tail and a rarity titled "Inside and Out," which was originally recorded for Wind & Wuthering but didn’t ended up on the final track list. The crown jewel of the evening was without question "Firth of Fifth" (originally from Selling England by the Pound from 1973), which featured Hackett’s memorable and signature guitar solo that will always been synonymous with his time with Genesis. Judging by the audiences’s enthusiastic response, the evening came to a satisfying close with Hackett and company’s encore of the majestic instrumental "Los Endos," which, like "Afterglow" and "Firth of Fifth," had been a mainstay of Genesis’ live performances.
As evident from the PlayStation show, Hackett’s soaring guitar work still sounded vibrant that evening as it did nearly 50 years ago when he first joined Genesis to replace Anthony Phillips for Nursery Cryme back in 1970. With a calm and almost stoic demeanor that contrasted him from the more flamboyant axe masters, Hackett showed a dexterity and versatility in his performances, from strumming Latin-style acoustic to tapping on the electric numbers. His bandmates — Roger King on keyboards, Rob Townsend on woodwinds, Gary O’Toole on drums and Nick Beggs on bass — didn’t exactly sit on the sidelines, as each of them shone through their precise musicianship.
It’s also worthy to note that during the Wind & Wuthering section, Hackett poignantly paid tribute to King Crimson and Asia singer-bassist John Wetton, who passed away in January. He had previously collaborated with Hackett on the Genesis Revisited projects over the years. "We’ll love him forever," Hackett told the audience about his friend.
With the current Genesis lineup on hiatus performance-wise (and not counting the tribute groups like The Musical Box), Hackett’s tour is probably the closest for old and new fans today to hearing Genesis music from the early to mid ’70s-classic lineup period. To paraphrase a Genesis song from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Hackett was indeed "back in New York City" to the delight of prog fans at the PlayStation.
Steve Hackett, PlayStation Theater, Feb. 25, 2017 Set List
"In the Skeleton Gallery"
"Behind the Smoke"
"Shadow of the Hierophant"
"Eleventh Earl of Mar"
"One for the Vine"
"Blood on the Rooftops"
"…In That Quiet Earth"
"Dance on a Volcano"
"Inside and Out"
"Firth of Fifth"
"The Musical Box"
© UltimateClassicRock, by David Chiu
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