Steve Hackett at the Hammersmith Apollo
Hammersmith loves Hackett. Hackett loves Hammersmith. This was the return of the formidable Genesis guitarist to a stage that he performed at a year earlier showcasing his Genesis Revisited project. It was so successful that it was deemed worthy of a box set release. Although performed in a different order, this acted as a second chance for those who missed it the first time. Hackett’s compatriots were Roger King (keyboardist), Gary O Toole (Drums), Rob Townsend (Flute and Sax), Nick Beggs (Bass) and lastly the singer Nad Sylvan.
Even though audiences clearly came to see the innovative guitarist, it was Sylvan that was again largely impressive tonight. He was still the audio twin of Peter Gabriel, and his Freddie Mercury-inspired stage presence gave the allegiance a visual entertainment while taking the heat off Hackett, allowing him to concentrate on his pioneering sweep and picking techniques.
Despite his catalogue being drowned in progressive rock, Hackett has a true appreciation for operatic and classical compositions. Tonight’s performance was precisely constructed like a rock opera and much praise for that atmosphere has to be given to the lighting technicians. Spotlights traversed together to create star light patterns adulterating the stars on stage, lights were synchronised to fit the mood and pitch and they creatively complemented Sylvan’s theatrics, presenting him magically appearing and disappearing with grace. When the stage fell to pitch darkness between songs, it was a powerful filmic touch.
Despite one name appearing on the ticket, this was no doubt a team effort, with Rob Townsend still providing the reoccurring beautiful flutey moments, allowing a breather between the heavier occasions. He was also one of the main orchestrators of the Genesis tribute’s trademark whirlwind of sounds that provoked head banging, relaxation and awe. At one point, Hackett’s band dispersed for three minutes, allowing him to perform his recognised classic (and a crowd favourite) Horizons in which he caressed the acoustic guitar as if he was in solitude. Yet it was Shadow of the Hierophant that spurned a rapturous mid-gig standing ovation surprising the ever humble Hackett.
If there was one criticism it was that it felt overlong, threatening to outstay its hard-working welcome. But with such a large compendium, one can say that’s forgivable. When crowds stay glued to their seats long after the encore, that’s proof that Hackett is still welcome in their lives. As Hackett declared himself, “the museum is still open.”
Matt Taylor Hobbs
Photos: Matt Taylor Hobbs
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