GIG REVIEW: An Evening With STEVE HACKETT at The Enmore Theatre, Sydney
At a time when it is easier than ever to access music from the past, younger listeners can now discover great music from before their time – opening the floodgates for music consumers to develop an appetite for ambitious music. Guitar legend Steve Hackett has been a working musician for nearly all his life, and his restless creativity and spellbinding music has assured him a place amongst a handful of musicians who inspire younger artists to raise their standards and aim for greatness.
Just over 40 years ago as a leading member of Genesis – one of Prog’s most celebrated outfits – Hackett surprised his recording and touring band mates with the release of the first of his many formidable solo albums that would go on to broaden his horizons, and collaborate with some fantastic musicians all around the world for the next four decades.
Today, Hackett’s work could not be more relevant, especially as there is now a demand for music without genre constraints. In Genesis, Hackett was a shy young musician, usually sitting down while playing his guitar; but now as a solo artist, he owns the stage and is a confident front man who sings lead vocals and co-writes the lyrics with his wife. Yet for the many accolades, accomplishments and places Hackett has traveled to since then, there was one destination he still had to tick of – a trip down under. Australian Genesis fans never witnessed the band live back in their glory days, so this year for the first time in Hackett’s career, he performed in front of his antipodean fans – playing not just his solo music but revisiting some of the original Genesis material. Hackett’s impressive catalogue can easily spread across more than just “a one-off show”, but for fans that had waited such a long time to see the man in the flesh, going to the Friday night Sydney gig at The Enmore Theatre was a real treat.
Unlike many modern rock concerts, this was an all seated affair. The audience was over 50, but it was still possible to see Opeth and Porcupine Tree t-shirts amongst the group of loyal progressive rock fans. One of the more humorous encounters of the evening was a man at the bar with a sign reading “Musicians wanted for a Genesis tribute band”.
With no support act on the bill, Hackett and his band got on stage at an early time of 7:30pm and kicked off with the song “Every Day” from his 1979 solo album ‘Spectral Mornings’, followed by songs from his latest album ‘The Night Siren’. Hackett greeted the audience and acknowledged that it’s taken a few decades for him to get to Australia, but that he was delighted with the warm reception. Not only is he an awe-inspiring guitar player – he’s also a pretty good harmonica player! And during the song “In the Skeleton Gallery”, there was a jam between Hackett on harmonica and Rob Townsend on flute. The song “Behind the Smoke” was also quite powerful live, and Hackett explained to the audience that it was about his ancestors moving from Poland to England 100 years ago, pointing out how migrants back then were always welcomed. If you’re someone who is familiar with his latest music, he did not attempt to replicate the recorded versions of the songs. Instead, he used his band to add more colorful layers in the compositions as if they were paintings that could be re-worked with a few extra brushstrokes. I also have to give props to the sound engineers who did a terrific job at making the band’s performance sound top-quality – especially in a nice old space like The Enmore. The light show was perfectly timed to the rhythm and never overrode the music at any point. What makes this show entertaining is purely the music; it never let down. And even though it could easily get you on your feet, it didn’t require the audience to stand up.
Nad Sylvan came on stage later to perform the Genesis songs, and his voice echoed Peter Gabriel’s vocals and charisma to perfection. On the second half of the show, Hackett’s band fully demonstrated why Genesis was the creative powerhouse of 70’s Prog Rock. The set list comprised heavily of Genesis songs between 1971- 1976 when Gabriel and Hackett were both active in the band and were churning out masterpiece after masterpiece. Out of the many songs to choose from there were 3 opuses that defined Genesis’ place in music history: “Firth of Fifth”, “The Musical Box” and “Supper’s Ready”. “The Musical Box” in particular got an overriding applause and sounded magical live, as it was clear to hear the intricacies of the composition. “Firth of Fifth” of course has Hackett’s finest guitar passage, and “Supper’s Ready” is a film for the ears with the audience all responding at the top of their voices to Nad Sylvan’s “A flower” call out.
It was a heartfelt occasion to see Steve Hackett and Co. finally play those imaginative whimsical songs that have stood the test of time and touched so many people’s lives, spanning three different generations of Aussie fans. In his late 60s, Hackett is looking well and still plays guitar with heart and soul. His band are all excellent musicians, and have certainly filled the shoes of the original Genesis members to great effect. Hackett is very much an artist who is musically looking forward and actively promotes world peace, combating hatred and division and advocating human rights not just in his compositions, but also with his actions. I’m sure he will continue to unleash his imagination in the years to come, and we hope the door still might be open for many more Australian tours down the line.