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Steve Hackett's To Watch The Storms Tour 2003

 

When news arrived in summer 2003 that the former Genesis guitarist would go on tour with a band, nobody really believed it. In the last ten years there had always been rumours that Hackett would play some gigs in Germany, but apart from a heavily publicised gig in Cologne in June 1994 nothing could be seen from him here. Though he has done smaller tours with different bands since he founded his own label and released the comeback album Guitar Noir no German promoter was interested in him. Now, some 22 years after his last German tour with a band and 15 years after his last acoustic appearance in Germany on the Momentum tour we are given no less than six opportunities to celebrate Steve’s comeback on German stages.

Fans could prepare themselves very well with the Somewhere In South America… Live In Buenos Aires DVD. This recording contained large parts of the current repertoire, and the band had not changed either. Steve Hackett was accompanied by Roger King (on keyboards), Gary O’Toole (drums), Rob Townsend (saxophone and flute) and Terry Gregory (bass). It still was the greatest to see him live, particularly if you had not had the opportunity before.

It was, of course, not known beforehand which songs would be picked for this tour. Many people assumed that he would play lots of material from the current album To Watch The Storms. In the meantime it has turned out that the set list is a walk through his complete oeuvre.

Mechanical Bride
Though the opening song of the current tour has only recently been released on To Watch The Storms, it has developed into a classic since its première on the Italian tour 2002. Steve indulges in his predilection for the early King Crimson because this hectic number with lots of contrasts resembles the 1969 song 21st Century Schizoid Man. Compared to the DVD version this was the final album version which is even richer in weird parts. The jazz-style solo part was extended into a real battle between keyboards and saxophone. Another remarkable thing about this live version are the extremely “broken”, smoky, Tom Waites-style vocals which led to fears that Hackett’s voice was failing even at the beginning of the show. It wasn’t. The next song proved it.

Serpentine Song
After the introductions Steve warns us that the setlist would be full of contrasts. He then proved it with Serpentine Song, another future classic from the current album. This song also borrows from early Crimson, but rather from their romantic-lyrical side (think of I Talk To The Wind). The choirs come in perfectly and Rob Townsend gives all on the flute and the soprano saxophone.

Watcher Of The Skies (instrumental version)
This is always a delightful mellotron intro. This is the abbreviated instrumental version of the song Genesis released on Foxtrot. Steve used to played it like this with Genesis after Gabriel’s departure. The main differences lie in the slower speed it it played here and in the fact that the final chord is in minor instead of major.

Hairless Heart
The nostalgia in the audience is prolonged. Hackett remains in his early years and plays the brief but emotional Hairless Heart from Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.

Darktown
The sound of the title song of Hackett’s 1999 album lives up to the mood the title promises, but it is even more lively and weird. Hackett’s “deep voice from the cellar” narrative may not be to everyone’s liking, but it fits the atmosphere of the song.

Camino Royale
The band plays the most peppy interpretation of the Highly Strung album classic from 1983. All the musicians showcase their talents and Steve proves that he does not need distorting voice effects. Instead he makes peculiar sounds with his guitar using weird effects.

Pollution B / The Steppes
Pollution is a kind of spheric improvisation. The soundscape is a lovely “quiz” for hardcore fans and a great intro to Steve’s 1980 Defector album. The slow but driving instrumental leads the audience into oriental impressions, accompanied by a particularly impressive soprano saxophone bit. Many people consider this the best moment of the show.

Acoustic medley (Black Light, Horizons etc.)
The obligatory medley presents Steve’s other side. When he jumbles around bits and fragments of his large repertoire of (purely) acoustical guitar pieces only hardcore fans can distinguish how many and which pieces are performed. We could identify Black Light (Bay Of Kings, 1983) and Horizons (Foxtrot).

Walking Away From Rainbows
This instrumental ballad requires the help of keyboarder and saxophone player. The plain piece that was released on his 1993 comeback album Guitar Noir unfolds his beauty only after one has listened to it several times. It has justly reached cult status. The rainbow-coloured light design invites to dream.

Slogans
It came as a surprise that Hackett dug out this instrumental for the tour. The highlight of Defector catches the typical creepy and mystical flair of Hackett’s early works – and still is a powerful rock number.

Everyday
The opening song of Hackett’s probably best-known solo album Spectral Mornings (1979) fascinates because of the fine choirs and the pleasantly long and bombastic guitar solo at the end.

Please Don’t Touch / Firth Of Fifth (guitar solo)
Another opening song is performed with all its weird parts in full glory. Please Don’t Touch was the previous album. The final barrel organ melody brings the band into the groove for the Firth Of Fifth guitar solo that, even thirty years after Genesis released Selling England By The Pound, has lost nothing of its magic.

The Wall Of Knives / Vampire With A Healthy Appetite

A thounderstorm of sounds á la Noisejazz forms the intro to a live favourite from Hacketts more immediate past. Vampire With A Healthy Appetite (from Guitar Noir) comes across in its the usual straight rock song version. In the final section the band enjoy fighting instrumental duels.

Spectral Mornings
The song that is the embodiment of the “Hackett sound” to many people is even fresher with his current band than on Spectral Mornings. Even without vocals Hackett’s intense singing guitar leaves everybody hovering five inches above the ground.

Brand New
This fun song proves that even people like Hackett who like to experiment can write material that is suitable for radio airplay. Special light effects underline the spacey bridges. The vocals of the chorus come across astoundingly clear.

Myopia (intro) / Los Endos
Fast hammering riffs are the only example from Hackett’s 1984 album Till We Have Faces. They soon lead into the obligatory last number from the days of Genesis which was extended by several parts such as a passage from Genesis’ Dancing With The Moonlit Knight. This new rendition of the bombastic instrumental found another home in several countries on Hacketts’ 1996 album Genesis Revisited.

Clocks – The Angel of Mons
The addition comes from Spectral Mornings. Another classic is revived and turned into a typical gloomy, but strong instrumental.

... In That Quiet Earth (Part 1)
At the end of the encore Steve delights his fans with a Genesis number in 3/4 from the 1976 album Wind & Wuthering. The keyboard-dominated second half of the instrumental is replaced by some solos.

In Memoriam
This second encore was played in few cities only. The final number on Darktown is a fine mixture of choral parts and Steve’s mystical recitations.


This is truly a varied programme that includes the essential tracks of almost every solo or Genesis album. Even malevolent critics will be hard-pressed to find something to complain about. Okay, one need not like Hackett’s voice, especially when it is distorted by some effects. It is quite possible that some vocal parts were sampled, but though few songs of the new album were played, the selection of songs should have satisfied almost everybody. Especially when they are played by such an excellent band. It was wonderful to feel that not only the hungry fans got their share but that Hackett and band have not lost, but rediscovered their fun at playing music. They may also have been impressed by the fact that the clubs were full to capacity. This would have been a sign that Steve Hackett has not been forgotten in Germany even though he has not played here in a long time. His way of saying “thank you” is another tour in 2004.

Author – Steffen Gerlach
Photos – Sabine Zindler
Translation – Martin Klinkhardt




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