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Steve Hackett live in Collingswood 2018

PLEASE DON'T TOUCH - Yeah right, Or::

Steve Hackett live at Scottish Rite Auditorium, Collingswood, NJ, 16 Feb 2018

Preliminary note:

Gentle reader!

You may find it quite unavoidable to notice that these lines are steeped in blatant subjectivity. The author humbly begs your pardon. He furthermore begs to observe that this text has been penned by an enthusiast who confidently trusts to be addressing sympathetic enthusiasts.

Without further ado:

“The show can begin
I'm falling asleep to dream” (*1)

01 Personal information:

These days I celebrate the 40th return of the day when I bought my first albums – then just released – by Genesis (And Then There Were Three), Peter Gabriel (II aka Scratch), Anthony Phillips (Wise After The Event) and Steve Hackett (Please Don't Touch). And I really wanted to celebrate this highpoint of my Genesis career in big fashion. Egotistical as I sometimes am, I wanted to do it on my own.

Luckily I could join my brother on a journey on family business from Feb 12 to Feb 22 which took us to New York, Philadelphia and Washington. Steve Hackett's concert on Feb 16 fit perfectly into the schedule. I bought a concert ticket and arranged accomodation at the Apple Hostel Philadelphia *2), so there were no obstacles to my own personal anniversary date.

2. Locations:

Collingswood *3) is a small town (actually, what is small in the USA?) ten miles from Philadelphia, east of the Delaware river in New Jersey. It is a fifteen-minute ride with the subway from the hostel at downtown Philly, then a fifteen-minute walk to the Scottish Rite Auditorium… and not so easy to find the right turn on the big crossing, but the Americans are very friendly and helpful: “Straight ahead, passing Aldi”.

The Scottish Rite Auditorium *4) is a venue from the 1930s for concert and theatre performances. Forbidding though it looks from the outside, it has a beautiful but gloomy wood-panelled interior that reminds me of E.A.Poe's House Of Usher. The building takes its name from a Masonic Lodge founded in West Virginia in the 18th century *5). This is a stage that Frank Sinatra & co. could have performed on. But the audience, like me, was waiting for Steve Hackett.

3. The Audience:

The venue, a thousand-seater, was almost sold out. An elderly, very kind usher guided my to my seat, slightly right of the middle, some fifteen rows from the stage with an excellent view. The rows filled with friendly, open people (average age around 55). I got talking to the people next to me about the first time one of us saw Steve solo or with Genesis, and the sentence “a dream come true” kept popping up. I can truly say I have rarely (possibly never) encountered an audience this enthusiastic at a Steve Hackett concert.

4. The Band:

Steve and his band took the stage at exactly 8pm to the sounds of A Land Of Thousand Autumns. The new boy in the band is Jonas Reingold (of The Flower Kings, Kaipa, Karmakanic, The Tangent) on bass and twelve-string who lets you forget his predecessors fast. I have seen him before live with Kaipa – almost a year ago to the day in Berlin in front of 25 people *6).

Steve and his fellow musicians went straight to business. A small salute by Rob, deep bows by Gary and Steve and the show began.

5. The show – concept, musical and visual presentation, set list:

Steve Hackett has been touring for years with the same type of setlist: He plays songs from his gigantic solo output during the first half, and after a break he continues with the Genesis oeuvre. This night he played these songs:

1Set 1:
Please Don't Touch
Every Day
Behind the Smoke
El Niño
In the Skeleton Gallery
When the Heart Rules the Mind
Icarus Ascending
Shadow of the Hierophant

Set 2:
Dancing With the Moonlit Knight
One for the Vine
Inside and Out
The Fountain of Salmacis
Firth of Fifth
The Musical Box
Supper's Ready

Myopia / Slogans / Los Endos

The next day he replaced Los Endos with Dance On A Volcano and built The Steppes into Behind The Smoke. He would keep making these little changes between shows throughout his North American tour.

The concert began with a strong Please Don't Touch. Tailor-made as the opener for a live performance. The audience was with him straightaway and cheered even after the first chords while twenty Moving Head projectors painted all the colours onto the stage and the audience. Pleasant shivers ran down my spine. After this fine instrumental beginning Steve bowed to the audience with an impish smile and had warm words for his audience, his forty-year-old album Please Don't Touch and his first North American tour that took place so many years ago.

He continued with the 1979 uptempo son Every Day to frenetic applause. His vocals were very similar to Peter Hicks', they were strong and well-intoned – and we need not say anything about his guitar play. He then played three songs from his current album The Night Siren without further announcements, and it was an attractive bundle. It also showed that this band has become a unit. They exchange grins, the beats are counted easily and every now and then Rob, Roger or Gary play a solo. The maestro controls it all, obviously. The band was very much at ease playing, driven on by an incredibly cheering audience. There were no longer announcements, and there were not political statements (unlike on the European tour the previous year)

What followed were the highlights of the solo set. Steve asked for silence before he said that he did not mind reunions, and particularly a certain reunion, but that the band that created the song that was to follow was an exception. He announced that he would play When The Heart Rules The Mind, a song he loved dearly and a song that was a brief success in the charts. Nad joined him on stage and helped Steve singing. Was there playback? Steve's voice sounded clearer than ever, but I did not notice anything. Anyway, it was a pleasure to listen and watch (especially Roger's keyboard work). The audience were ecstatic, they sang along, clapped, danced, and I realized I was in America. This AOR thing is straight down their road. A highlight for the Americans who honored the song with standing ovations.

2A personal highlight followed: Icarus Ascending. Nad sang it brilliantly, very close to Richie Haven's voice. The band extended the song, Steve's solos were simply beautiful. How marvellous can a single piece of music be? I had tears in my eyes for the first time that night. This music – Steve has written it just for me. When I hear this song I am at one with the world. That was me there in the U.S. There are these rare moments of absolute bliss when you listen to music and feel you are one with the artist, the people next to you, everybody in the venue. This was one and it would not remain the only one.

Shadow Of The Hierophant was played in the instrumental “closing section” version. I was still so moved by Icarus Ascending that I could have used a break, but this song from Voyage Of The Acolyte carried me away again. Drums and bass were particularly noteworthy. You are carried by the waves of the sound and hope it never ends…

The second part of the show began after a short break. Nad stepped up to the microphone and began to sing: "Can you tell me where my country lies…" After a brief stunned break the audience sang along. The band joined in and there was the mythical, awe-inspiring mood of a Genesis show form the Selling England period. After the perfect opener, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, Steve sailed to the Wind & Wuthering album and played Tony's composition One For The Vine “to honour an extraordinary keyboarder”. It was followed by Inside And Out. This he introduced by praising Phil's first lyrics for Genesis and by adding that it was a shame this song was left off the album. When I heard them play this song last year I was a bit disappointed because of the weak vocals, but this time it was a revelation. Dear me, what a thrill! The whole venue shivered when the final chords ebbed away. Steve asked the audience whether they were interesting in knowing what the guys in Genesis did at midnight. Well, writing stuff and coming up something as weird as Fountain Of Salmacis. Ah, Steve went back to the very beginnings of his career in Genesis, back to Nursery Cryme, and he played – you guessed it – The Musical Box with the tinkling sound of a musical box (as on Genesis Revisited II). But hang out, something is surely missing here? Didn't the audience want to hear Steve's most famous guitar solo? Yes indeed. Firth Of Fifth was snuck in between the two songs from 1971. I cannot appreciate those three highlights from the Genesis universe on their own. It was terrific to listen to the music and see the musicians play along to a fantastic lightshow.

3After huge applause for The Musical Box (were there tears in the eyes of the guy next to me?) the venue fell absolutely silent as Steve sat down on a stool and switched to his acoustic guitar while Jonas reached for his twelve-string guitar. This could only mean one thing …
A religious service began. Every fan knows the chord sequence to Lover's Leap. Nad intoned the words:

„Walking across the sitting-room, I turn the television off

Sitting beside you, I look into your eyes

As the sound of motor cars fades in the night time

I swear I saw your face change, it didn't seem quite right

...And it's hello babe with your guardian eyes so blue

Hey my baby don't you know our love is true….”

And everybody sang along. Never before have I experienced people singing along to the holy grail of Genesis music, but there it was. I am moved to tears again when I think of this moment. This music transports me to ineffable raptures. This highlight of a wonderful concert ended much to quickly. The band played themselves into a frenzy, Nad sang better than ever, the lightshow accompanied the music brilliantly and Steve played on and on and on …

„…There's an angel standing in the sun, and he's crying with a loud voice,

"This is the supper of the mighty one",

Lord of Lords,

King of Kings,

Has returned to lead his children home,

To take them to the new Jerusalem….”

That moment I knew with moist eyes what these lines were about. After unending applause the band returned to the stage to end one of the best shows with Genesis music I have attended in recent years with Los Endos, encrusted with various Hackett solo gems.

6. All in all

PlakatI cannot explain to you, gentle reader, how I made my way back to my hostel in Philadelphia at 11.30pm. I was so intoxicated by the concert. Obviously, Steve has played a “safe” set. Of course I had hoped for more songs from Please Don't Touch (it's the 40th anniversary, after all, and Narnia was missing). Of course this concept of “two shows” can become tiring. That is what I wrote about the Berlin show last year. But I have learnt in Philadelphia how much the fans want to have it exactly this way. We are all thirsty for Genesis music onstage, we all go to see cover band (by the way, do I need to see The Musical Box this autumn?), we all soak up all the rumours about a reunion. Steve Hackett listens to us fans. Which is clever, because it earns him his living, but it is also with love to this music that he gives to us in three-hour shows. For this, my respect and my deepest thanks. And before I forget it: Happy birthday, Steve! See you in London in October!


Now gentle reader, kind fan or enthusiast, have these lines brought you pleasure? Shall we indulge the writer of these lines with the kind indulgence we have for a child that plays at nonsense? Gentle reader, do agree and forget the command “Please Don't Touch”….

*1: from: Steve Hackett: How Can I?
*6: and

Author: Thomas Jesse
English by Martin Klinkhardt
Photos: Michael Aarons & Cathy Poulton
(kindly provided by Amanda Lehmann)

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