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Steve Hackett und Band live in Leipzig 2019

Steve Hackett live: A magical night in Leipzig

Not Only The Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere

For quite a number of years Steve Hackett has regaled his fans with long tours and various versions of the general tour concept “Genesis Revisited”. His unending Genesis Revisited tour has been revamped again in 2019 to include tracks from his most recent album (which is, currently, At The Edge Of Light) and also focuses on historical material. His classic solo album Spectral Mornings forms the core of the first half of the show, and much of the second half is dedicated to the Genesis album Selling England By The Pound that makes the top three in any “What’s your favourite Genesis …” survey. It sounds like a lot of music for one concert, and it is. It was not just the music that made the night magic, though, but also the band that keeps evolving and reaching new heights (not least because of a new band member).

13The tour was still young when Steve and his band came to Leipzig. They had played a couple of shows in Belgium, Germany, Austria and Italy. With most fans well aware of what has been played at previous shows the element of surprise is lost to a certain degree, but the anticipation still grows.

Situated outside the city centre, Haus Auensee has almost become the venue of choice for Genesis-related concerts. The Musical Box have played here, so have Mike + The Mechanics and Steve Hackett, too. The interior has been redone to the big advantage of the venue, and this time the balcony seats were offered, too. The event was nearly sold out in the end.

Steve’s band consists of permanent members Roger King (keyboards) and Rob Townsend (various instruments) along bass-player Jonas Reingold, singer Nad Sylvan and the new drummer Craig Blundell. The latter followed the very likable Gary O’Toole, who quit the band by his own desire.

9The evening has a plausible structure: The first part consists of a mix of new material from At The Edge Of Light and a number of tracks from the jubilee album Spectral Mornings. After the break, they played Selling England By The Pound in one go.

The show began with Every Day. This has frequently been played live in recent years, and it provides the instrumentalists with an opportunity to let off steam. Steve then welcomed the audience and pointed out that he would speak English since his German did not go very far. He added that he loved coming to Leipzig. Then they played three tracks from the new album:

Under the Eye of the Sun
Fallen Walls and Pedestals
Beasts in Our Time

49The first song worked very well live. The other two were joined, and despite their fluent and passionate performance they still need a bit more live routine. You could, of course, always wonder why tracks like Underground Railroad or the instrumental Descent were not played. The album finale, Peace, might have been a good ending for the first part of the set. Other tracks such as Those Golden Wings or Shadow And Flame have probably proved too difficult to turn into a live version. It all comes down to the necessity of deciding, and there is definitely no “right or wrong” here, just “either … or…” In the end it is just your personal preference.

Beasts In Our Time was followed by classics from Spectral Mornings:

Steve played a twelve-string guitar for The Virgin And The Gypsy, and Craig Blundell came to the front of the stage to play some percussion. The track was well-received. The song par of Tigermoth was cut, so only the instrumental part was performed. Then the classic: There can be no doubt that Spectral Mornings the song is the highlight on Spectral Mornings the record. It has one of the signature solos on Steve’s solo records. And it was a magic moment indeed when Steve’s guitar came in after the intro and the familiar melody filled the venue.

100The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere was a surprise. It could not really be expected that Steve would break out this rather unusual piece for a concert. And it kind of gives you time to catch your breath before Clocks – The Angel Of Mons was played as the finale of the first set. Clocks was strong, playful, much more alove than on the record. It included an unbelievable drum solo by Craig Blundell that was celebrated by the audience. During the long, loud applause after the song Steve announced a twenty minute break.

The expected storm of ecstasy broke loose when Nad began to sing the first lines of Dancing With The Moonlit Knight. Suddenly it was back: the magic of Genesis that is so hard to explain. The band went out on a limb with I Know What I Like. Their interpretation was idiosyncratic, jazzy, even funky. The song was drawn out longer then Genesis ever did. What the band showed most of all here was how brilliant they have become. What an experience.

41Just a few weeks ago the Mechanics played Dresden and Mike tried a rather wooden version of the Firth Of Fifth solo. I thought “well, forget that, I am going to hear the real thing soon”. It is and it will always be Steve’s finest moment on the guitar. Armando Gallo put it rather well when he said that it did not matter how fast or how technically demanding Steve played, but rather how he stages every single note. Firth Of Fifth is the cream of the crop, the gold standard, if you will. And he transported us again. It is a grandiose song with a grandiose solo. No wonder why this song is in the top 5 of every popularity survey among fans. Roger King played a fine intro, too.

I was worried a bit about More Fool Me. Phil sings so very high that I suspected Nad would have to pull some tricks to sing this live. But Nad sang the song so close to the original – and so absolutely flawless (regarding both lyrics and hitting the high notes) that I owe him most respect. Kudos! That was excellent.

52The second half of the album contains The Cinema Show, another highpoint in the Genesis history. Though Craig played very impressively I kind of missed the odd fill and drumroll Phil seemed to be able to intersperse so easily. The Battle Of Epping Forest is one of the old songs that never really got me going. The sheer amount of lyrics makes it difficult to acknowledge any form of structure or melody in that song. Nad did not seem to mind, though. He nailed it..

Déjà Vu, the “deleted scene” of the album, as Steve put it, was another highlight. It was, in fact, a song idea of Peter Gabriel’s that Steve Hackett recorded “over 30 years later” (well, more than 20) for his first Genesis Revisited album with Paul Carrack as the singer. Nad did a good job here, and the song worked well with the band. Whether it was well-placed after Aisle Of Plenty or should have been played earlier in the set, is a question of taste. I think it would have fit well after More Fool Me, so that Aisle Of Plenty could have been the regular end of the album.

510Dance On A Volcano was the final song of the set before band returned for their traditional encore fireworks of Los Endos with Myopia and Slogans.

And then the show was over, after two and a half hours. Before the year is out Steve will have played eighty shows of this kind – an enormous feat for someone who is almost 70. He can always rely on his band.

Two member of the band require special mention:

Nad Sylvan

43His is the toughest job in the band. He sings Collins songs, Gabriel songs and Hackett songs. And Genesis songs are a challenge for the way he sings, and he has had to face a lot of criticism when things did not work at their best. But Sylvan is on the top of his game in 2019. He has evolved and has loads of self-confidence. He aced even the most difficult parts: More Fool Me is no piece of cake, and he sang it not only flawlessly but very close to the original version. And he managed the absurdly dense amounts of lyrics in The Battle Of Epping Forest as if he had never done anything else.

Nad is also known for his theatricality and costumes. Though he is a bit more guarded on this tour he still knows how to use his talents. This was an extremely strong performance. Kudos to him!

Craig Blundell

101Regrets were huge when Gary O’Toole announced his departure. The idiosyncratic and likable drummer has certainly left his mark on the sound of Hackett’s band. Steve chose Craig Blundell as his successor. Blundell has made a name for himself in Steven Wilson’s band – and, interestingly, he learned from John Shearer who played the drums on Spectral Mornings. Craig did not have to audition, and expectations were high for him. Plus he reveres Phil Collins as a drummer, and now he gets to play the classics of his heroes. Craig did not just play the music, though, he led the band and lifts their game even more. He is a real find for Steve.

Let us return to the set that was played:

If we compare the concert of May 5, 2019 with the Leipzig show two years earlier we find that exactly four (!) songs were played at both shows. Four! Every Day, Dance On A Volcano, Firth Of Fifth and Los Endos. Steve and his band play an enormous variety of songs. Steve not only changes bits in the solo part or the Genesis part but he keeps reworking it completely. This is why seeing Steve’s shows several times over is so very worth it. It is really stunning how adaptable the band are, how much they enjoy to play and to improvise. It is not just the red flower of Tachai blooms everywhere but the full range of musical colours that Steve brings to the stage again and again. Thank you!

Author: Christian Gerhardts
English by Martin Klinkhardt
Photos: Michaela Ix (taken in Stuttgart)

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