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Steve Hackett Wuppertal

Steve Hackett live with Orchestra and Choir

Genesis Revisited - Historische Stadthalle Wuppertal, 14-16 April 2023


Preface:

Three whole years of waiting for a musical event that seemed to be under no good star. The pandemic caused it to be postponed again and again. Hotel and train bookings had to be canceled, wife and daughter couldn't and didn't want to come, but my old school friend did.

Then the booked train didn't run, the hotel reservation was sent to a wrong e-mail address and the concert tickets had been misplaced after three years. I finally found them Tuesday before the concert weekend in a book in the depths of a bookshelf.

Well, those dark clouds dissipated in the Wuppertal evening sun on Friday.

But, then Steve's announcement that he hurt his hand and Amanda had vocal problems due to a cold. Oh and the band had to travel separately because their flight had been canceled.

Anyway, curtains up, let the concerts begin.


Location:

PosterAs a Berliner, the historic Stadthalle in Wuppertal reminds me a bit of the Reichstag, smaller, without a dome, but just as much a representative building from the Wilhelminian period, classicist with magnificent Art Nouveau murals inside, ornate inlays, huge chandeliers and marble floors. Thus it towers over Wuppertal as an ornament. *1

Yes, Wuppertal, the old metropolis of the textile industry, must once have been very prosperous. *2


Setlist:

I was not edified about reports and the (wrong) announcement (I refer to Friday) that the complete Selling England By the Pound album would be played. This Steve had already done in 2019 and currently he honors the audience with Foxtrot in full beauty. For the performance with orchestra and choir I wished for more variety - and was heard. They went back to the original setlist of the Orchestra Tour 2018, so also with the grail of Genesis music, Supper's Ready. Possibly the reason for this was the existing template of the notation, the arrangements that conductor Thachuk had worked out with Steve. *3


Stage:

I sat in the first row, centered on the gallery, with a wonderful view across the hall to the stage. The staggering, in front the band, behind it the orchestra and above it the choir, promised a lot acoustically. The strings of the orchestra were behind the band, from left to right violins, cellos, violas, finally basses, and, behind then the wind instruments, the conclusion was formed by timpani and percussion. With the choir there were about 75 musicians on stage.

The choir entered the stage first, followed by the orchestra. After the announcement, conductor Thachuk, Steve and band finally appeared to frenetic applause.


ConCert:

The hall was flooded in lava-red light and the first chords of Dance On A Volcano started the show. On Friday, Nad messed up his performance (as he did back in London), or had to adjust the position of the microphone. At first everything was lost in a sound mash. The sound engineering quickly adjusted and in the middle of the song it got better. On Saturday there were no more problems. Powerful was this performance, without gap, emptiness between the verses, the solos, the playing of the band. This effect is achieved with the orchestra and refined by the choir. *4

Already the bright colors of the lightshow during this song contrasted wonderfully with the stucco ceiling, the arabesque-like scrollwork of the walls. My eyes didn't know where to look first.

Two solo numbers by Steve followed with Out Of The Body and The Steppes. The Steppes was a highlight of the evening. Band, orchestra and choir merged into one. I thought I could hear the vastness of the Steppes with their very own sound. Magical! I have never heard this instrumental piece so powerful, warm, organic.

There was hardly time to catch breath, because now followed with Firth Of Fifth THE symphonic piece of Genesis. Here now it showed how much a choir can ennoble this wonderful music. With its Mellotron voices it is made for a choir, but live human voices cannot be replaced. Just listen to the use of the choir starting at minute eight during Steve's solo. Only one term comes to my mind: angelic! I think I saw how happily smiling and moved Steve turned around and bowed to the choir. Not only he was moved! When the bombastic, Wagnerian finale sounded, I was not ashamed of my tears. The audience went wild.

With Dancing With Whe Moonlit Knight came Nad's finest hour. Not only how he sings the first verses acapella deserves high recognition. Now he was confident, intoned well. Speaking of which, Nad completely dispensed with his foppish mannerisms. He was dressed in a plain black shirt and acted distinguished according to the ambience. This piece from Selling England By the Pound was also ennobled by the chorus, prompting comparisons to the Bayreuth Festival. Starting with "..You know what you are, you don't give a damn" the chorus set in, ghostly weaving around Nad's vocals, welcomed by Steve's guitar to drive the piece along with the violins. After the instrumental passage on "There's a fat old lady outside the saloon" it was the choir that incomparably "set the mood" pure goosebumps. Quite long with many small instrumental gimmicks the piece sounds out and leaves the listener hypnotized.

Now Steve took a stool and picked up the acoustic guitar. He announced Blood On The Rooftops - with an excuse that he couldn't play the intro due to an injury of his left hand. A bit of a downer. But, how touchingly gentle, beautiful and understated the piece was performed. A cleverly chosen contrast to the two bombastic - orchestral England By the Pound - pieces. The strings and woodwinds took over many keyboard parts, inviting to dream and sink into melancholy.

Since I knew the setlist and knew that Amanda Lehmann was part of the party, I took a deep breath, because now Shadow Of the Hierophant came in all its progressive beauty. Steve announced his sister-in-law with the words, we may have understanding that she could not unfold her voice as beautifully as usual due to a cold. If I had known that she would not be able to sing the following concerts, my enthusiasm would have been even greater. I am still at a loss for words about the performance of the piece that was presented. If back then in London 2018 I floated in another world for a long time after the sound cascades faded out, these of the Wuppertal version still hold me today. Is this Steve Hackett at the zenith of his ability? As ecstatically as he played, nodded to his fellow musicians and at the end was briefly silent and bowed deeply, one can only answer this question with "yes". The result was a warm, organic, full sound that shook the venerable Stadthalle to its foundations. Yes, a musical tremor that sent us listeners off into the break.

With a drum roll begins ...In That Quiet Earth and thus half two of the concerts. Very nicely Steve plays himself into the foreground, again the orchestra replaces keyboard parts. Here the strings stand out. Of course, the bombastic instrumental is followed by Afterglow. Nad's vocals are found embedded in the chorus. The orchestra accompanies the band to unimagined harmonic heights. If the Afterglow in London was already indescribable, this one is so moving, so fantastic, that it may never end. I dare the blasphemous statement, even Genesis have never managed it better.

With the Serpentine Song Amanda enters the stage again to take over (on Friday) harmony vocals and the second guitar. Unobtrusively this, almost poppy, violin-accented song goes by. It is replaced by the instrumental El Nino with its Middle Eastern sounds. I must admit to having lost a bit of attention here. Was I waiting for Supper's Ready after all.

It started abruptly, with a strum on the guitar. Right, Steve had problems to play the acoustic guitar. So the long intro with the twelve strings was cancelled. Nevertheless, it became a tour de force of sounds, sounds, rhythms. I would like to refer here to my comments about the show in London. At that time I had thought that this version could not be topped. But far from it! The choir ennobled the then said/now played angelically tender, slaughter - tumult loud. He gets his "solo" with: "We will rock you, rock you little snake. We will keep you snug and warm" Nad paid tribute to Peter with his singing. The band played as one. The orchestra dotted the i's in the dramatic turns of Willow Farm, Apocalypse in 9/8 and As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs. At last the roar of the supernatural powers ends in the redemption around the New Jerusalem. Yes, I saw the angel standing in the sun in the town hall and wanted to follow him. It was incredibly moving, hauntingly beautiful!

After never-ending applause, the band played, first without orchestra, a routine The Musical Box. I find it amusing that many visitors still can do nothing with the sounds of a music box, which Steve "gave" his version as an intro. Disbelievingly, they are amazed and only cheer when they hear the familiar sounds. Steve elicited whooping sounds from his guitar. He was the unassuming spiritus rector throughout the concert, congenially supported by conductor Brad Thachuck. Thus, successful concert evenings ended in deafening minutes of cheers and applause with flowers for the musicians.


Post script

Also the Saturday, where Nad sang even better, band, orchestra and choir were still a tad better tuned to each other, left the above impressions. The sound was somewhat better upstairs in the gallery than downstairs in the stalls - which was mainly due to the fact that the choir and orchestra came into their own better and were woven into the overall sound more optimally.

How can I describe my feelings while listening, no: recording this great music? How, without reducing what I heard to earthly dimensions? In the time of Genesis with Peter, it was the incredible visual impressions of the rock theater, Peter's masks with a visionary lightshow for the time that caused a sensation; for Genesis with Phil as singer, the perfect live implementation of the music gained fame and now?

Now how about this presentation of a former member of Genesis with his fine band, orchestra and choir? Certainly a further highlight in the great Genesis universe. A highlight that stands on equal footing with the shows of the past.

Even now, days after, I am amazed by the successful fusion of band, orchestra and choir into a brilliant organ of music, their fusion of E and U.

Everyone/anyone who was there can consider themselves lucky to have experienced something wonderful, historic in terms of Genesis music.


Final remarks

May I make a wish? I would like to hear this ensemble in the Berlin Philharmonie.

The sound space there is unique. In the Stadthalle, I thought I heard a slight reverb now and then. After all, Sir Simon Rattle has praised their sound! *

I will come again!


References:
1. About Historische Stadthalle: https://www.stadthalle.de/de/das-haus/baukultur/
2. Engels-Haus in Wuppertal: https://www.mi-wuppertal.de/museum/engelshaus
and an example of the industry culture: https://www.wuppertal.de/tourismus-freizeit/schwebebahn/schwebebahn.php
3. See also: https://www.genesis-fanclub.de/c-Steve-Hackett-Mit-Orchester-Genesis-Revisited-in-der-Royal-Festival-Hall-London-2018-Bericht-s806.html
4. See *3. In the following, I have tried to avoid duplication with the above report. Comparisons by the reader(s) are of course useful.
5. See *1

Author: Thomas Jesse
Photos: Michaela Ix


Für Robert. Danke für das Vorspielen von Foxtrot 1978. Einen besseren Freund kann es nicht geben.


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