From our Italian correspondent - March 09
Encore! The band in Italy. Photo © Ben Fenner
16th March - Day 5
What more fitting a place for a rousing finale than magnificent Rome? And here the legions, this time of the faithful, converged on the Stazione Birra to lend their ears (and their voices) to a guitarist still very much at the top of his game. But even Steve could not carry this material without the support of such a great band; if there’s a better live act on the planet it was difficult to imagine it after two hours of drama and delicacy, pace and power - this is an army of generals.
The band gave its all, as did the crowd. This was not a cast of five but a cast of thousands as Firth Of Fifth became the anthem that it surely deserves to be and Blood On The Rooftops, traditionally a solo vocal number, grew in to a choral tour de force.
From the brooding malevolence of Darktown to the elevating Everyday Day; like Rome itself this performance was a fusion of a golden past and a new beginning which promises so much for the future. Come back soon Steve!
15th March - Day 4
Another jaw-dropping gig in Pordenone last night, the band now well into its stride. Steve's mother June, headbanger-in-chief, duly claimed her rightful spot in the front row and basked in the glow from the stage. Mario Giammetti (of Dusk magazine) could also be spotted amongst a spellbound crowd, along with other friends from far and wide.
It's funny how the environment shapes the performance. In the more earthy atmosphere of the Deposito Giordino the band delivered a stunning, raw performance, perhaps more 'rocky' than in Schio's velvet clad theatre - storms were chased, towers were struck down, the moon blazed - yet the delicacy of Walking Away From Rainbows didn't remotely suffer, and Blood On The Rooftops can surely never have sounded better.
June could not have been more proud and who could blame her? There is much to be proud of.
The gates of Rome beckon and will not be denied. It promises to be a fitting finale.
14th March - Day 3
The Teatro Astra provides a rather more intimate atmosphere than the cavernous Palasport of Genova, but last night's gig in Schio was a riotous affair none-the-less.
Arriving during the siesta, a deserted town centre lay suspended between the surrounding mountain peaks and one could be forgiven for conjuring images of ghost towns from the silver screen. But Schio gradually awoke from its slumber during the course of the afternoon, and by nine o'clock the theatre was packed to the rafters.
Fire On The Moon raised not just the curtain but the roof as well, and set the scene for another barnstorming gig. It's difficult to chose highlights from such a wealth of material but perennial favourite Spectral Mornings soared and spirits rose with it. The appeal of the song will never wane but this particularly powerful lineup seems born to play it.
And so to Pordenone - Steve and his band have already taken Italy by storm and we await tonight's installment with baited breath.
13th March - Day 2
Last night's gig in Genova promised much, but did it deliver?
And how! From the opening drama of new song Fire On The Moon to the unleashed fury of Gary O'Toole's blistering drum solo on the timeless Clocks, Genova roared its approval, welcoming back one of rock's finest guitarist. It seemed like no time had passed as Steve and his band were more dynamic than ever. As one fan remarked, Hackett is like a fine wine - he seems to get better with age.
The awesome Firth Of Fifth, from its cascading piano to Steve's seminal guitar solo brought the house down, of course, but the new material was rapturously received too.
Bekilted Nick Beggs, bassist and Chapman Sticker extraordinaire, brought new power and vigour to old favourites; from thundering bottom end to searing solos he's the perfect foil to Steve's majestic guitar work.
And let's not forget Rob Townsend - from the poignant beauty of his Walking Away From Rainbows solo to the bestial violence of his Mechanical Bride solo - it's scarcely credible that this could all come from the one man.
Steve and the band took no prisoners in Genova. Roll on Schio - it promises to be another unforgettable night.
12th March - Day 1
There is a tangible buzz in Genova, an air of anticipation for tonight's tour-opening show in the Palasport (the 'Palace of Sport' for the non-Italian speakers) - Steve's amazing electric band prepares to take Italy by storm.
Some familiar faces will take the stage - stalwarts Gary O'Toole on drums, Rob Townsend on sax and flutes, Roger King on keys - but this year they are joined by the extraordinary Nick Beggs on bass and Chapman Stick.
Steve's collaboration with Chris Squire has spawned a wealth of new material and the incredible Stormchaser will make its debut appearance tonight - if rehearsals are any guide this should be a show stopper. Fire On The Moon, another brand new song, looks set to raise the roof too.
But Steve's rich musical history has not been forgotten - he and the band are playing Firth Of Fifth in all its intricate, full length glory.
This is a show not to be missed - if you live within striking distance of Genova you owe it to yourself to attend.
For details see Tour Page.