And then there was One... Steve Hackett at the Salford Lowry.
Steve Hackett's Genesis Extended at Salford Lowry, UK
Photo © Lee Millward
According to my good mate, photographer Lee Millwood, the above line was yelled out in a nearly silent venue the night before in London as Steve geared up for "Horizons". Apart from the laughter it gave Steve and the audience of loyal fans both old and new, I thought it would make a novel way off starting off a revue of the Lowry gig in Salford, Manchester the following evening. For now there is only one....
Special guests Mostly Autumn Acoustic gave the sell out crowd a great performance of songs both old and new in a stripped down acoustic set from husband and wife team Bryan Josh and Olivia Sparneen. With a short set of music from their early days and two new pieces from their last album they served the audience a set of passion and subtlety - the quiet before the storm as it were.
After a short interlude Messrs Hackett, Beggs, King, Sylvan, Townsend and O' Toole entered to warm applause that grow in intensity as they crashed into top gear with a powerhouse rendition of "Dance on a Volcano" from "A Trick of the Tail". A stunning way to kick off any gig, it soon became apparent to the audience that the band and their captain were in no mood to take prisoners.
There is no band called Genesis any more - at least not one that plays this music. Lord knows why." With these telling words that had fans applauding, Steve laid to rest, in my eyes at least, the dream that a reunion will ever take place now. Too much has happened, the least of which was the appallingly slewed documentary recently shown on TV that rarely showed Steve with the band and totally ignored his solo work all together, and it seems that Steve has decided enough is enough. I found it sad but logical. Even one of the nicest guys in rock can only take so much after all...
And what was to follow just gave further evidence that the creative spark and distinctive sound that was Genesis in their heyday didn't die with the departure of Peter Gabriel but it went into terminal decline when Steve left.
But if there was bitterness there I couldn't see or hear it as "Squonk" was given an outing for the first time in years. No LED screens or moving angle poise lamps this time around from the lighting gurus just a subtle use of vari lights to enhance the music and draw the audience with it rather than stun them with the visual effects - very clever indeed. The band needed little time to warm up after this, they were already smoking and getting ready to turn up the heat even more.
"You might want to sing along to this - I don't know." Most did as Steve and Nad took us down memory lane once more to Dance with a Moonlit Knight. Terrific stuff once again. Power, great touch and feel for one of the best loved of songs from "Selling England by the Pound" was the hallmark of this offering with vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards and drums in perfect harmony. One of the highlights of the show for me and many others I think.
Hogweeds of the giant variety were once again let loose on mankind, complete with Steve's famous tapping technique to the fore. The energy and enthusiasm of the band was being transmitted to the audience via Nad Sylvan's terrific vocals leading the charge on the audio senses. It was tempting to believe that the terrifying plants were indeed just hiding in the wings just waiting for their moment to attack.
A bowler hated singer now took over vocal duties from behind his drum kit as stick man Gary O' Toole delivered a killer version of "Fly on a Windshield" and "Broadway Melody 1974". Having sung these tracks both with Steve over many years now live and on the GR2 Album one might have expected a certain familiarity with the delivery. No so. It was immensely powerful and fresh - and the Chapstick work of Nick Beggs was simply jaw dropping. No theatricals from the blonde bassist, just sheer brilliance of touch and technique. A master class in stickmanship. (If that isn't a word it should be) Steve's "tricky one" was up next. "The Fountain of Salmacis" sounded just wonderful as notes both high and low floated into auditorium. "The Musical Box" was taken down from the attic and given a thorough polishing as Sylvan coxed his vocals into the role of the evil force in this most famous of early Genesis songs. "I know what I like..." seemed to signal a slowing down of the pace of the show and so it proved with Steve left alone on stage to delight fans with a wonderful rendition of "Horizons". So clean, so effective... a dazzling display of acoustic guitar playing from the Master himself.
The quiet gave way to another storm as Roger King played the wonderful opening of "The Firth of Fifth". The band were by now completely keyed into the music and each other. The famous solo, sometimes called the greatest in Prog Rock History, was again unveiled as Steve proved once more that he is at the very top of his game. What others would find hard to do he completes with effortless ease and is quite clearly enjoying himself into the bargain.
I must admit that the next song was for me one of the highlights of this extraordinary show. "Liliywhite Lilith" from "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" thundered out with amazing power and precision. Nad Sylvan once told me that this was one song he would really like to sing live and boy it showed. It was another reminder what a gem of an album it was, despite some tracks being hard to access at the time. If Gabriel himself had sung it well Mr Sylvan really went to town with his delivery on this particular number. A show stopper in its own right.
So what do you follow that with? With a back catalogue filled with musical treasures there was a very simple answer. "Supper's Ready", the epitome of Prog Rock at its finest, was the number chosen to close the set. What a superb closer it was too. From the quiet, ghostly opening verses engrained on the heart of every true Genesis fan to the manic pandemonium that is "9/8" Steve and the band tore through this fabulous epic with consummate ease - it all seemed so easy at times that it was scary. Yet as the number drew to its dramatic close it was obvious that the band were treating it not with ease but with the musical reverence it deserves. Yet another astonishing number.
Encore time. What else could it be but "The Watcher of the Skies". A telescope wielding Sylvan was in his element as the Watcher, coaxing ever ounce of drama from this most dramatic of songs. As he left the stage at the songs finale the band ripped into what is, for me any way, the greatest ending of any rock show I've ever seen. "Los Endos" is quite simply staggering when a band of this brilliance set themselves to deliver a killer last number. Beggs and O'Toole were in their musical element, bass and drums powering the number towards the famous one line finale. And Nad Sylvan didn't hold back there either, his powerful voice echoing into the theatre with elegant ease.
Having seen three shows of this wonderful tour I was not sure what to expect - apart from a great night out and seeing old friends. But once again Steve pulled an other Ace from out of his sleeve. The show was at least as long as the other two I have had the privilege of attending but the set list was at least 50% different from the original tour shows of 2013. Gone were great and marvellous songs only to be replaced with others just as fabulous. It just went to further underline what a brilliant series of albums were released by Genesis during their creative hey day. And what a loss Steve was to be to them when he left.
For now as the wag in London said... "And then there was One."
And he is called Steve Hackett - perhaps the true heart and soul of what was once a magnificent band.