By Sean Palmerston; Photos by Albert Mansour
Tuesday night was the first of back-to-back performances by former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and his band at the intimate Oakville Centre For the Arts. It was a venue I had never been to before, but after this night’s show it’s a place I will be sure to keep on my radar.
Hackett is currently in the midst of a world tour for 2012’s Genesis Revisited II album, a double CD collection containing new interpretations of songs that were released during the English guitarist’s tenure in that band from 1971 through 1977, including four albums when the band was fronted by Peter Gabriel. As my good friends know, there is only one band I would be willing to pay out more than $200 to see them do a reunion show/tour, and that would be the classic Genesis line up featuring both Gabriel and Hackett. With the chance of that happening in this day and age apparently being about as close to zero as you can imagine, the opportunity to see Mr. Hackett play a full two-hour plus show of Genesis classics was far too good to pass up.
The lights went down shortly after 8:00 PM and, as I had hoped, the band opened the show with the Foxtrot classic “Watcher Of The Skies”. With keyboardist Roger King recreating those grandiose mellotron lines on a much more modern synthesizer, the stage was set for the rhythm section to kick in, which they did with ease. Drummer Gary O’Toole and bassist Lee Pomeroy locked in a groove immediately and with the full lights up, the band was up and running. The only thing left on the checklist was to find out what the vocals of Nad Sylvan would be like. A tall blonde who looks like a cleaned up, more put together Dee Snider, it took exactly one verse to realize why he’s in the band. What a voice, and he has a flair for the dramatic that fits nicely with the material.
I feel a little bit like a kid at Christmas getting to review this show, as I have no complaints. As a fan, this was one for the ages – getting to see one of my favourite guitarists playing some of my favourite progressive rock tunes. As a critic, there is little to fault here at all. This is a band that knows the material they are playing inside and out and, with the advancements in technology that have happened over the past forty-two years since Hackett originally joined Genesis, the ability to create the exact sounds desired.
Hackett led his band through a solid two-hour set of material taken from the ten Genesis albums he played on. An emphasis was on the most popular songs, with Selling England By the Pound’s “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight” and ”I Know What I Like” plus crowd favourites like the extended pieces “The Musical Box” and “Supper’s Ready”. However, instead of just doing note-for-note “covers” of the songs, this cracking band really breathed new life into each and every song. One of the ways they did this was using the immense talent of multi-instrumentalist Rob Townsend. Switching between flute, tin flute, keyboards, saxophone and percussion, Townsend’s instrumentation brought new colouring to songs in a way that they had never been approached before. Hearing a sax replace a keyboard line was unique. I thoroughly enjoyed the arrangements and the way that Townsend’s musicianship was used throughout.
As equally exciting for me was the fact that Hackett played some of the acoustic-based Genesis songs too. Songs like “Horizons” and “Supper’s Ready” rely heavily on acoustic guitar and Hackett is every bit as engaging as an acoustic player as he is electric. Of course, seeing his fingers running up and down the fretboard on workouts like “The Fountain of Salamacis” and “Firth of Fifth” was what made me want to go, but the decision to add the acoustic elements just made an great show an absolutely incredible one.