Steve Hackett – Manchester Apollo – 1st October 2022 – Foxtrot At Fifty + Hackett Highlights
“Get on wi’ it!” is the cry from one wag in the stalls as Craig Blundell takes a pause to ready a particularly tricky bit of drummery in his solo during the final encore piece. It’s definitely not from the celebrity seats where we’re in good company with IQ’s Pete Nicholls and Luke Machin from The Tangent/Karnataka. Fortunately, it’s taken in good spirit by the band (who will no doubt rib him remorselessly in the future – it may even become a standard feature to replace the long forgotten cries of “Wally!!!“) and to his credit, the man himself thrusts out a solid ‘thumbs up’ sign before he launches into the thunderous rumble with Jonas Reingold for the Los Endos finale. Who said Prog Rock is intellectual and stuffy? Certainly not with this band…
It’s almost a year to the week since Steve Hackett was last at the Apollo. A show that resulted in the Seconds Out & More live album. We’re all back, revisiting Genesis once more (in the words of The Musical Box – “here it comes again“), and celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of 1972’s Foxtrot; “memory permitting” adds Steve although his muscle memory would prove more than adequate. It’s a sedate affair with everyone seated – standing ovations aside – with no shirts removed or moshpit circles as evidenced by the previous night’s Behemoth show.
The tour finds Hackett once again celebrating the legacy with some dignity and respect, not being part of the windfall that his former bandmates have recently acquired from selling the rights to the post-1978 Genesis catalogue. But first, there’s a set of solo material to enjoy, much of which comes from his immediate post-Genesis period with a nod to his most recent album with The Devils Cathedral that sees the first appearance (with a warm ripple of applause) of Nad Sylvan.
A real trip down memory lane takes us voyaging with the acolyte via some Spectral Mornings and down the Camino Royale, the latter seeing Rob Townsend taking a break from enhancing some of the Hackett lead lines taking the clarinet centre stage, to duel with Roger King and Hackett over the Camino riff. He even adds some BVs, at one point heading in a bar or two early on a solo “only the fool learns to get through” line. It’s clear too how strong that early solo music is and the esteem in which its held – a clear fondness of the era and spirit in which it was created. So much so that a huge bulk of excellent solo material, which hopefully we’ll get to hear again one day, has to take a back seat.
Current right (as you look, Steve’s left on stage) hand man Jonas Reingold epitomises the insane skill of a band that’s remarkably drilled and on point. Whether he’s scratching at his bass strings creating a creaky door in the more freeform tweaks they place in A Tower Struck Down or doing his party piece of balancing his Rickenbacker on his chin at the final bow, the full (ie, the oft omitted into) Spectral Mornings finds him adding the twelve string in the pastoral opening section and there’s no telling him to “get on wi’ it” as he plays a brief bass solo. You wouldn’t mess with him. The only man along with Chris Squire who can make a Rickenbacker bass seem small, although tonight for some reason he’s playfully animated and joshing while he delivers a complex range of sounds through an impressive range of instruments. He even does air drums…
On Hackett’s opposite flank, Roger King and Rob Townsend have been on board long enough to know Hackett and the music inside out. Rob’s role ever increasing with keys to play, pedals to press and knobs to tweak and King conducts from the keyboard riser with a keen eye on everything that’s going on, spotting the off the cuff subtleties that Craig Blundell or Reingold throw into the mix. The synchronicity of the band, comes in the amusing – watch for the ‘get ready for it – any second now…’ glances – as Rob and Jonas join Steve in a Status Quo line up centre stage in the closing instrumental part of Every Day.
And whether he’s atop the platform between drum and keyboard riser or at the center of the Bermuda triangle formed by King, Hackett and Townsend, Nad’s subtle facial expressions and eyebrows and his slightly unhinged portrayal of Pythagoras with his looking glass penning a brand new tune sees him a dominant focal point. As Foxtrot opens, he’s scanning the skies with his looking glass before portraying Gabriel’s bizarre array of local council characters as the band run straight through a fifty year old classic album. Many sing along and there’s a debut for Time Table where the lighting cues shift to new heights with the backdrop and colours reflecting a warm Seventies nostalgia.
Naturally, Supper’s Ready is the climax, building powerfully to a crescendo that sees the players trapped in a cage of red and blue strips of light as they wind their way through the pounding Apocalypse In 9/8. Hackett adds what’s now a familiar extended solo in the playout, accessing the whammy bar into ducking and diving cries before Manchester is on its feet and the six (of the best?) on stage are clearly (I think) touched by the response. It just remains for Hackett to encore with his signature solo on Firth Of Fifth. A collective gasp of delight comes from those who haven’t checked the setlist spoilers as Roger starts the piano intro to which we’re now accustomed (Mr Banks having been defeated by the part long ago) before the pause from the drum spotlight leads into the inevitable Los Endos (as per the billing, with Hackett highlights – Slogans pops a head around the door).
And we leave spoiled. Not just by tonight, but by the fact that that for the past decade, Steve Hackett and his band have treated the fans at home and around the globe, to continued exposure to the music that defined an era. Everyone is, indeed, happy to be here.
Photos from York Barbican – 24th September 2022
Categories: Live Reviews