For most of the people who have a passing familiarity with Genesis, they either know that it’s the pop band that Phil Collins used as a springboard to solo fame, or it’s the prog rock band that Peter Gabriel used as a springboard to solo fame. Mike Rutherford sold a lot of records with Mike and the Mechanics, writing puffy pop pieces that got plenty of radio play, and Tony Banks was the guy who held down the keyboard parts. But if you are into the intricate, baroquely operatic material that spanned their earliest work through the mid-7o’s, chances are you’re pretty familiar with Steve Hackett.
Hackett’s been out on the road for a few weeks, splitting sets between his solo work and some of the work he provided as a member of Genesis. He looked pretty much like he was pulled out a time capsule from 1975, same shaggy semi-mullet and understated (relatively speaking, especially compared to the theatrical flourishes of Gabriel) sense of dress, whereas his band members ranged from a scruffy, Jesse from Breaking Bad-type soprano saxophone player, a drummer who wore a suit and tie, and a spry, spindly bass player who looked like David St. Hubbins in a leather vest and kilt. Varied looks aside, the band was a crack ensemble- no surprise, since playing material such as “One For The Vine” needs the suppleness, dexterity and flair to deliver the goods. This isn’t “Louie Louie” after a six pack in your parent’s basement.
His solo work had him behind the microphone and playing guitar, performing selections from a handful of his many records. “The Steppes” had a dramatic, stately flavor, and that theme continued with “In The Skeleton Gallery,” from his yet to be released The Night Siren, his 25th studio record. Mixing Middle Eastern tinges with a hard-charging guitar part, the song fell victim to a wan vocal melody that echoed the blandness of Asia. Ending the first set with the uniquely sublime closing portion of “The Shadow of the Heirophant” was a wise move to get the rails greased for what was yet to come. Mentioning that it was the 40th anniversary of Wind And Wuthering, the final Genesis studio record that Hackett would play on, more than half of the record was showcased. Highlights included “Blood On The Rooftops” with drummer Gary O’Toole taking lead vocals, and the prog epic (redundant terms?) “One For The Vine.” Nad Sylvan joined for the second set and fulfilled the roomy loafers of Gabriel quite well; it’s always a tricky gambit to sing someone else’s song, treading a fine line of homage but not soulless copying, especially when the expectations of hardcore fans have a certain delivery in mind. I’d give Sylvan high marks for his performance.
Just as King Crimson has their masterpiece of “Starless,” so does Genesis with “Firth Of Fifth.” The Genesis song doesn’t feature a mid-section nearly as gnarly as what Fripp and company doled out, but the melody line of both is beyond criticism, Hackett’s string bending taking the song to soaring new heights. Magical brilliance, timeless and still vibrant in the present.