Sunday is a day of worship and with the first chapter of the bible being the book of Genesis what better way to spend an evening than at Newcastle City Hall in the company of Mr Steve Hackett performing some of the most revered work of the prog force that paved the way, Genesis? The exit of the warm summer nights gave presence to every exhilation as we filed into the hall from the braw autumn air to be greeted with a heartening and bustling crowd the likes of which i haven’t seen at a prog gig for many years. Taking our seats as the lights dimmed we enjoyed a fabulous pre-Hackett treat of Alan Reed who was armed with his acoustic guitars, a microphone, and in the case of his last song a mobile phone.
Alan Reed is always a man that astounds me with his musical prowes. Not content with having a voice that could power a small town should it be connected to a generator, he plays a mean twelve string too. The former voice of Pallas played a selection of songs from his new album First In A Field Of One as well as some Pallas faves including Sanctuary, which he also released a scaled down verion of on his previous EP. Alan went down very well with the waiting crowd and it was fitting that he was given the applause and respect he truly deserved. As the stage filled with smoke in true Prog tradition and the lights dimmed for the second time, the suspense was tangable such is the effect of the City Hall. I was lucky enough to attend the same show in May this year just south of the river in Gateshead pretty early on in the tour and thought then how special an event it was. However, there is something about attending an event at the City Hall that holds something very special indeed in most people’s hearts. As the band manned their posts one of the last true gentlemen of Prog took to the stage. A bonfire could have been lit with the warmth of his reception. As the jangling guitar sound of Dance On A Volcano rang around the packed hall it was clear from the outset that the whole band where at the top of their game and the cohesion of all members of the troop had tightened up four fold throughout the tour. Nad Sylvan seemed more relaxed into his role as the vocal representative of classic Genesis songs and launched himself into Dancing With The Moonlit Knight with gusto. Nad’s inclusion to team Hackett was at first a mystery to me until i realised that it is quite a shrude move. It prevents the almost kareoke rendition of very special tunes occuring! Fly On A Windshield saw the drummer with the hat throwing his voice into the ring for the first time of the evening and Gary O’Toole’s powerful drums demonstrated just how powerful theis piece of Genesis history was and is.
Staying with The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway album the same treatment was given to Broadway Melody Of 1974 and The Lamia. Turning back the clock a ways seen the fabulous and without doubt the best version of Return Of The Giant Hogweed I have ever seen. The rear projections were excellent and many new ones included since the previous shows keeping things fresh. There were a lot of humourous slides and images which really lightened the mood and brought a smile to a few faces. It wouldn’t be a Steve Hackett gig without his acoustic spot and his virtuosity shone through as he played Horizons which melted beautifully into the neo-classical opening of Blood On The Roof Tops. Indeed the Wind & Wuthering album was sided all in one go with Silent Slumbers For The Sleepers, In That Quiet Earth and Afterglow all being played in succession. One of my least favourite Genesis songs is I know What I Like In Your Wardrobe, though i have to admit i even enjoyed that, such was the synergy of the band. Staying with the Selling England By The Pound theme the best version i have heard anywhere of Firth Of Fith was played with full aplomb. I was left breathless and sore hands believing that messres hackett et all could not better that. How wrong i was. Following a short discussion about the demerits of the Mellotron Steve relived tales of woe with regards to Genesis gigs and out of tune mellotrons before playing The Fountain Of Salmasis. Quite a highlight in my opinion and something would quite happily by a live DVD for! The ultimate classic Genesis piece of all to end any such celebration had to be and was Suppers Ready. The complexity of such a piece with all of it’s various time signatures, themes and comic strip elements needs a band with great dexterity and Steve Hackett’s cohorts were as usual up to the challange. The multiple guitar layers at the opening of Suppers Ready need a great deal of concentration, skill and timing. It was here that Bassist/guitarist Lee Pomeroy demonstrated just how cool he was. Indeed throughout the whole of the evening he was faultless as was woodwind genius Rob Townsend. Nad Sylvan’s take on Suppers Ready is also a breath of fresh air. His antics totally ignored by the rest of the band in true Genesis tradition and the elongated climax had him slightly perplexed though not fully caught out. As befitting such a performance the crowd were on their feet and clapped till they formed blisters. Glancing over my shoulder at the packed to capacity hall i was transported back forty plus years to when i first watched Genesis perform to such an elated crowd. It was great to see every seat full and Steve Hackett’s most important tour to date so well supported.
As the band made their way back on stage, Roger King hammered out the most powerful and memorable chords of all the erly Genesis pieces Watcher Of The Skies. Nad Sylvan’s take on this with various props including a telescope were not only original but fresh and exciting. The evening ended with Los Endos which included a healthy slice of Slogans from Steve’s Defector album in the midde section. A truly fitting finale to a very special evening. Just to add something for novalty value there was a guy on the front row who dared to stand up and parade himself up and down in a fox head. Bizarre or what? Talking to Steve afterwards i felt compelled to enlighten him (bore him half to death) about his first Genesis gigs at the city hall i seen him play at. I was thrilled that he remembered some of them and recounted them to me. During the conversation i informed him that i thought he had captured fully the spirit of Genesis which he seemed genuinely humble about. He also said that he felt there was something special about the venue too. Well, there it was, gone. Progtober! What an amazing end to an amazing month in Prog history. I am so pleased that i was one of the lucky ones there. Gigs like that don’t happen very often but when they do they strike a chord in everyone present. Genesis Revisited! Genesis re-invented!A truly biblical event.Thanks to my old gigging bud Chubs (Brendan Eyre) for the great pictures.