Given the apparent frostiness between Steve Hackett and his former bandmates following the guitarist’s resignation from Genesis in 1977 (let’s not forget that he almost had to force himself onstage, instrument in hand, at the Six Of The Best show at Milton Keynes Bowl in 1982, and also he was glaringly absent from the 2007 reunion tour) our subject can perhaps be forgiven for making the most of the Genesis Revisited project, which he resurrected as long ago as late 2012.
But everything has its limit, right? Hackett has already completed two bouts of touring for the all-star double-disc album Genesis Revisited II, with a batch of additional shows lined up for the late autumn. His critically acclaimed May 2013 performance at London’s Hammersmith Apollo was awarded the full bells-and-whistles treatment, captured on a CD, DVD and Blu-ray 5.1. And now, issued a mere eight months afterwards, comes another equally OTT souvenir celebration, this time of last October’s sold-out gig at the Royal Albert Hall.
Should its arrival in the racks make you want to lock your wallet in the safe and scream “enough is enough!” then you have Prog’s sympathies. 99 times out of a hundred we’d be agreeing with you. But this is hardly your common or garden concert release. Oh no.
Granted, the core of these two sets remains interchangeable. The same backing band has been re-booked and a couple of the special guests from Hammersmith return, albeit on different songs. Asia’s John Wetton steps up to belt out Firth Of Fifth with much gusto, and Hackett joins solo counterpart Amanda Lehmann on acoustic (here he calls it “agnostic”) guitar on Ripples, a song not performed at the Apollo date.
Prog’s readers voted Genesis Revisited Live as the second best tour of 2013 (losing out to Steven Wilson’s trek for The Raven That Refused To Sing). They also named the Royal Albert Hall the finest concert venue in the land. Here then we get the best of both worlds: some of the most magisterial rock music ever committed to tape performed in palatial surroundings, a triumph of Victorian architecture. You want gravitas? You got it, and then some.
From the moment that the opening chords of Dance On A Volcano ring out, greeted by a humongous roar, the scene is set for an all-time classic display. “It’s great to be here at the Royal Albert Pub,” quips Hackett, to gails of approval. “Welcome to the Last Night Of The Progs!” Here he’s referring to the fact that, like many of the audience, he too had attended Steven Wilson’s own gig at the concert hall just a few days earlier.
Nad Sylvan, a towering, hirsute, slightly oddball-looking Swede from the band Unifaun, does a fine, reverential job of interpreting the parts sung originally by Peter Gabriel, passing the litmus tests of Dancing With The Moonlit Knight and, of course, the epic Supper’s Ready, with ease.
Hackett had promised some changes to the setlist. Eleventh Earl Of Mar and Entangled are sadly missed this second time around, but the addition of Return Of The Giant Hogweed and The Fountain Of Salmacis, both from 1971’s cherished Nursery Cryme album, represent priceless unexpected additions.
The former features a guest appearance from The Flower Kings guitarist Roine Stolt, while Ray Wilson, frontman of Genesis’ 1997’s Calling All Stations – an album that didn’t feature Hackett – steps out from the wings to bring his impressive voice to The Carpet Crawlers and I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe). It’s a reminder, as though a reminder were necessary, of how beautifully dysfunctional the Genesis family can be.
With his face etched with concentration, Hackett’s playing is superlative. After so many years of genre-hopping, from classical to blues and orchestral music, it’s clear how much he relishes performing this material.
Indeed, it’s tempting to venture that, intentionally or otherwise, with Genesis Revisited Hackett is staking a valid claim to the role as guardian of the band’s true flame. Whilst back in 2007 Rutherford, Banks and Collins ignored most of these songs in favour of Land Of Confusion, I Can’t Dance and (whisper it) Tonight, Tonight, Tonight, Steve and his ensemble treat the group’s early catalogue with all of the care and importance that it deserves. Filmed and recorded beautifully, this is a must-own item for devotees of golden-era Genesis.