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Steve Hackett: Live In London

Hackett celebrates 40 years of music with two sets of classic material.

“Now, now, now, now, now!” chant the crowd as The Musical Box climaxes, but we’re celebrating the past as much as the present tonight.

When you name your 40th-anniversary shows the Acolyte To Wolflight With Genesis Revisited Tour, you give yourself a lot to squeeze into even a three-hour concert. Cherry-picking the highlights of his solo work and plumping for some less obvious, rarely revived Genesis numbers, Hackett plays two dazzling sets, equal parts nostalgia and invention.

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

Standing centre stage, he’s a self-effacing frontman, simply clad in black and not one for marathon monologues – which is wise, given the quantity of lengthy epics tackled tonight. The first set offers peaks from Wolflight (Loving Sea is dedicated to his wife Jo), but also wanders back in time to present subtly compelling pieces like *Spectral Mornings *and Every Day. The guitarist’s brother John joins him on flute for Jacuzzi, and Steve tells a story about the neighbours complaining when the siblings used to practise.

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

The 12-string acoustic guitars come out, and he recalls the rigours of tuning with Mike Rutherford during what he calls “the G shows”. He adds: “Later, of course, we’ll be doing the G thing.” Unless he’s suddenly discovered gangsta rap, he’s telling us to prepare to don our Genesis Revisited hats. First, though, there’s a glorious surge incorporating Icarus Ascending (which sees Nad Sylvan emerge to take the mic), Star Of Sirius and a full-length, hypnotic Shadow Of The Hierophant. More crescendos than Stravinsky, and it’s only the intermission.

The “G thing” begins with Get ’Em Out By Friday. Hackett’s keen not just to repeat previous shows, and next brings in Can-Utility And The Coastliners and After The Ordeal. “This is a Cinderella song,” he muses as the former starts. “It doesn’t get invited out much. I love it anyway.”

Nad Sylvan

Nad Sylvan (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

The home straight of The Cinema Show, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and The Musical Box is nothing if not crowd-pleasing.

Sylvan has now changed from black to a cream embroidered frock coat, and his vocal stylings cannot be too highly praised. Homage without karaoke is a tough ask, but he puts just enough slant on these labyrinthine songs without upsetting their delicate balance between beauty and bombast. Likewise, the work of Roger King, Gary O’Toole, Rob Townsend and Amanda Lehmann is impeccable, and with Roine Stolt on bass (and occasional guitar), we have someone who is, Hackett chuckles, “overqualified”. Sylvan’s fellow Swede, who after all named his son Peter Gabriel, is enjoying himself.

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

For the encore, after a dynamic Clocks, we’re transported to the Firth Of Fifth. Everyone is on their feet. It’s an ovation not just for a special show but for an exalted career.

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.