Peter Gabriel aside, 70s-era Genesis were never a band that appeared particularly comfortable in the spotlight. Maybe it was the fact they all sat down to play, but you got the impression that if they could have performed behind a curtain and let Pete do his thing, that would have suited their shy personalities. Even now, 40 years since his own departure from that band, Steve Hackett still looks just a little uncomfortable at centre stage with all eyes on him.
So when the atmospheric lights of this live show’s introductory passages are replaced by a bright white glare, and the show begins by launching into Spectral Mornings, it’s no surprise to find that Hackett barely looks up from his Les Paul fretboard, the master at work, not to be disturbed.
Hackett revisits the Genesis songs with effortless elan.
But you suspect the punters at this sold-out show at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall haven’t come here for showbiz razzmatazz or on-stage theatrics. They’re here to listen. And on that front, Hackett delivers in spades. This three-hour show traces his solo career from the aforementioned 1979 album’s title track back to 1975’s debut Voyage Of The Acolyte and forward through a clutch of tracks from last year’s Wolflight, before tackling some earlier Genesis numbers.
And even if catwalks, pyrotechnics and revolving drum kits are absent, Hackett revisits those songs with effortless elan, aided by arrangements that seem to bring something fresh to the songs, while not trying to gild any lilies.
Hackett’s choice of collaborators has a similarly subtle effect. Amanda Lehmann adds a charismatic female vocal counterpart as well as complementary guitar lines on Every Day and Love Song To A Vampire, then his Genesis Revisited frontman Nad Sylvan comes on for a suitably melodramatic reading of Icarus Ascending and Star Of Sirius. Brother John Hackett’s flute also accompanies Steve’s Spanish acoustic to give Jacuzzi new life.
Truth be told, though, it was always going to be the old Genesis numbers that stole the show. It’s not just the usual suspects either. An airing of Can Utility And The Coastliners from Foxtrot is an unexpected treat, before a pretty much flawless rendition of The Musical Box. It’s a great way to end the main set, and an encore of Firth of Fifth is just as perfect.
As such, you could listen to the two-CD audio version of this show and be perfectly well-served. And in truth, the second DVD’s behind-the-scenes footage, band interviews and rehearsal recordings are something of an anticlimax after all that, but they at least provide the audio-visual equivalent of extensive sleeve notes. It’s the main event that you’ll keep coming back to, though – whether with or without pictures.