Steve Hackett at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, May 2017. Photograph by Ian D. Hall
The world has changed so much in the last 40 years that barely a whisper of it is now recognisable, fashions have come and gone, a couple of generations of music lovers have been born and slid silently into the edited grooves of downloadable music and fought with all their might to claim the art form as their own, that in their minds they, understandably, are the ones who invented music.
To be consistent, to be so imaginatively fertile in the use of art across several decades and still sound as if the music you are creating is one that has been inspired by a Muse who knows a thing or two the subtle complexity of being Progressive, then either the world has been kind to you or you just happen to be the person who listens to ones who weep at dusk, who sing songs of fantasy and freedom in the depths of midnight’s favourite illusion or the sense of peace offered by The Night Siren.
Progressive Rock royalty comes in many different forms, many distinct tastes and moments that in the end the fans list could so wildly dissimilar that they would surely encompass the whole colourful spectrum. It is in the nature of such lists that one name would positively stand out, would always grab the attention of the crowd, Steve Hackett, the quiet man of Progressive Rock but also arguably the most prestigious and creatively entertaining; it is no wonder that he was amongst the headline musicians for the inaugural Stone Free Festival.
Steve Hackett at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. October 2015. Photograph by Ian D. Hall
Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9.5/10
The sound of the call to Prayers, the resonance afforded by the subtle backdrop of the mysticism of a far off land and strangely enticing colourful culture fills the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool to the point where is such things were possible, you would swear that the smells and sounds of the welcoming East were about to land in the middle of the stage where graduates have smiled and guitars have been played and would dominate the night.
It is not the first time that Steve Hackett has employed the nature of another place in which to invoke the stirrings of imagery, and yet, the concept of Wolflight is one that perhaps goes further than ever before to reach out beyond the natural and self imposed boundary and limits in which some fans of the virtuoso performer seem to place upon the experiences they feel when listening to the musician. It is a convention that has always required confrontation, one with a velvet glove and a sweet beauty, but still the challenge of perspective freedom must be attained.
The invisible but highly audible Sirens that line up and down Birmingham’s glittering Broad Street area could have bayed and bleated all night long as they watched the neon lights fade and dim to obscurity, nothing could have torn the rapt attention of the audience inside the Symphony Hall away from Steve Hackett and the band as they recreated for the final night in the U.K., the songs that entranced a generation and beyond.
There are very few performers that will attempt to capture the magic, the very special experience of a gig twice in the same venue in the same year. Then again, it may have been thought impossible to recapture the very essence of a classic in the first place. However when the venue is the prestigious Philharmonic Hall and the artist is the phenomenal guitarist Steve Hackett, it really shouldn’t come as any surprise at all that the musician and his finely crafted band should once more come to Liverpool and give the legion of fans in the city yet another night to remember.
Alan Hewitt leans back on the chair in FACT and smiles, a man wistful with memories of gigs and stories which culminated in his book on Steve Hackett, the Genesis guitarist who has carved out perhaps the most productive solo career of all those that made Genesis one of the finest Progressive Rock bands to hail from the U.K. being enjoyed rightly by the multitude. Sketches of Hackett is a book of immense value and warmth and just chatting to him, time seems to lose its meaning as the 20 minute time limit we set ourselves becomes muddled and extended until we have broached the subject of almost every Steve Hackett solo album and his contribution to the richness of the second and third period of the Genesis era.
When Selling England By The Pound was released in 1973, it confirmed what many already knew, that Genesis was to be heralded as one of the great Progressive Rock bands of all time. Following on from Foxtrot and especially side two which showed the intricate, fantastical and multi-layered nature of the group’s writing and musical talent. Selling England By The Pound was a trip into the English pastoral, the off-beat look at life in the country, swathed in lyrical expansion and would in time become the second of five classic albums on the trot, to be followed by the seminal Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Foxtrot and Wind and Wuthering.
It is near on nigh impossible to recreate a classic. To recreate a masterpiece and make it epic takes musical genius and a talent that coupled with a deep burning desire to give some of the great tracks of Progressive Rock a re-imagination could only be found in the hands and minds of some of the very few that practice the art.