Hackett, Steve - Auckland (NZ) Town Hall, 17.06.2022

Kev Rowland, Hackett, Steve - Auckland (NZ) Town Hall, 17.06.2022

Five years ago, Steve Hackett brought his Genesis Revisited show to Auckland and I was just blown away so needless to say, when in 2019 he announced he was coming back in 2020 I asked my kids to buy me a ticket for Father’s Day. Due to a certain pandemic, he was unable to make it, and I (and I am pretty sure most of the audience) had forgotten exactly what we had tickets to. When I first saw Steve back in the 90’s his set comprised pretty much only his solo material, while the last time I saw him it was mostly Genesis, with some Hackett. According to an internet hunt, based on their last gig, tonight he would be playing three sets, with the first commencing with “Clocks” and giving us some of his most well-known material such as “Everyday” and “Shadow of the Hierophant” before playing what looked like ‘Seconds Out’ as a second, then coming back for some more Genesis for the encore.

So the lights dimmed, the audience cheered, and on walked Steve and the band, and immediately launched into…. “Squonk”! I admit I was both pleased and confused, what was going on? After they finished Steve then told us that there was probably some confusion among the audience, and the band, as to what they were going to be playing so he wanted us to know that tonight they would be playing the whole of ‘Seconds Out’ and then after the break they would play the whole of ‘Selling England By The Pound’ (missing those tracks from the ‘Seconds Out’ set and playing them here). This was not what I expected at all, and while part of me was actually disappointed (Hackett has released some quite incredible solo albums, unlike his ex-colleagues), part of me was incredibly pleased as while some fans prefer Gabriel-era Genesis and other Collins, I have always stated that the Hackett period is the finest. I knew they would be playing some songs tonight I had not heard in concert from either Genesis or Hackett, and it was something to look forward to.

The line-up had changed slightly since they last came here, as while Nad Sylvan (vocals), Roger King (keyboards), and Rob Townsend (sax, flute, percussion, keyboards, vocals) were still there, as they have been for years, they have now been joined by Jonas Reingold of The Flower Kings (bass guitar, twelve string and vocals) and drummer Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson and many others).

My notes from the night seem to comprise mostly of words like “awesome”, “incredible”, “amazing” and so forth, which in many ways is not too surprising as we have someone at the helm who joined a boy band 51 years ago (his words) and created some of the most important and exciting music ever and has continued to record and tour the world ever since. He may be 72 years old, and sits on a chair when not playing, but when it is time dominate or add nuances then he is there as the guitar comes to life in his hand. Many people forget that when talking about prog music, the complete term is “progressive rock”, and there were some in the audience last night who had forgotten that (including the nice lady sat next to me who kept putting her hands over her years in an attempt to decrease the volume), as there were times when it was really loud!

The secret weapon in this band is Rob, and the arrangements which have been written to allow him to shine. It is not unusual for him to play multiple instruments in a song, either adding additional keyboards or gentle flute or recorder, but when he got to blast on the sax following either the keyboard or guitar, he was adding a mighty additional weight. The songs were not always 100% faithful to the originals in terms of arrangements, and for me this brought them to life. A special mention must also be made of Nad, as the last time I saw him I was somewhat disappointed in his performance and put it down to his vocal cords possibly being affected by being on a long plane journey. I don’t know if that was the cause, but tonight he was a revelation, and even though he is a Swedish musician who was born in America, there were times last night where he came across as pure London, with “Robbery, Assault and Battery” being a highlight, while “Dancing With The Moonlight Knight” was an incredible success.

For me the only major issue with the gig is that I really do enjoy Steve’s solo material, and given his output is still so prolific it would have been nice to have heard some of his own songs as well. But that seems to be somewhat nitpicking when we were delivered 150 minutes of music which any Genesis fan would have dearly loved to have seen. A mate of mine was asked to review the gig just two days before, didn’t really know Genesis or Hackett so spent two days playing the latter solidly only for none of it to turn up in the show. Well, I found it funny even though he was mortified!

I so hope that Steve makes it down here again, but I worry that age may be against that, so will just relish the fact that once again I was able to see an absolute master at work. Who needs a major stage show with 30 feet screens and lasers? Tonight we had six musicians, a basic lighting rig (which did a pretty good job it must be said, and created some nice patterns on the ceiling), great songs and an audience in rapture. ‘Nuff said.

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