Steve Hackett selected the Symphony Hall Birmingham to be the final date of his third year of Genesis tours, all sold out, time and time again. The bar area of the hall pre-show featured a mature and pleasant audience with an expectant buzz in the air, many are here with the knowledge that this year is the 40th Anniversary of the release of Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Fittingly, the large window structures look out over a bustling Broad Street, this is not New York Broadway but parallels of a bustling and darkened street are drawn, so would the Lamb Lie down yet again for Steve Hackett on Broad Street?
It was often the case on the final night of an extensive European Tour the musicians become tired and jaded from the previous months travel and performance schedules, the show commenced with some dark classical Russian classical themes. However, have no fear of dark nights; this unit was tight as a nut, polished and professional to the last note. Hackett dressed all in black took the centre stage as his fellow players joined the set and bursting into Dance on a Volcano.
Nick Beggs delved into the 12 string guitar which was a signature tune of early Genesis absorbing the bass into a guitar role; meantime the lightshow was working overtime, resulting in a performance which bought rays of sunshine, creativity, and lengthy music and sometimes bewildering lyrics: all subjectivity which sum up the brand of Genesis.
Carrying on with the Trick Of A Tail scenario Squonk saw drummer Gary O Toole working away believing he was both Phil Collins and Chester Thomson in one person, with modern technology, he pulled it off, producing massive rhythm and some great vocals. Also producing a massive sound, deep from within his soul, was vocalist, Nad Sylvan, seemingly Dancing With The Moonlight Knight throughout the 2 ½ hour show.
When I interviewed Steve Hackett in July I asked if Fly On A Windshield was one of the heaviest tracks he had written, incredulously the answer came back that this was never intended to be a heavy guitar piece but was written more as an ensemble with inspiration being born from Respighi’s Pines of Rome. With this knowledge now in my head this piece of music was listened to with new ears and a real sense of satisfaction as some source of the Genesis classical roots had been revealed.
Digging up further cultivated roots Hackett recited some of the events of 1971 which lead to the Return Of The Giant Hogweed. On the previous 2013 tour this song had been accompanied by a massive background of three visual screens beaming entertaining cartoon graphics but those visual effects were not utilized at all this year.
The Fountain of Salmacis recites the story of Greek mythology where the nymph Salmacis attempts to rape Hermaphroditus, joined as one in the same body. Again listening with new years it is remarkable how many riffs and melodies from this early Genesis song from the album Nursery Cryme appear much later in adapted forms on both Suppers Ready and in parts of Lamb Lies Down. Nursery Cryme was recorded and released in 1971 and is the first Genesis album to feature Steve Hackett and Phil Collins.
I Know What I Like featured a very effective sax solo from Rob Townsend which turned into a jam of raucous jazz quality. Fittingly Townsend has forged a successful jazz career over many years and even played with Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, Bruford being the initial drummer who Phil Collins entrusted the kit to when he went centre stage on the first Genesis live shows without Peter Gabriel.
Some of those tracks where Bruford drums for Genesis are featured on the 1977 Double Live Album Seconds Out, the light shows of which go down in music history as groundbreaking. In Genesis Extended 2014 Steve Hackett replicates those light shows magnificently and the Birmingham Symphony Hall sucked up all the rays and spewed them back out at that the spellbound audience during the impressive 2 ½ hour set
The acoustic set leads into Firth Of Fifth. This stunning guitar piece was written by Steve Hackett and he plays it sublimely, seemingly not moving an inch as his fingers, arms and entire body extract a depth of continuous sound which is uncanny. Indeed, this guitar riff remains cemented as the number one Progressive Solos of all time, time and time again. It is little wonder then that the Hackett camp feel short changed that in a recent BBC Documentary on Genesis, the producer chose to concentrate 4 minutes of film showing how Daryl Stuermer (the American live session Genesis guitarist who is not allowed to be on any of their Studio recordings) can play this outstanding piece, composed by Steve Hackett. Faux Pas for the BBC.
As the lamb lay down on Broad Street for Steve Hackett and his bunch of troubadours their highly accurate renditions of Genesis songs transfer to the real Broadway as Steve Hackett hits New York, USA at the start of a 4 month USA and South American Tour, catch them if you can, this format may never be repeated as next year sees a return to his solo projects.
Review by Tim Price and Photography by Lee Millward. Symphony Hall Birmingham 4th November 2014.