Published on 24th September 2020
Steve Hackett – Selling England By the Pound & Spectral Mornings: Live at Hammersmith
For the last decade or so, Steve Hackett has been making a very nice living, thank you very much, by dusting off old Genesis classics in front of appreciative audiences across the world. And why not? He had a hand in their creation so he certainly has a right to play them – and none of the others who were involved seem interested.
I saw him a few years ago at Hammersmith and the old Odeon was packed to the rafters with blokes round about my age, tears streaming down their faces, bellowing “Touch me now, now, now, now, NOW!” Yes, in hindsight, it does seem rather disturbing…
Some people think he shouldn’t be trading on past glories, and should instead concentrate on making new music. Well I say you’re all full of bull – he’s very successfully done both, interspersing his nostalgic activities with new recordings that do full justice to his songwriting and neck-wringing abilities.
Sure, it’s been a bit hard on the wallet – he seems to create a new tour and release a live album every time there’s an ‘R’ in the month – but there’s still an enthusiastic market for his trips down musical memory lane. Some people are always ready for more supper.
This latest release documents a setlist that toured the UK in November last year, combining Hackett’s favourite Genesis album with his top pick from his solo catalogue. So we get six tracks from 1979’s Spectral Mornings and everything from Selling England By the Pound – yes, even The Battle of Epping Forest, More Fool Me, After the Ordeal and Aisle Of Plenty.
He’s supported by his excellent touring band, including Roger King on keyboards (who plays the Firth of Fifth intro better than Tony Banks ever did), Jonas Reingold on bass, Craig Blundell on drums, Rob Townsend blowing various things and Nad Sylvan doing his best Peter Gabriel impersonation, with a soupçon of Phil Collins.
Most of the tracks are faithful reproductions of the originals – apart from I Know What I Like, which is extended to nearly 10 minutes with added sax, guitar and, er, sailor’s hornpipe solos – but they all benefit from a rich, warm, powerful sound, played by musicians who are at the top of their game. The only quibble I have, and it is a tiny, almost insignificant one, is that Nad is occasionally challenged by the wide range of notes in some of the songs. But he is forgiven because these are difficult things to sing.
It is true that many of these tracks have been performed by Hackett on previous releases – indeed, if I had a pound for every version I’ve got of Firth of Fifth I could probably buy England. Same goes for Every Day from Spectral Mornings – I bet he plays that, er, every day. But, to my knowledge, this recording marks the live debut by a Genesis person for After the Ordeal and Aisle of Plenty, while it must be the first time Epping Forest has been attempted since 1974.
Add three tracks from most recent release At the Edge of Light – and they are cracking tunes, so check out the album – plus the obligatory ending partnership of Dance on A Volcano and Los Endos and you have a very satisfactory 2hr+ set of some of the best prog music produced by homo sapiens in the last 50 years. And that’s just listening to mp3s, which is like trying to critique the Mona Lisa via a photocopy. Alas, it seems to be the record company’s preferred format for reviewers – they’ll soon be sending them to us on mechanical phonograph cylinders.
Next year Hackett will be recreating the live album Seconds Out (as well as finishing the Selling England tour that was so rudely interrupted by coronavirus), so another version of Firth of Fifth, then. Personally, I want him to tackle The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, in its entirety, with an all-star cast. He could even invite his former band colleagues but he should make it clear the tour will go ahead without them.
Speaking of Messrs Banks, Collins and Rutherford, I hear the Genesis pop trio is planning to resurrect its latest reunion next year – and could even be touring at the same time as Hackett. Well, I know where my ticket money will be going and it won’t be to see three old codgers wheeze their way through Abacab.
01. Intro (1:24)
02. Every Day (6:39)
03. Under the Eye of the Sun (5:38)
04. Fallen Walls and Pedestals (2:15)
05. Beasts in Our Time (6:26)
06. The Virgin and the Gypsy (4:42)
07. Tigermoth (3:14)
08. Spectral Mornings (6:25)
09. The Red Flower of Tai Chi Blooms Everywhere (2:16)
10. Clocks – The Angel of Mons (6:56)
11. Dancing With the Moonlit Knight (7:28)
12. I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) (9:48)
13. Firth of Fifth (10:06)
14. More Fool Me (3:27)
15. The Battle of Epping Forest (11:43)
16. After the Ordeal (5:00)
17. The Cinema Show (11:01)
18. Aisle of Plenty (1:39)
19. Déjà Vu (6:24)
20. Dance on A Volcano (6:08)
21. Los Endos (8:24)
Total Time – 127:03
Steve Hackett – Guitar, Vocals
Roger King – Keyboards
Jonas Reingold – Bass
Rob Townsend – Saxes, Flute
Craig Blundell – Drums, Percussion
Nad Sylvan – Vocals
John Hackett: Flute
Amanda Lehmann: Guitar, Vocals
Record label: InsideOut Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 25th September 2020