Another tour, another live album. This is actually number 8 in the ‘Genesis Revisited’ series that has been released over the last 10 years. For fans of classic ’70s era Genesis, these tours and albums have been an absolute godsend, especially in light of the fact that as Genesis moved into the ’80s their pop hits and more commercial tunes became the staple of their live shows, with the much-beloved Hackett and Gabriel era material becoming rare token inclusions. And so back in 2012, with the release of Steve’s Genesis Revisited Vol.2 album, his live shows started to take on a different format with his concerts comprising classic ’70s Genesis tunes, and in 2015 with the release of his Wolflight album, his stage shows metamorphosed into an evening of both his solo material (new and old) being aired in the first half, and the second half of the show being dedicated purely to his period of involvement with Genesis.
And that brings us up to date with this latest release, taken from Steve’s 2022 tour which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the landmark Genesis album Foxtrot. Amazing to think that this original album was released half a century ago, yet it still tends to crop up in any major poll of the top ten progressive albums of all-time. And to celebrate it in true style, this touring band chose to play Foxtrot in its entirety and in the order of the track listing too. But more of that later on… first up, it’s disc 1 of this double CD release, which covers the first half of the show and features songs from Steve Hackett’s solo career. Only one newer inclusion this time around, with The Devil’s Cathedral from his last studio release Surrender of Silence, and even as the stand-alone song from his recent solo years, it’s still a fabulous number and really comes into its own with this live rendition. Very atmospheric, a tad quirky, dark and discordant, but still Hackett through and through, which is why he has remained so popular, with his solo career reaching 46 years long already.
The rest of disc 1 contains three songs from his very first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte (released while he was still a member of Genesis), two from Spectral Mornings, and one from Highly Strung, all of them from the time when he was signed to Charisma records. It’s the period when his solo albums likely sold in their greatest quantities, and as such the ones that the fans will be most familiar with, so this first set of solo career highlights features all the main big-hitters. The only padding that I personally feel could have been left out are the solo spots, of which the first is a bass solo (no disrespect intended as Jonas Reingold is a fantastic player). Yet as this album is meant to be reflective of the live show from the tour, then obviously it has been kept in, and to be fair it only last two minutes. Major highlights for me are the instrumental Spectral Mornings which still gives me goose-bumps every time I hear it, and the epic Shadow of the Hierophant, performed here in its entirety and featuring the vocals of Amanda Lehmann. Her voice gives the first section its distinctive folk flavour, and she also doubles up on guitar, and in particular for the brooding and intensity-building second half of this number too.
And now to disc 2, which is the full performance of the Foxtrot album, plus a couple of extra Genesis classics as encores. If you’ve got the original Genesis studio release then you’ll know the running order. Opening up with the stunning Watcher of the Skies, complete with its Mellotron inspired keyboard introduction, irregular time signature beats, and fabulous climatic ending. Many of these numbers have been included in Hackett’s tours over the last decade, but never all in one show. Yet the next song, Timetable, is featured here for the first time ever in a Hackett concert, reminding me of just how fine a song it is, and finally being aired live (something even Genesis never did back in the day).
Get ‘Em Out By Friday is up next, which dates back to Genesis’ first ever live release, 1973’s Genesis Live. It still sounds as marvellously unconventional as it did 50 years ago. The next song is probably one of my favourite moments on this album, Can-Utility and the Coastliners. A beautifully crafted song which goes from English folk music to full-on prog with monster-sounding bass pedals and Mellotron during its mid-section.
If this was the original studio album you’d be flipping that vinyl over onto side 2 now, and yes, you’d be getting Hackett’s very own solo spot inclusion on the album with this version of Horizons. A nice little acoustic interlude which has been extended with various other acoustic passages and free-styling before finally arriving at those glorious harmonic notes which introduce the main melody.
A storming round of applause before a tiny bell chimes twice bringing us at last to the epic of all epics that is Supper’s Ready. Not only seen as a tour-de-force by the huge majority of Genesis fans, but still ranked as one of the (if not THE) greatest progressive rock songs of all-time. This ensemble of top-class players do not disappoint in the slightest, delivering true justice to this complex and diverse amalgamation of several pieces of music, which joyously runs together so smoothly for a magnificent 27 minutes. The fans love it; they would likely be disappointed if it wasn’t included in any of the Hackett show from recent years, and it still sounds just as amazing today as it did back then. A truly brilliant showcase for the writing talents that made up the classic Genesis line-up that ran from the early to mid-’70s. And this particular version is amongst the best.
Hard to follow a track like that one, and as such it was the closing number for the second set. But of course you get the two encores included here also, with the first being Firth of Fifth. I think this song in particular has probably been featured in every single Steve Hackett tour since he started his Genesis Revisited project over 20 year ago. An absolute firm fan-favourite, it ticks all the boxes for any prog-styled composition, and was always a showcase moment for Steve’s guitar playing, even back in the days when Selling England by the Pound was first released. After this there’s a three-and-a-half minute drum solo, which eventually gives way to show closer Los Endos. Craig Blundell is an absolutely top-notch drummer, his inclusion in this band has undoubtedly pushed them to another level, but even as a massive fan of Steven Wilson and the work that Craig has done with him, I’m just not really a fan of drum solos, or any solo spots to be honest. In my mind’s eye, for a perfect show I’d have preferred the time spent on the two solo spots to have been used for the possible inclusion of another song. Something like The Steppes would have been the icing on the cake… oh yes.
So, after giving you a run-down on the contents of this album, you might be thinking why do I need to add this release to my collection, especially if you already own the original Foxtrot or any of Steve Hackett’s previous live albums from recent years. And here’s the best reason why: because it sounds so damn good! Straight away, from the opening notes of the album’s first track Ace of Wands, you can hear the gorgeous audio quality. Beautiful wide stereo panning, fantastic instrument and vocal balance across the entire group, and a perfectly balanced tonal quality too. You can instantly hear that a lot of time and effort (and likely financial cost) has gone into making this latest live release from Steve probably his finest finished product so far. Hats off to the team behind this vastly superior live audio mix, Chris Lord-Alge on the mixing and Ted Jensen on the mastering. Both have done a stunning job with these recordings, retaining the ‘live’ atmosphere of the performances yet enhancing them in such a way that you marvel at the clarity and balance of the entire thing. Definitely one that is worthy of being played on a really nice quality hi-fi set up with good speakers, or listened to on headphones as this has the potential to be a truly immersive listening experience.
This audio is also on the DVD and Blu-ray releases of the ‘visual’ version of this show, and available to listen to in 5.1 surround. Unfortunately, I’ve only had the stereo-mix audio to review, but as the filmed version comes from the exact same show, you’re obviously going to get this magnificent sound to go along with the concert footage as well. Also, the album is getting a four LP release for all you vinyl purists and collectors out there. All of the band play superbly, with lead vocalist Nad Sylvan in marvellous form. Special shout out to bassist Jonas Reingold who covers all those beautifully thought-out Mike Rutherford basslines so very well indeed, and whose bass tone on this album is the dog’s bollocks. Great musicianship throughout from all involved, and of course from the main man Steve Hackett who still shines so very brightly after more than five decades of playing on major stages. Yet I can definitely say that this particular album truly feels like a ‘band’ more than merely a solo artiste and some assembled backing musicians. Steve is never overly dominant in the mix, with an equal share of the sonic band-width being handed out to all. And that’s why I think I like this one so much.
And as for my final thoughts, what’s next for Steve Hackett and this fine band of fantastic players? He’s already worked his way through many of the songs from his Genesis back-catalogue, and also put together some special shows paying homage to a particular album/era from his career with the British prog giants. Well, 2024 just happens to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Not for one moment can I ever envision Steve performing that album in its entirety, but I certainly think that a ‘highlights’ set could make a brilliant second half to his next planned world tour. I’m sure the set list for the next tour has been pretty much put together already, but if anybody has his ear… PLEASE consider a Lamb highlights section!
[The review follows the audio available on the DVD and represents the concert as performed.]
01. Ace of Wands (8:19)
02. The Devil’s Cathedral (6:50)
03. Spectral Mornings (6:13)
04. Every Day (6:43)
05. A Tower Struck Down (4:32)
06. Basic Instincts (2:07)
07. Camino Royale (7:53)
08. Shadow of the Hierophant (1:35)
09. Firth of Fifth (9:48)
10. Los Endos (11:12)
Time – 65:12
01. Watcher of the Skies (8:25)
02. Time Table (5:02)
03. Get ‘Em Out By Friday (8:26)
04. Can Utility and the Coastliners (6:06)
05. Horizons (2:21)
06. Supper’s Ready (27:28)
Time – 57:48
Total Time – 123:00
Steve Hackett – Guitar, Vocals
Roger King – Keyboards
Jonas Reingold – Bass, 12-string Guitar
Rob Townsend – Saxophones, Flutes
Craig Blundell – Drums, Percussion
Nad Sylvan – Vocals
Amanda Lehmann – Guitar, Vocals
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Formats: 2CD + Blu-ray | Limited 2CD + DVD | 4 LP | Digital
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 15th September 2023
[Live photos used in the review by Chris Simmons and taken at the second show of the Foxtrot at Fifty tour]