John Hackett Band (with Heather Findlay) at Darlington Forum 15 March 2024

John Hackett Band / Heather Findlay

The Forum Music Centre, Darlington
Friday, 15th March 2024

John Hackett and his band returned to the Forum in Darlington after 18 months and gave a truly exceptional performance of progressive rock full of diversity, swirling with a myriad of musical styles. It was one of those nights when everything just came together. Consummate musicians playing together at their very best, a lovely intimate venue with a great sound, a good-sized, knowledgeable and appreciative audience and a relaxed, friendly ambience throughout – all contributing to the best performance I’ve seen from the band.

Heather Findlay at Darlington Forum 15 March 2024The evening had already started well, with the angelic vocals of Heather Findlay as the evening’s opener, delivering an enjoyable set of songs, new and old, on acoustic guitar. Steal Away and Already Free set the scene, followed by Rise and Fall (from her Odin Dragonfly project with Angela Gordon) and then a spirited, hopeful Yellow Time.

Time for some evocative poetry with The Golden Tree, before her tribute to the late Liam Davison with Here’s To You. The Mostly Autumn connection was further enhanced with an exquisite solo version of Evergreen and later with Caught In A Fold, but sandwiched between these was a vibrant, uplifting new song, Wild Flower, from her new folk-prog project, The Bee Tellers (with Simon Snaize), which demonstrates that she is in fine form and now moving forward in this post-Covid world of ours.

Steal Away
Already Free
Rise and Fall
Yellow Time
The Golden Tree – poem
Here’s To You
Caught In A Fold
Wild Flower
Heather Findlay – Vocals & Acoustic Guitar

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Over two sets, The John Hackett Band, painted some astonishingly diverse musical soundscapes. John’s pastoral flute flights of fancy were wonderfully grounded by the expressive bass playing of Jeremy Richardson and the infectious drumming of Duncan Parsons. Inevitably your eyes are drawn to the virtuoso guitar playing of Nick Fletcher, who can shape the sound rhythmically one minute and then shine and play the most intricate, dazzling and soaring guitar solos the next – and some of the best you’ll see on the current prog live circuit.

John Hackett Band at Darlington Forum 15 March 2024

John Hackett Band at Darlington Forum 15 March 2024Spy Glass and Whispers started proceedings well and two songs from their next album, Theme & Rondo and the Parsons-penned The Committee truly sparkled with the musical interplay between the players. I was picking up touches of Focus, Caravan and even Steely Dan, with funky, jazz patterns mingling with prog, psychedelic and pop influences, creating a melting pot of sounds.

The impressive Burnt Down Trees was followed by Queenie, with Nick’s guitar solo simply stunning. Jeremy and Duncan excelled on the thoughtful Stella (introduced as a pop song in 5/4) and then the powerful Zeppelin-style riffing of Ego & Id ended the first half in dynamic fashion.

After Duncan’s always hilarious ‘quiz answers’ interlude (visions of Pavarotti touring in a Nissan Dorma camper van, and Fender’s lesser-known Yorkshire guitar, the Tadcaster, still making me chuckle a day later) the second set seemed to flash by in no time at all. Dream Town was followed by a mastery version of Nick’s Winds of Change with flute and guitar passages aplenty, with an amazingly catchy Who Let The Rain In, before the instrumental exuberance of Clare’s Tango.

John Hackett Band at Darlington Forum 15 March 2024

John Hackett Band at Darlington Forum 15 March 2024

Jeremy and John’s vocals were the best I’ve ever heard from the band and they were accompanied by those of Heather’s next as she returned to the stage for a guest rendition of King Crimson’s I Talk To The Wind – casting its magical spell across the hall and John’s sublime and dreamy flute playing – simply beautiful.

John Hackett Band (with Heather Findlay) at Darlington Forum 15 March 2024

Red Institution was refreshingly accessible and catchy, and then Life in Reverse/That Ship ended the main set to great applause. Just time for a dynamic burst of Focus meets Rush vibrancy with Red Hair, as an encore, and a memorable concert ended on a real high.

The band have never sounded better, and they are musically as tight as a drum skin at present. Praise goes to Mike Prendergast of Gasto Promotions for bring them back to the Forum – a decision rewarded by a doubling of the audience from last time. Onwards and upwards for sure! Truly progtastic!

Spy Glass
Theme & Rondo
The Committee
Burnt Down Trees
Ego & Id
~ Interval: (‘last week’s quiz answers’ by Duncan Parsons)
Dream Town
Winds of Change
Who Let The Rain In
Clare’s Tango
I Talk To The Wind (King Crimson cover with Heather Findlay)
Red Institution
Life in Reverse/That Ship
~ Encore:
Red Hair

John Hackett – Vocals, Flute, Keyboards, Guitar
Nick Fletcher – Guitar
Jeremy Richardson – Vocals, Bass, Acoustic Guitar
Duncan Parsons – Drums

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