Photography by Sam Bidwell

It is hard to believe that our musical host for the evening is a mere 71 years young. Many of the masterpieces on tonight’s menu have been performed live nearly 500 times over the last 5 decades. Yet, as Genesis appear to be stacking their last domino, Mr Steve Hackett gives us the impression that he is just getting going. For our starter, “Clocks - The Angel Of Mons”, we are turned back to 1979. Flanked by his band in attacking formation, Hackett is ready for battle. Again, it is hard to believe that this guitar God, this lord of lords, this king of kings, is now a septuagenarian. The on-stage energy is electric.

Hackett apologises to the crowd for having to ‘endure’ the songs from his latest album (Surrender Of Silence) which are sandwiched in the middle of the first set. His humility is endearing, but these spoken interjections are almost too self-deprecating. This member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with an immense discography to his name, has earned the right to ‘inflict’ us with his latest material. Whilst Surrender Of Silence may not stand the test of time to the same extent as 1979’s Spectral Mornings, “Held in the Shadows” and “The Devil’s Cathedral” are arresting centrepieces of his first set. The former most certainly turns out as a rock song on the night, with the latter living up to expectations as a demonic, and quite obviously Messiaenic, delight.

Photography by Sam Bidwell

Steve’s solo during “Every Day” is best described as screaming. With finesse, Hackett makes his Fernandes Les Paul sing, and pre-concert doubts regarding execution of the tricky sustain on this track turn out to be unnecessary. Critics are sometimes quick to point out the excesses of prog. The eleven-minute outro which features on the ‘Extended Playout’ version of “Shadow of the Hierophant” is a prime candidate for such an award. Luckily for some (but not me however), Steve opts for the concise ‘standard’ version with its mere 6-minute outro to end the first set. Special guest Amanda Lehmann is the priestess providing the breathy vocals for this progressive beast, which closes a relatively short, but exceedingly sweet, first half.

Let it be no secret, the vast majority of fans in attendance are here for the second half, an unabridged and unadulterated performance of Seconds Out (Genesis’ 1977 live album, and their last musical offering featuring Steve before his departure that same year). Seconds Out is a delicious smorgasbord of their early and enduring prog rock classics. Perhaps “Squonk”, which opens both the album and this second half, is the only number which isn’t dripping with emotion and/or ablaze with virtuosic majesty. Nonetheless, Steve Hackett and his superb band play each and every piece of this peerless live album with deep reverence and spirited vigour.

Photography by Sam Bidwell

Vocalist Nad Sylvan excels himself in navigating from the cheeky-chappery of “Robbery, Assault and Battery” to the simply heart-breaking “Carpet Crawlers” and “Afterglow”, the latter of which carries enormous personal meaning. There are few dry eyes in this row…

And I would search everywhere / Just to hear your call / You walk upon stranger roads than this one / In a world I used to know before / For now I’ve lost everything / I give to you my soul / The meaning of all that I believed before / Escapes me in this world of love / I miss you more

(An excerpt from “Afterglow”)

Steve Hackett performs "Afterglow" at the Cambridge Corn ExchangeFootage by Ivor Williams

Steve rightfully salutes his excellent squad, calling for the crowd’s recognition of these stellar musicians. Keyboardist Roger King dispatches the irregular and ever-changing time signatures which litter the opening of “Firth Of Fifth” with easy aplomb, before Steve, as ever, doesn’t miss a beat during the equally virtuosic guitar solo which follows: the trademark contribution of his time with Genesis.

A jubilant concert-goer leaps to his feet during “The Musical Box”, dancing his way to the front of this all-seated venue. Finally. Until this point, the most mobile audience members are easily myself and my two companions for the night (apologies to those sat behind.) A sea of Camel, Caravan, Floyd, Genesis, Hackett, and YES tour tee-shirts pervade the crowd, yet the tangible nostalgia of the bar seems to remain internalised once sat in front of the stage. It is perplexing to see the band giving it their all, but receiving little back.

Photography by Sam Bidwell

“I Know What I Like” and “Los Endos” are both recipients of a 21st-century spin from Hackett, in the form of extended jazz world-fusion solos. But, without doubt, the prize monuments of the night are 1972’s “Supper’s Ready” and 1973’s “The Cinema Show”. The epiphanic instrumental of “The Cinema Show” requires musicianship of the highest order: indeed, it is of my opinion that these transcendental 10 minutes and 41 seconds are nothing short of a musical manifestation of heaven on earth.


Mountain View

An interview with Steve Hackett: surrendering silence and seconding out

The band, in just their fifth outing since lockdown, do not disappoint. “Supper’s Ready”, at a mere 23 minutes and 6 seconds, and with its seven phantasmagorical sections, reigns supreme as a sublime synthesis of everything prog stands for: esotericism, supernature, and spiritualism. A standing ovation sweeps the assembly; all is forgiven. “There’s an angel standing in the sun”: Messiaen is reincarnated as Messiah, as Hackett heralds in the end of time.