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Bebop Spoken There

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Monday, November 25, 2019

Steve Hackett @ Sage Gateshead – Nov. 23

Steve Hackett (guitar); Roger King (keys); Rob Townsend (sax/flute/keys); Jonas Reingold (bass guitar); Nad Sylvan (vocals) (Craig Blundell (drums).
(Review by Steve T)

This was sold out months ago but we still managed to secure a ticket on the day for Mrs T and, after twenty five years, she's finally accepted that Peter Gabriel is a giant and Phil Collins a d!ck, at least when he's not behind a drum-kit.

I never had any intention of reviewing it for Bebop Spoken Here, but it turned out to be such a huge event, and seems to me to have been so important, it doesn't seem right for it to go totally unnoticed.

We arrived just after six and already the place was bustling and buzzing with a palpable atmosphere of anticipation.


The programme revealed we weren't going to make a takeaway on the way home as planned, so it was decided to forfeit part of the Hackett set in favour of a quick pasta. I caught the last twenty minutes of the set but we were both back in, disturbing our neighbours in the dark, as the Peter Gabriel stand-in, attired in the first of several costumes, camp with long blond hair and hat, opened a cappella 'Can you tell me where my country lies' from Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, opening track from the star of tonight's show, the mighty Selling England by the Pound.

An extended I know What I Like followed, somewhere between the original and the live version Phil Collins sings on Seconds Out, complete with sax and guitar solos. Firth of Fifth restored the lengthy piano intro missing from that live set and features Hackett’s best and most celebrated guitar solo.

The singer struggled with More Fool Me, a bit of a filler and the second Genesis song featuring Phil singing lead. This is followed by Battle of Epping Forest, some humour giving the singer the opportunity for some theatrics, followed by an instrumental, also a bit of a filler though it kept the interest better live. 

Cinema Show, to my mind the best record Genesis ever made, with Peter's finest ever vocal performance, always threatened to be a struggle. In 73, at the tender age of eleven, I thought we were so cool and underground, listening to a band who it turns out were already pretty popular, but to hear this music forty six years later, performed to a packed house who knew every word and hung on every extended solo, was more than I could take and I choked a little but managed to keep it together, not for the last time.

Aisle of Plenty closes the album and is a short reprise of the opening track which bears the lyric which gives the album its name. The audience were on their feet as Hackett introduced the band: vocals, reeds, keys, bass and drums, unknowns (to me) who must have felt like Elvis, MJ or the Beatles.

A couple of jazzers had brought their grandchildren for their first ever concert and I thought afterwards how they'd probably wonder what all the fuss is about during Hackett's solo set but, following the Genesis set, they probably never want to do anything else other than watch live music, and how do you tell them it isn't always that magical, that epic, that special.

The band continued with a piece called Deja Vu, which didn't make the album but apparently turned up on a box set years later, followed by Dance on a Volcano, the opening track on the first (and best) album with Phil Collins on lead vocals.

Not a chance of getting away with no encore though, untypically nowadays, they made us wait. He never does a gig without ending with Los Endos, which closes the same album. All the words that critics, from Peel onwards, typically throw at progressive rock, apply here but it's a wonderful piece of music none-the-less, which just keeps on going for the jugular.

They remained onstage to soak up the adulation and we'd have still been there adulating them now had they not eventually left the stage.

If only the local press and TV could have foreseen this, but nobody could have predicted it, and the people there will be talking about it for the rest of our lives.  

In a still racist but vastly less ridiculous world, where John Peel hadn't bought himself another six months (which turned out to be another thirty years), Selling England by the Pound would have been Pet Sounds or Sgt Pepper years ago. I've felt this before at Zappa based gigs, and tonight it felt like the time of intelligent rock has finally come.   
Steve T

4 comments :

Russell said...

A couple of jazzers took along their grandchildren - someone should call social services! As for 'intelligent rock' - perish the thought!

Steve T said...

I was thinking of you Russell. Torrid times ahead for the prog-rock non believer.
Incidentally, the photo doesn't do justice to the lighting during the vocal section of Cinema Show. While some prefer to jump up and down and be spat at, this really was like being in a fairy story, a fantasy novel, a Shakespeare play.
Magnifico.

Chris K said...

Steve - many thanks for the (thrilling) review. Maybe I need to revise my long held opinions, of Genesis that is, as I've always been a prog rock believer! My taste was more Crimson, Yes and Softs than the public schoolboys of Genesis.

Maybe there is an authentic side of Genesis to reprise, the Gabriel/Hackett side rather than the schmaltzy Phil Collins excesses? Please advise!

And is there really a Prog Rock Renaissance in train?

Steve T said...

Crimson and particularly Yes should be an easy shoe-in for Genesis; both bands were enormously influenced by King Crimson. It's one of the eternal questions: Weather Report or Mahavishnu? Stravinsky or Shostakovich? Genesis or Yes?
Don't be put off by the toffiness, like the Royals, it wasn't their fault. Gabriel is a remarkable man who, like McLaughlin, Corea and Zawinul (?Jarrett) doesn't see colour (according to Miles (who did)). Tony Banks was the real talent in the band and the biggest d!ck was working-class clown Phil (great drummer though).
Definitely SEBTP plus its predecessor Foxtrot, with their only side-long piece, Supper's Ready, perhaps the best of the genre.
The following album - Lamb Lies Down - was Peter's last and their Topographic Oceans, but Carpet Crawlers is wonderful, with In the Cage not far behind.
If you don't already know them, check out Magma, Henry Cow and Jade Warrior, all on the jazzy side and Tull are worth checking out, the proggiest being Thick as a Brick with one track spread over both sides of an album (vinyls), though Benefit and Aqualung are great too.
Definitely a revival, with a monthly (? bi-monthly) mag and literally hundreds of new bands, though none are likely to get near the classics and I'd struggle to recommend one. Dream Theater are/were serious musicians and are superb live if you can stomach prog-metal.

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