There is a perfect symmetry that comes when artist and audience come together sometimes. An indefinable magic that happens when the music is played by artists at the peak of their powers and the already willing crowd get swept away to a different plain.
Steve Hackett: Selling England By The Pound & Spectral Mornings: Live At Hammersmith (InsideOutMusic)
Release Date: 25 September 2020
Words: Paul Monkhouse
This new live set by Steve Hackett is a brilliantly captured document of one such night, the former Genesis guitarist dipping into the great heritage of both his time with the prog giants and his solo career, covering the band’s 1973 classic and his own seminal album from six years later.
If that was not enough, there is also a smattering of ‘At The Edge Of Light’ thrown in for good measure to further sweeten the pot.
Shot at the legendary London venue in 2019, the show puts you in the best seat of the house as it sweeps you from the dressing room, through the labyrinthine corridors and onto the stage.
Every perfect moment is caught, every nuance and sigh appear crystal clear as each song is played, transcending both time and place. Hackett has always been a man who has balanced perfectionism with feel, never sacrificing the heart for the necessity of slavishly copying what has gone before.
Sure, the quality here is sky high, the guitarist and his band absolutely sublime, but what you get is live interpretations of some of the most loved tracks in the canon but each one is sprinkled with a special ‘fairy dust’, as The Troggs’s Reg Presley once famously said.
It is this magic that permeates the whole show and from the opening notes of Spectral Morning’s ‘Every Day’ to the final bow of ‘Los Endos’ you cannot help but be drawn in. There is a real warmth and added lustre as each track is given a fresh coat of paint in the setting, a well drilled band naturally flowing with breathtaking ease from one part of the, sometimes complex, arrangements to another.
Whilst the albums made staple and required listening in bedsits and lounges upon release, each moment minutely poured over, there is a glory in the whole that stands out as the communal sense of truly sharing the night takes over.
The enjoyment and bonhomie from the stage spills out over the apron and fills the cavernous hall, the sold out and blissed out audience not only bathed in the multi coloured lights but wreathed in smiles.
The aforementioned ‘Every Day’ is played with such joy and shines as brightly as ever, the choice a great one to kick the evening off, its gentle passages and tempo changes to faster rhythms setting a pulsating tapestry of light and shade.
Of course, Hackett is central to everything, the guitarist often seemingly lost in the moment, the music sweeping him away but there is still a great, natural connection to everyone who shares the stage with him, each band member shining.
From the drive of Craig Blundell’s drums and the bass of James Reingold, through to the lovely additional touches brought by Rob Townsend’s sax and flute, it all adds to a dazzling spectrum.
There is a real sense of wonder as both band and audience revisit such classics as the keys soaked ‘The Virgin And The Gypsy’, ‘Clocks – Angel Of Mons’ with its tumult of drums and the brilliant pairing of Genesis favourites ‘Dancing With The Moonlight Knight’ and ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe’.
Stepping into the very big boots of Peter Gabriel, Nad Sylvan does a superb job of capturing the spirit of the originals, his vocals sometimes echoing the originals, but always with his own little touches.
Roger King’s keys work is also outstanding, especially glorious on ‘The Cinema Show’ and with the added musical touches from Amanda Lehmann on guitar and vocals as well as brother John Hackett on flute, this was one formidable array of talent.
The whole show flows beautifully, each song providing its own light and shade as the band make this glorious noise.
This was obviously a set list that Hackett wanted to play, eschewing some obvious choices but playing deeper cuts along with the ‘hits’, the guitarist shining, his very soul seemingly inexorably linked with the material.
With treats like ‘Déjà Vu’, co written with his old friend Gabriel as the pair bridged either side of a split with Genesis and thrilling set closer ‘Los Endos’, they manage to hit all bases and give the fans everything they could have wished for and more.
Impeccably put together and beautiful to both look at and listen to, ‘Selling England By The Pound and Spectral Mornings: Live At Hammersmith’ is an absolute dream.