Steve Hackett at Casino du Lac Leamy Theatre

John Kelman By

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Steve Hackett
Casino du Lac Leamy Théâtre
Gatineau, Canada
October 5, 2013

It might seem odd that the guitarist who left Genesis more than 35 years ago has ultimately become the only one to champion the music made during the group's years spent in the progressive rock arena, while those who continued on as a trio expressed less and less interest in that music, becoming far more commercially successful with the '80s-style pop that became their ultimate destination. Even when that trio—keyboardist Tony Banks, bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford and drummer/vocalist Phil Collins—reconvened for a relatively small number of dates (but on its usual epic scale) in 2007, the emphasis weighed in favor of radio (and video) friendly hits like "Invisible Touch," "I Can't Dance" and "No Son of Mine," though there was at least some nod to the progressive music of its past—considerably more, in fact, than at any time since touring Duke (Atlantic, 1980), long considered by most to be the band's last gasp in the progressive arena.

But for Steve Hackett, the music that Genesis made during his tenure—joining the band in 1971 for that year's classic Nursery Cryme (Charisma) (the group's second "official" album, following 1970's Trespass (Charisma), through to his departure in October, 1977 after his own swan songs with the group (the studio Wind & Wuthering and live Seconds Out, both released by Atlantic that same year)—has remained of key significance, and while he has continued to release a growing discography of stylistically diverse recordings under his own name in the ensuing decades, he's almost always included at least a handful of Genesis tunes in the set lists of his live performances.

Still, with the resurgence of interest in progressive rock fuelled by the internet's ability to bring together pockets of fans from around the globe, it was, perhaps, only a matter of time before he released Genesis Revisited (Camino), a fine first-crack, in 1996. But it was the far larger cast of characters and some particularly fine vocal turns—including Nik Kershaw's definitive "The Lamia," from Genesis' final album with founding singer Peter Gabriel, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Charisma, 1974); Jakko Jakszyk's stunning harmonies on "Entangled," from A Trick of the Tail (Charisma, 1976); and Nad Sylvan's dramatic interpretation of Nursery Cryme's "The Musical Box"—that made Genesis Revisited 2 (Inside Out, 2012) not just a modern update of classic material, it perhaps blasphemously managed, in some cases, to actually surpass the originals. An even greater success than Hackett could have envisaged, the guitarist has spent most of 2013 on the road performing the Genesis Revisited show, with more dates already pushing the tour into 2014.

It's not as if there haven't been good Genesis tribute acts; The Musical Box, at times featuring Mahavishnu Project leader/drummer Gregg Bendian, has even gone so far as to gain permission from Genesis to launch performances of The Lamb that utilized the original concept album tour's slide show and costumes.

But to have one of the original members of Genesis bring a show that featured some of its best-loved progressive material back to life, and with a well-oiled, top-notch group—Nad Sylvan impressively handling most of the vocal duties, with drummer Gary O'Toole also taking a couple of lead vocal spots; keyboardist Roger King adding some new textures to his own takes on Tony Banks' signature work; woodwind/saxophone/keyboardist Rob Townsend not only covering Gabriel's flute work, but doubling and/or harmonizing many of the touchstones that Hackett contributed back in the day; and bassist Lee Pomeroy also assuming 12-string duties on an impressive double-neck guitar, as well as handling the huge-sounding bass pedals that threatened to blow the roof off the theatre more than a few times? A group capable of treating the music with the reverence it deserved while, at the same, time adding its own interpretive slant? It's no surprise that Hackett received more than a few standing ovations throughout the nearly two-and-a-half hour show that he brought to the Théâtre at Casino du Lac Leamy in Gatineau, Quebec, part of the Canadian capital's Greater Metropolitan Area located just a few minutes' drive across the river from Ottawa.

In a most generous interview with Hackett prior to the show, he spoke of many things, including the motivation behind making Genesis Revisited 2:

At the nearly sold-out, 1,000 seat theatre, it was clear just how close to peoples' hearts Genesis' music from Hackett's tenure remains. What may be surprising to many, however, is that, despite Genesis' commercial success seeming to soar to new heights each time someone left the band, with its '80s and early '90s material doing far better for the band at the time, the passing of years tells another story, with sales of '70s-era Genesis albums ultimately surpassing later records like Genesis (Atlantic, 1983) and We Can't Dance (Atlantic, 1991):

Hackett's love of the music was clear, as were his fond memories of a group where, much like small new England towns, despite being in the group for six years, he was always considered the "new kid on the block" along with Collins (until the singer/drummer's own solo success with albums like Face Value (Atlantic, 1981) gave him greater clout in the group's direction...for better and for worse)—even when, after front man and theatrical focal point Gabriel left and the group's future was seriously threatened, he became the first to release a solo record, 1975's Voyage of the Acolyte (Charimsa), which has since become a classic of the progressive rock pantheon:

Still, Hackett is realistic—and humble—about his early role in the group, in particular as a writer:

Genesis was an unusual band for its time; rather than writing autobiographically, pining about love lost, or writing oblique lyrics the group told stories; tales ultimately of greater importance than any individual performer in the band, with pre-Trick of the Tale shows doing everything possible to draw attention away from everyone but Gabriel, even though there impressive performances aplenty. Further still, based on his innovative plaing on Nursery Cryme, it's hard to believe that Hackett had no significant experience in any prior group and minimal live experience before Gabriel responded to an ad that Hackett had placed in the September 2, 1970 issue of Melody Maker, seeking musicians who were "determined to strive beyond existing stagnant music forms."

He may certainly have had plenty of growth as a player ahead of him, but Hackett was already changing the shape of guitar on the first Genesis recording to feature his name; two-handed tapping may have subsequently been attributed to guitarists like Eddie Van Halen, but Hackett was doing it years before. Still, he is quick to acknowledge his own early deficiencies—and influences:

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