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Steve Hackett at Casino du Lac Leamy Theatre

John Kelman By

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Following the interview and roughly an hour's soundcheck, there was no time for rest, as Hackett went to a "meet and greet" with fans who'd coughed up extra bucks to meet their hero, get a personal photograph with the guitarist, an autograph, a collectible, numbered, limited edition tour poster, exclusive tour merchandise item and an official meet & greet laminate card. No sooner was that over than the doors opened, promptly, at 7:00PM, giving Hackett an hour to relax and prepare. Almost on the button, the lights dimmed at 8:00PM as King began the opening mellotron chords to "Watcher of the Skies," begging the question: how would Sylvan do, in terms of stage presence, when compared to Gabriel, whose multicolored cape, strange, bat-winged headdress and carefully thought-out staging always made this science fiction tale a dramatic opener.

There was no need to worry. With long, curly blond hair and dressed in layers—a white pirate shirt beneath a burgundy and black vest, all covered by a black coat reaching right down to his feet—Sylvan knew how to reach an audience, regardless of the size of the room. With facial makeup helping his sometimes exaggerated expressions reach the back of the room, Sylvan later posted, the day after the show, on Facebook: "I am thinking of the little people in the back! You have to reach all the way you know....let them see your facial expressions. Personally I hate make up! But onstage, you become someone else and I find that fascinating."

Of all the singers who participated on Genesis Revisited 2, Sylvan couldn't have been a better choice for the tour. A singer with his own approach and personality, the texture of his voice does, nevertheless, resemble Gabriel's at times- -something made clearer on his Genesis soundscape project with Bonamici (aka Christian Thordin), Unifaun (Prog Rock, 2008), and perhaps less so as singer of Agents of Mercy, his collaboration with the Flower Kings' guitarist Roine Stolt that began as a more acoustic alternative but ultimately turned more progressive by the time of its most recent release, The Black Forest (Foxtrot, 2011). Throughout the show, from hand gestures to exaggerated facial expressions, Sylvan not only sang the music of Genesis with all the credibility required, he also acted as a visual lightning rod on the stage.

Which was a good thing because, as fine a guitarist as Hackett is—and while he commanded attention when he was playing a solo or taking a brief acoustic turn, as he did on nylon-string guitar for a version of his instrumental solo "Horizons," from Foxtrot (Charisma, 1972), which segued into a beautiful version of Wind & Wuthering's "Blood on the Rooftops," sung by O'Toole—he doesn't resort to any of the typical rock guitar posturing; instead, he focused on the task at hand: delivering the music at its absolute best. "Blood on the Rooftops" then led into the same triptych of songs that followed on that album: the atmospheric "Unquiet Slumber For the Sleepers...," the hard-edged, near-fusion of ..."In That Quiet Earth" and finally, with Sylvan back onstage to sing, The Beatles-esque "Afterglow," not only powered by Pomeroy's bass pedals and 12-string guitar arpeggios, but by something else this group delivered that Genesis did less and less as time went on: vocal harmonies.

While, in the early days, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins provided Gabriel with the occasional backup vocals, by the time Gabriel deserted the group to pursue a solo career, background vocals were largely left behind in concert—a shame, as they made songs like "Watcher of the Skies," "Afterglow" and "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" (the group's first charting single, reaching #21 on the UK Singles Charts) all the better, and it was simply great to have them back (with Hackett also singing).

It was also a pleasure to see just how much fun the group was having; while Gabriel was a charismatic front man, the rest of the group rarely looked like they were having a good time, in particular Banks and Hackett. Here, Hackett's front and center position onstage—augmented, at times, by lighting that drew even more attention to him—made clear that this was his show, and his band; but it was the occasional clowning around by Sylvan, Townsend, O'Toole and Pomeroy, in particular— King's enjoyment was clear from his facial expressions, but hidden behind his keyboards, he was limited in what else he could do—that brought an infectious and joyous energy to the show.


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