With such a broad repertoire of classic progressive rock, it's a very good thing, indeed, that guitarist Steve Hackettdespite leaving the group on the cusp of far greater commercial success (but, alas, also compromising its progressive nature)has kept the music of Peter Gabriel-era (and slightly beyond) Genesis alive since leaving the group in October, 1977. But while Hackett's post-Genesis live sets have, in the ensuing decades, almost always included selections from the group's songbookbeginning with his first appearance with the group formed by Charterhouse School mates Gabriel, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, 1971's Nursery Cryme
, through to his final studio recording with the band, 1976's Wind & Wuthering
(all on Charisma)he's never dedicated an entire tour to replicating the music of Genesis. That changed this past year, when he hit the road around the world, focusing on music from the Genesis catalog that he'd re-recorded, first in 1997 with Watcher of the Skies: Genesis Revisited
(Camino, 1996), but even more successfully on Genesis Revisited II
(Inside Out, 2012).
A whopping double-disc set co-produced with longtime musical partner, keyboardist Roger King, with Genesis Revisited II
Hackett managed to be reverential to his source material while, at the same time, bringing some new elements (sometimes subtle other times more overt) to a set list ranging from classics like "The Musical Box" and epic "Supper's Ready" to lesser-known but no less compelling tracks including the unfairly overlooked "Can-Utility and the Coastliners," from Foxtrot
(Charisma, 1972). GRII
also included music, from Hackett's solo career, that the guitarist had originally written with Genesis in mind, like "Please Don't Touch," "A Tower Struck Down," and "Shadow of the Hierophant," the last co-written with Mike Rutherford for Hackett's first solo album, 1975's Voyage of the Acolyte
also featured a long list of guests. '80s pop star Nik Kershaw's "The Lamia," originally from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
(Charisma, 1974), actuallyand, perhaps, blasphemouslytrumped Gabriel's version on the Genesis singer's swan song before leaving the group to embark on what would ultimately prove to be a far more successful solo career. '70s-era King Crimson
alum John Wetton also joined in alongside new millennium progressive rock stars such as Steven Wilson
, Jakko M. Jakszyk
, Neal Morse
and the Flower Kings' founder, guitarist and vocalist Roine Stolt. For the tour, however, Hackett had to find the perfect group to deliver his nearly three-hour sets with absolute authenticity while, at the same time, speaking with its own voice.
He also had to find a singer who could handle the majority of the music all on his own. Enter Nad Sylvan (who also appears on three of GRII
's tracks), born in the USA but raised by his grandparents in Sweden. Sylvan first came to public attention with Unifaun
(Prog Rock Records, 2008). That most Genesis-inspired duo record with Bonamici soon found the attention of Roine Stolt, who recruited the singer/songwriter for a new project, Agents of Mercy, whose most recent recording, The Black Forest
(Foxtrot, 2011), was an exceptional modern progressive record that, sadly looks like AoM's final recordat least for now. Still, with the good news that Sylvan is now working on a solo record, hope can still spring eternaldespite the reformation of the Flower Kings last year, and with two albums already out, including Desolation Rose
(Inside Out, 2013)that Stolt will decide to reunite Agents of Mercy again sometime in the future.
Sylvan proved the perfect singer to handle an entire evening of Genesis music when Hackett brought his group
to the Casino du Lac Leamy, outside of Ottawa, Canada, in October, 2013. Along with Sylvan and Roger King, Hackett's group consisted of bassist/guitarist Lee Pomeroy, woodwind/reed multi-instrumentalist Rob Townsend and drummer/vocalist Gary O'Toole. It was a tremendous show that, like the studio recording, hit all the right buttons for the Genesis fans packing the theater, while at the same time allowing more interpretive freedom for the group than Genesis did back in the day, when its goal was to replicate its studio recordings as closely as possible in concert.
With the success of the Genesis Revisited Tour
, it was only a matter of time before the obligatory live DVD/CD set was released. If Genesis Revisited: Live at Hammersmith
was somewhat inevitable, it's also exactly what those fortunate enough to have caught the tour will want as a permanent document, while providing those who were unable to attend any of the shows a chance to see what they missed. Recorded in England, at London's famous Hammersmith, its location also allowed Hackett the opportunity to make it something a little more special, by inviting a few of his other friends from the studio recording along.
As on GRII
, some work better than others. Once again Kershaw knocks "The Lamia" out of the park early in the set, with Marillion's Steve Rothery joining in, as he does on the studio re-recording, to engage in some inspired guitar trade-offs with Hackett during the song's coda. Amanda Lehmann also delivers a lovely version of "Shadow of the Hierophant," while Jakko Jakszyk brings his own interpretation to "Entangled," one of Genesis' more beautiful post-Gabriel songs, from A Trick of the Tail
(Charisma, 1976). The only questionable choice is John Wetton for "Afterglow," the powerful, post-Beatles closer to Wind & Wuthering
. Wetton is, in fact, singing better than ever these days, after a long period where, frankly, it seemed as though his best days were behind him. The problem is that, while in every other case, the matching of singer and song was absolutely perfect, there are other songs from the Genesis repertoire that might have better suited the tonality of Wetton's voiceGabriel-era songs, more likely, rather than a song originally sung by drummer Phil Collins, who joined Genesis around the same time as Hackett, but assumed lead vocal duties after Gabriel's departure.
But it's a small quibble, as Wetton's delivery is certainly assured and committed. But for the rest of this three-CD/two-DVD box set, with the exception of a couple of equally superb lead vocal showings from drummer O'Toole (in particular, "Blood on the Rooftops"), it's Sylvan's voice that brings the music into the new millennium. There's a certain Gabriel-esque quality to his voice, to be sure, which is what makes him such a perfect choice for the group, but equally, this is no mere imitation; Sylvan's delivery makes "The Musical Box," "Watcher of the Skies," "Eleventh Earl of Mar" and, in particular, the epic "Supper's Ready" some of the set's best, knowing exactly when to stick to the script and when to deviate. He's also clearly aware that he's got to reach everyone in the audience, from the front row to the back, so a touch of makeup and a strong visual presence renders him a charismatic front man, which is a good thing because, as much as Hackett's guitar work is superb, he doesn't command much visual attention, even though there's plenty of footage that will, no doubt, please aspiring guitarists.
And his playing is
superb; while others have claimed first ownership, Hackett really does appear to be the first guitarist to make extensive use of two-handed tapping on the neck, something heard as early as 1971 on "The Musical Box." And he has, as would be expected, improved significantly as a guitarist over the decades, making his interpretation of this music even better now than back in the day. Like Sylvan, he knows when it's important to stick with the signature lines that define the music; equally, however, he knows when he can take more libertieswhich he does, throughout the set.
The rest of the group is top-notch, too, with Pomeroy handling all the Mike Rutherford dutiesbass guitar, bass pedals, 12-string guitar and something that didn't exist in the '70s: a Variax, which is an electric guitar modeling system that makes it possible for one instrument to not just emulate a plethora of guitar makes and models, it can emulate altered tunings and even make a six-string electric guitar sound like a 12-string acoustic.
Pomeroy also contributes background vocalsanother important aspect to Genesis Revisited
, as so many of the vocals found on Genesis studio recordings were not reproduced in concert at the time. Here, however, with Sylvan, Pomeroy, O'Toole, Townsend and Hackett all capable of singing backup, it's great to hear songs like "Watcher of the Skies" and "I Know What I Like" delivered with multi-part harmonies.
The lighting at Casino du Lac Leamy was similar to that on the DVD, but three rear projection screens behind the band at Hammersmith add even greater visual appeal. And from an editing perspective, in a time when so many concert DVDs seem to be all about fast cutsand there are plenty of them herethere are also passages where director Paul M Green's editing lets cameras hold, more leisurely, on single musicians or wide angle shots of the entire stage.
The entire concert (with some of the introductions abbreviated or completely excised) is spread over three CDs, while the show, including intros, occupies the entire first DVDwith options of both stereo and 5.1 surround sound. A second DVD includes a 37-minute "Behind the Scenes" feature that provides more useful information than most. Containing interview footage with everyone in the band (but, of course, more with Hackett), it describes how the project and this particular band came together.
The set list is similar to Hackett's Casino du Lac Leamy show, but there are
differences, like the inclusion of "Shadow of the Hierophant," making Genesis Revisited: Live at Hammersmith
both a perfect document of one of Hackett's most successful tours and a harbinger of things to come, as demands for this show have been so great that he's now booking dates into 2014, albeit with Nick Beggs replacing Pomeroy.
comes immediately to mindnow sound like pale versions of their former glorious selves; Hackett, despite leaving the group more than 35 years ago, has been a relentless torch-bearer for the music from Genesis that time has proven to be most enduring. His current band, Genesis Revisited II
and now Genesis Revisited: Live at Hammersmith
prove that this is no mere tribute, though there would be nothing wrong with that. Instead, Hackett, his group and this exhilarating live setas much as it is, indeed, a trip down memory lane for manyalso successfully brings the progressive-era music of Genesis into the new millennium, proving it fresh, enduring and, most importantly, relevant.