JOHN HACK­ETT

Prog - - Limelight - GARY MACKEN­ZIE

This charm­ing church in a quiet res­i­den­tial side street can’t host many gigs, which may ex­plain the apolo­getic greet­ing at the door – “You do know that this isn’t a reg­u­lar rock gig, don’t you?” But tonight they are show­cas­ing John Hack­ett, with his pro­lific five-decade long ca­reer en­com­pass­ing clas­si­cal and full-on rock.

Eas­ing in gen­tly, Hack­ett kicks off a var­ied night by play­ing a short duo set with col­lab­o­ra­tor Nick Fletcher on clas­si­cal gui­tar. With Hack­ett play­ing a strange look­ing in­stru­ment – “It’s a ver­ti­cal flute, not a plumb­ing tool!” – they open with the spritely yet gen­tle Entr’acte, by French com­poser Ibert, and Hack­ett’s own Freefall, a pas­toral mu­si­cal sketch evoca­tive of wide open skies. The in­volved uni­son play­ing and Vi­valdi meets the Gipsy Kings style of Hack­ett’s Red Hair and the slow yearn­ing of Gis­monti’s Agua e Vinho cre­ate a rich, au­ral tapestry com­ple­mented by the venue’s acous­tics.

Three solo tunes from Fletcher fol­low, demon­strat­ing both ac­com­plished tal­ent and great taste, with a cou­ple of clas­si­cal gui­tar pieces and the more con­tem­po­rary bal­lad feel of his own com­po­si­tion, Let­ter From Ver­mont.

Ush­er­ing in a full plugged-in band set, cel­e­brat­ing their first proper al­bum re­lease We Are Not Alone, the multi-tal­ented Hack­ett switches to key­boards and they start boldly with the de­cid­edly 80s neo-prog feel of Whis­pers. Cranked up gui­tar and bright cym­bals feel sud­denly overly loud and brash and, al­though the sound does set­tle, Hack­ett’s key­boards sadly re­main buried in the mix.

Look Up evokes early Mar­il­lion, be­fore Hack­ett demon­strates his ver­sa­til­ity by tak­ing the warm, slightly vul­ner­a­ble lead vo­cal of the lan­guid Life In Re­verse. The evening’s first half closes with the mul­ti­fac­eted Take Con­trol which, while fea­tur­ing some great in­stru­men­tal breaks and play­ing from both vo­cal­ist/bassist Jeremy Richard­son and Fletcher on lead gui­tar, does feel a lit­tle dis­jointed.

The band re­ally warm up postin­ter­val – an ex­hor­ta­tion to dance in­tro­duc­ing the syn­co­pated blues/ prog of Burnt Down Trees quickly fol­lowed by the jazz funk­i­ness of drum­mer Dun­can Par­sons’ in­stru­men­tal Quee­nie And Elmo’s Per­fect Day. This half of the evening in­tro­duces fur­ther va­ri­ety – the organised chaos and space rock of

Ego and Id, Par­sons’ part spo­ken word part stand-up rou­tine, the 5/4 acous­tic pop bal­lad Stella, and Hack­ett’s part auto-bi­o­graph­i­cal Never Gonna Make A Dime all vy­ing for at­ten­tion, and a fu­ri­ous, spir­ited full band en­core of Red Hair is met with warm, rap­tur­ous ap­plause.

At times this evening’s per­for­mance does lose a bit of fo­cus and di­rec­tion. How­ever, it’s still rel­a­tively early days for the band, and with the enor­mous ex­pe­ri­ence, tal­ent, va­ri­ety and fine tunes at their dis­posal, find­ing a con­sis­tent, po­tent col­lec­tive voice is surely just a mat­ter of time.

PIANO MAN: JOHN HACK­ETT. “AT TIMES THIS

EVENING’S PER­FOR­MANCE DOES LOSE A BIT OF FO­CUS AND DI­REC­TION.”

NOT YOUR REG­U­LAR ROCK GIG… HACK­ETT AND CO TAKE TO THIS “CHARM­ING CHURCH”.

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