STEVE HACK­ETT

Prog - - Take A Bow - CHRIS ROBERTS

VENUE ROYAL FES­TI­VAL HALL, LON­DON

DATE 04/10/2018

Once again we are go­ing to wit­ness Steve Hack­ett and his ex­em­plary band re­visit the ear­lier work of Gen­e­sis, a gift the self-pro­fessed “keeper of the flame” has been giv­ing us for six years now. But this time there’s a dif­fer­ence. Sit­ting be­hind them is the 41-piece The Heart Of Eng­land Or­ches­tra, con­ducted by the en­thu­si­as­ti­cally bounc­ing Cana­dian Bradley Thachuk.

In the­ory, this should make some of the big­gest sound­scapes in art rock his­tory even big­ger. It sort of works, and makes for some exhilarating mo­ments, al­though oddly – and de­spite the ev­i­dence of them fid­dling busily away in front of your very eyes – the or­ches­tra aren’t al­ways au­di­ble. Per­haps it’s be­cause the band are so colos­sal that there’s no space for them, or per­haps it’s just a mix­ing flaw, but the or­ches­tra are gen­er­ally present only as an un­der­ly­ing added flavour, rather than bring­ing any new, unanticipated spice.

This isn’t a ma­jor prob­lem, as of course Hack­ett’s band are deft and pow­er­ful in their pre­sen­ta­tions of the hal­lowed canon. Open­ing with a throb­bing Dance On A Vol­cano – and just to get the reser­va­tions out of the way, this writer al­ways finds the Fes­ti­val Hall’s sound so pris­tine that it can be too per­fect, lack­ing the edges that snag you – they de­liver two sets which re­vive the clas­sics, while punc­tu­at­ing af­fairs with a sprin­kling of the gui­tarist’s solo ma­te­rial. Ser­pen­tine Song, where Hack­ett’s brother John joins in on flute for a song about their artist father, is the pick of these, and the mon­u­men­tal Shadow Of The Hiero­phant, sung by Hack­ett’s sis­ter-in-law Amanda Lehmann, is its ever-es­ca­lat­ing self, wherein the bom­bast of the or­ches­tra (au­di­ble on this one) feels like Tchaikovsky showed up and shook, rat­tled and rolled.

In truth, ev­ery­one sits up more ea­gerly for the chap­ters from the Gen­e­sis bible. Danc­ing With The Moon­lit Knight (which Hack­ett de­clares a favourite) has de­vel­oped a lim­ber skip in its step with this ensem­ble, and a lovely Blood On The Rooftops (sung by drum­mer Gary O’Toole) is the epit­ome of English me­lan­choly. The sweep from …In That Quiet Earth to After­glow show­cases the tow­er­ing tal­ents of first the band (Jonas Rein­gold on bass, Roger King on key­boards, saxes/flutes by Rob Townsend), then of vo­cal­ist Nad Syl­van, who’s now very com­fort­able in his well­gauged fop-meets-steam­punk the­atri­cal role.

Syl­van tack­les the stir­ring home straight of Sup­per’s Ready (at the end of which Hack­ett de­lights by solo­ing ex­ten­sively and daz­zlingly) and the en­core of The Mu­si­cal Box with aplomb. This is an old Jerusalem we’re be­ing led to, but there’s a joy to its guar­an­teed eter­nal sanc­tu­ary.

“THE OR­CHES­TRA ARE GEN­ER­ALLY PRESENT ONLY AS AN UN­DER­LY­ING ADDED FLAVOUR, RATHER THAN BRING­ING ANY NEW, UNANTICIPATED SPICE.”

SYMPH ROCK: HACK­ETTAND HIS OR­CHES­TRA.

HACK­ETT RE­MAINS THE FO­CAL POINT OF THE SHOW.

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