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Steve Hackett – Live Archives 70,80,90’s

Steve Hackett - Live ArchiveAn early post Saturday morning would not normally stir me having not slept Friday night; Saturday morning is my chance to catch up with the land of nod, if not actually in it.  However, the clatter of the letterbox and corresponding (pun not intended) thud of an item of post landing on the carpet could only mean one thing; The Hackett Archives had arrived.  Wrestling with my (semi) conscience, I succumbed to hobbling downstairs to check out the parcel, only meaning to quickly scan the goods before returning to bed.  Nice CD size cardboard box (see picture) containing four CDs in separate single sleeves, like mini albums.  CDs 1 & 2 are live recordings from the gig at the Hammersmith Odeon, London in June 1979.  CD 3 is from Castel Sant’ Angelo, Rome in September 1981 and CD 4 at The Grand Theatre, London in June 1993.  A fifth bonus CD (available separately from the box set, though it will fit in the box – just) is taken from Newcastle City Hall in October 1979 with additional tracks from the Hammersmith Odeon in October 1978.  Having seen Steve Hackett on every tour from inception as a solo entity up to 1983 (or was it 1988) when he performed an acoustic set with John Hackett and Nick Magnus (or was it Julian Colbeck?) at Warwick Arts Centre. I had to put CD 1 at least in the player.  Then CD 2….  Ah well, who needs sleep?

Wow.  No hissing, no scratching, not even from me!  What a trip back memory-wise; attending the gigs albeit at Birmingham Odeon with my best chum and my fiancée, the old Saab I had at the time.  The memories and my best chum are still here, my fiancée/wife and Saab are long gone, both being unreliable to say the least. The booklet that accompanies the set contains archive photo’s, a fan’s memories, complete list of concerts performed, not to mention humorous notes by Mr Hackett who thankfully decided to quit, and I quote, “Matron and her charges” and go it alone.  Steve certainly continued in the spirit of Genesis of old much to the relief of the fans.  Funny how he seems to be the only one who stands up and admits to liking the music of the prog years of Genesis. And he is still happy to perform some Genesis era stuff including Firth of Fifth, In That Quiet Earth, a cracking I Know What I Like and a medley incorporating Los Endos, all included on these discs.

The obviously live sound is perfectly captured and reproduced and puts me firmly back in row M seat 26, a third of the way back and dead centre stage in the theatre (always had the same seat).  Even the tingle down the spine factor is there after all these years.  All the favourites are there from Voyage of the Acolyte, Please Don’t Touch, Spectral Mornings, Defector and Cured in the early years to Guitar Noir in the 90’s.  John Hackett’s flute is clear and at the forefront throughout as is the percussion, just as they were in the live environment.  Vocals were, as I recall, a tad weak at the start of the set in the early concerts but became more assertive at the halfway stage as confidence grew.  Hackett’s guitar playing needs no comment – his style is often used as a comparison to describe newer musicians styles and influences.

I had forgotten how good Steve’s compositions are being selective these days in what tracks I play via CD player or turntable.  Listen again to Every Day, I haven’t for ages but the instrumental last two thirds of the track is superb, especially this live version.  For some reason I had got it into my mind that it was a boring, lively yet mundane song.  How wrong I was.  Same for The Red Flower of Tai Chi – absolutely beautiful.   Then there’s the wonderful Shadow Of The Hierophant where for the early shows Dick Cadbury (I think) loosened his bass guitar, hiked up his undergarments and adopted a falsetto in order to do a Sally Oldfield vocal.  How we laughed at the start and applauded and cheered at the end.

These concerts were special.  The audience maintained a silence unbecoming for a rock concert during each song, breaking into deafening cheers and applause at the end of each piece.  In fact, Steve would imply that silence was necessary if he was to play, and for that I take my virtual hat of to him; I, like most others want to hear the music, not some clown talking throughout the set or blocking my view.  Invariably, other fans would interrupt our conversation in the bar pre gig to discuss what the opening song would be.  It took me until the Defector tour to get it correct (the answer was The Steppes – I’d sussed Steve’s strategy by this time).

I know that some people consider much of the tunes to be dated due to the instruments used on the studio albums.  It naturally has a 70’s sound about it, which incidentally I happen to love.  The surprise is that the live versions sound remarkably modern in the manner in which they were performed.

This box set is NOT ONLY for completists.  I would go as far as saying that it brought a new lease of life to music I have always loved, but temporarily forgotten and it sounds as fresh to these ears today as it did 20 years ago.  Good for reliving memories and acceptable as a compilation if you are Hackett less in your home.  Reckon this set will occupy five of the six slots in the cars CD auto-changer for the foreseeable future. Love the label on the rear of the box that advises ‘File under Progressive Rock’.  You betcha!

Jem Jedrzejewski


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