Monday, 9 January 2012

Steve Hackett Edinburgh 1979

Steve Hackett Edinburgh 1979

21st June 1979

Edinburgh Odeon

Steve Hackett was, of course, lead guitarist with Genesis from 1971-77 (or from Nursery Chryme through to Seconds Out, if you prefer).  His departure came as a consequence of being pissed off at having his compositions consistently voted-off Genesis albums, to make way for anodyne nonsense being written by the two Old Carthusians and their tame bong-basher.  (All in a Mouse’s Night, Robbery Assault and Battery, Your Own Special Way, Wot Gorilla, anyone?).

Hackett had released a solo album (Voyage of the Acolyte) whilst still with the band, in 1975, and although perhaps it hadn’t always quite hit the right spots it was none the less an impressive debut, and at least three songs (Star of Sirius, Ace of Wands and the first half of Shadow of the Hierophant) would have improved A Trick of the Tail immeasurably, had any been included on that particular collection.

His second effort, Please Don’t Touch (recorded after his departure) was even better, due in no small part to excellent vocal performances from guests Steve Walsh, Randy Crawford and Richie Havens – Havens performance on Icarus Ascending still prickles the nape of my neck, even after all these years.

This concert in 1979, was part of a tour to promote Hackett’s third effort Spectral Mornings, with his band including brother John on flute, bassist Dik Cadbury and vocalist Pete Hicks.

The concert opened with a brief instrumental excerpt from Land of a Thousand Autumns, before breaking into the jingle-jangle intro to Narnia.  The set covered most of Hackett’s first two albums; fortunately not the interminable The Hermit, but regretfully also not those songs originally sung by Crawford or Havens, although Pete Hicks to his credit did manage a reasonable attempt at impersonating Steve Walsh.

Somewhat bizarrely, he also managed a passable imitation of Sally Oldfield’s soprano on Shadow of the Hierophant.  Quite how this was achieved I am unsure, but I think we were meant to believe his vocals were somehow being electronically treated to jack them up a couple of octaves.  However, the pitch and phrasing was so perfect that I believe, at this gig anyway, we were being played a recording of Ms Oldfield.  Not that I would have minded that. 

In fact, I would much rather Mr Hackett had just came out and informed us that as Sally couldn’t make it, they were going to use a recording – bands do it all the time nowadays.  As it was, it just looked silly – in fact, it is probably one of the most surreal moments I have ever seen at a concert.  A human chipmunk in shades.

In addition to the above tunes, a fair selection from the new album were also aired, although none of them struck me at the time as particularly memorable.  Which suggests to me that perhaps Everyday was not one of them – I really cannot imagine hearing this soaring majestic tour de force played live, and it failing to register. 

The one memorable new ‘un was Clocks - Angel of Mons which was played as the first encore.  My (hazy) recollection is that Hackett introduced the song as featuring the voice of the “Bergolin” or somesuch.  I have never found out who/what this was.  The piece actually reminded me of one of those improvisations the Wetton/Cross era King Crimson would occasionally summon up.

The second encore was a gloriously raucous I Know What I Like which, apart from a couple of short acoustic pieces, was Hackett’s sole concession to his previous incarnation.  Here’s to Steve Hackett – one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Nice Guys.

Setlist (really just a guess, based on fragmentary memory and setlists from the period unearthed online)

Land of a Thousand Autumns
Please Don’t Touch
Racing In A
Carry On Up The Vicarage
Ace of Wands
Blood On The Rooftops (intro only)
Hands of the Presistess
A Tower Struck Down
Spectral Mornings
Star Of Sirius
Shadow Of The Hierophant

Clocks - The Angel of Mons
I Know What I Like

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