The renowned prog-rock guitarist brings his ‘Genesis Revisited’ show to Grand Rapids this week, playing the entirety of ‘Selling England by the Pound’ plus his solo material. He shared insights with Local Spins.
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For musicians who have had artistic and commercial success over a number of years, there comes a point where they have to decide whether they’re still vital creative artists or whether they want to subsist on their back catalog.
Many times, their longstanding fans demand the latter, making the choice for them. (Beach Boys, anyone?)
There are, of course, some who can successfully straddle the middle ground, paying homage to their past while keeping an eye on the present. Guitarist Steve Hackett is one such artist.
Hackett brings his tour to 20 Monroe Live in Grand Rapids at 8 p.m. Thurday (Oct. 3). A few tickets — $45-$175 — remain, available online here. Hackett last played 20 Monroe Live in February 2017; check out the Local Spins review and photos here.
Part of the show will focus on his 2018 solo release, “At the Edge of Light,” as well as his third album, “Spectral Mornings,” celebrating its 40th anniversary.
And that’s just the first half of the show. The second half is billed as “Genesis Revisited,” featuring 1973’s “Selling England by the Pound” in its entirety. Recorded by the “classic” version of Genesis, with Hackett, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, it is perhaps the best-loved recording by that band. It will be the centerpiece of the “Genesis Revisited” section of the concert.
“I love ‘Selling England.’ (It) is my favorite,” said Hackett by phone while on tour in Canada.
He’s not alone in that opinion. After its release in 1973, John Lennon went on WNEW in New York and said he really liked the group. “John Lennon said we were one of the bands he was listening to. That was extraordinary to think,” Hackett recalled. “As young aspiring musicians we probably listened to nothing but Beatles.”
COMBINING SOLO AND GENESIS MATERIAL IN A SINGLE CONCERT
Hackett, 69, has spent nearly 50 years in the public eye, first with Genesis and then with a prolific solo career. The latter encompasses some 25 studio albums, another dozen-plus live recordings (many of which are two- and three-CD sets) and a host of collaborations and guest appearances, including work with Hungarian world beat band Djabe and an album with late Yes bassist Chris Squire as Squackett. So it’s probably safe to say he’s now influenced generations of musicians himself.
His first look back at Genesis was book-ended by the Mellotron madness of “Watcher of the Skies” and “Los Endos,” which he has said he saw as the band’s answer to Santana. Other tracks came from across the band’s recorded history, and he also included “Déjà Vu,” a tune originally slated for “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” which had never been finished.
“It was a Peter Gabriel track brought to the band unfinished. I finished it with his blessing years later,” said Hackett.
On his second “Genesis Revisited” recording, Hackett included reworked versions of a couple of his solo tunes as well. “Please Don’t Touch,” “A Tower Struck Down” and Camino Royale” stand alongside “Supper’s Ready” and “Blood on the Rooftops.”
So, combining solo and Genesis material in a single concert made sense to Hackett. He’s been doing that since debuting the live “Genesis Revisited” material on the initial Cruise to the Edge in 2013, when he performed on a five-day Caribbean cruise alongside UK, Glass Hammer, Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy and headliners Yes. It was there that he said he believed the songs of Genesis were really the stars of the band’s shows, rather than the individual players.
While much of the whole progressive rock oeuvre demonstrated the playing prowess of such performers as Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Robert Fripp of King Crimson and even Hackett himself, he said that’s never the point when he writes songs.
LOOKING FOR THE STORY AND ‘WHAT’S CLASSIC’
“Virtuosity itself doesn’t make very good company for an entire evening. From a songwriter’s point of view, I don’t have to be dazzling. What I look for is some kind of story, some kind of message. A certain degree of virtuosity or competence is a given.
“It’s never been about the hits,” Hackett continued. “It’s what’s classic. We had a few hit singles in my time. ‘Dancing with the Moonlit Knight’ for me will always be classic.”
Upcoming is the release of yet another live recording combining solo material and Genesis Revisited tunes. The difference is this one included not only his band but a 41-piece orchestra.
Hackett, a London native, got the idea from a one-off concert last year in Buffalo, enjoying the experience so much he flew the conductor to Britain to lead the orchestra while on tour.
The orchestral arrangements, much like the versions he performs of classic material with his band, give the songs new life for him.
“It’s fun for the player. It’s intended to give an authentic reading, but not note perfect. I like to think the material is flexible enough. I feel the need for authenticity over the original when I’m bringing an old friend to the party.”
VIDEO: Steve Hackett, “Cinema Show”
VIDEO: Steve Hackett, “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”
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