The air in the Palais Theatre is palpably electrified as fans of progressive rock begin to take their seats on the night of the 5th of August. When the lights go down at 8:30 the charged atmosphere explodes into applause as the legendary musician Steve Hackett makes his way onto stage for the first time ever in Melbourne, his golden guitar suspended in front of him and dazzling the audience’s eyes as the light gleams off it.

Accompanying him for the first set of his solo material are Roger King on keyboards, Nick Beggs on bass, Rob Townsend on sax, flute, keys and percussion and Gary O’Toole on Drums.

Once the applause subsides the esteemed band launches into the upbeat ‘Every Day’ From 1979’s Spectral Mornings album. Still without speaking a word, they follow it immediately with the more overbearing El Nino from Steve’s latest album, The Night Siren. During these first two pieces, there are some shaky moments heard in Steve’s guitar work as well as the timing from the band overall. Some of his string bends fall short and some of the vibrato doesn’t quite sit right. Nothing major but noticeable to the musician’s ear and sure to be confusing to any who know Steve to be an undeniable guitar master.

The concern is put to rest however by the third track, ‘In The Skeleton Gallery,’ also from his latest, where it is clear that his fingers just needed a couple of extra minutes to warm up. For a man at the age of 67, this is perfectly understandable and from this point on, his playing is on fire and displays that virtuosity and class that he is known around the world for. Before beginning the aforementioned track, Steve takes to the mic for the first time to greet the audience and inform them of what is ahead, stating that they will be playing some more newer material before moving back in his discography and then eventually moving onto “Genesis Revisited,” which is set to feature songs only from Steve’s time in classic progressive rock band Genesis.

Sure enough, the next two tracks we find ourselves immersed in are the recent Behind The Smoke‘ and the debut album track Shadow of the Hierophant.’

The former displays Steve’s velvet-sounding voice and sees the rest of the band now fully in sync with each other. Every sound coming from the stage by this point has the unique power to create a separate world for the audience to escape into. Nick Beggs’ bass and Roger King’s keys especially create the rich textures under which Steve’s incendiary guitar work blazes atop of brilliantly.

The latter provides contrast by displaying the difference in composition between the latest tracks and his very earliest solo works.

At this point Steve takes to the microphone again and welcomes Nad Sylvan to the stage to handle vocals (along with Gary O’Toole stepping up for some) for the Genesis set. It’s clear that this is what the audience has been waiting for, and when the guitar pioneer introduces Squonk there is a gigantic roar from the crowd. Immediately to follow, Nad begins singing the a Capella intro to Dancing with the Moonlit Knight.’ His unique tone provides familiarity to fans of the source material. Steve’s guitar solo here shows us exactly why he has had a such influence on so many guitarists across so many genres. By this point even the man’s pick scrapes resonate with an unreal level of precision and class.

Next up is a three-song suite from the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway before dipping into Steve’s last album with Genesis, Wind and Wuthering to give a mighty rendition of ‘Eleventh Earl of Mar’ as well as ‘Afterglow,’ which he prefaces by reminiscing about the times the late,  great John Wetton sung it with that very live band.

‘Dance on a Volcano’ and Firth of Fifth‘ then garner massive cheers from the audience and are executed near-perfectly. It’s apparent at this point in the concert how much attention has gone into detail and getting the classic Genesis songs sounding accurate even down to the tone of each instrument, especially when retrospectively looking at the beginning of the concert when they performed the more modern tunes. At the conclusion of The Musical Box the whole theatre gets to their feet to give Steve and co a thunderous standing ovation, apparently assuming that after an epic crescendo like that, surely the main set would be over. We are proven wrong however as the opening passages of Supper’s Ready ring out across the cavernous space, inciting a singalong that has a 22-minute duration. The whole band does a fantastic job of making the audience feel like a family during this epic piece and the prime example would be at around halfway, when we all shout “A FLOWER?!” along with Nad.

Once the final note rings out the band take their leave only to be brought back by continuous cheering. They perform a medley of Myopia,’ ‘Slogans and Los Endos‘ with Steve’s blazingly liquid-like guitar tone gracing our ears one final time and demonstrating the tapping technique which he pioneered. At the conclusion the band takes their bow and leaves the stage for good, leaving behind an awe-struck and satisfied audience.

 

Full Setlist:

  1. ‘Every Day’
  2. ‘El Nino’
  3. ‘In the Skeleton Gallery’
  4. ‘Behind the Smoke’
  5. ‘Shadow of the Hierophant’
  6. ‘Squonk’
  7. ‘Dancing with the Moonlit Knight’
  8. ‘Fly on a Windshield’
  9. ‘Broadway Melody of 1974’
  10. ‘The Carpet Crawlers’
  11. ‘Eleventh Earl of Mar’
  12. ‘Afterglow’
  13. ‘Dance on a Volcano’
  14. ‘Firth of Fifth’
  15. ‘The Musical Box’
  16. ‘Supper’s Ready’
  17. ‘Myopia’//’Slogans’//’Los Endos’