Memory doesn’t half play tricks on you, you know. I don’t think there was ever a time when the live album was an important part of the progression of an artist but I seem to remember from my own youth that the arrival of a live record was considered to be AN EVENT. An event you could have endless arguments about, for example, whether the live version of Iron Maiden’s ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ on Live After Death (EMI) is superior to the studio version on Number of the Beast (it is, by the way). Today, the live album appears to be the perfunctory release of the couldn’t-be-bothered brigade, the contractual cash in, the how-can-we-milk-them-some-more cynicism.
It was with this context and mindset that I approached Steve Hackett’s latest souvenir of his Genesis revivalism from the Royal Albert Hall. The Genesis Revisited experience has been captured on live DVD and 2CDs – your humble scribe has had to make do with an MP3 download so I can’t comment on anything like multiple camera angles, artistic direction or anything like that – it’s just the soundtrack I’m going to review. But what a soundtrack!
“Welcome to the Last Night of the Progs” says Hackett at the start of ‘Dancing with the Moonlit Knight’. It’s part gag, part slight embarrassment – you get the idea that Hackett knows that the passionate throng in front of him are coming to this gig with massive expectations and Hackett is humble enough to not want to let them down. He doesn’t as ‘Dancing with the Moonlit Knight’ is just, well, fantastic actually. You won’t get me to suggest that I didn’t miss Peter Gabriel’s eccentric and evocative vocals, but Hackett’s singer, Nad Sylvan does a terrific job and if you haven’t got to grips with how brilliant a guitar player Hackett is then this is a great jumping on point. His solo on ‘Fly On the Windshield’ is spellbinding, and I say this as someone who usually finds this sort of stuff irredeemably awful.
With an artist like Hackett you were never really going to get short-changed though were you? This is a man who cares too much about the music, the fans and the experience than to turn in a “will this do?” effort. The set list appears to have been curated with care, respect and with an ear for the natural ebb and flow of live performance; there’s an attentive and graceful rendition of ‘Return of the Giant Hogweed’, a heartwarming ‘Fifth of Firth’ and when we get to it, as you know that we inevitably will, a performance of ‘Supper’s Ready’ that only the most churlish would consider to be anything other than exquisite.
Truly, there has been a huge amount of care into this event: whilst I would not be as daft or effusive as to suggest that this is better than the original what the performance does do- and in spades- is remind me of how brilliant Hackett is, how great Genesis were and how much of a prog-head I really am. That’s quite a feat. A lovely, lovely album of what must have been a lovely, lovely night.