Concert Review: Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited

By Paul Robicheau

Guitarist Steve Hackett honored the 50th anniversary of Genesis’s Foxtrot, yet this concert didn’t come across as just another night with a tribute band that sports a sole member of the original group.

Steve Hackett at the Wilbur. Photo: Paul Robicheau

Fans of classic British prog-rockers Genesis hit TD Garden in 2021 for that band’s last gasp with Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Michael Rutherford, much as followers turned out last month for original Genesis singer Peter Gabriel at the same arena. Old-school diehards naturally bemoaned the shortage of Gabriel-era material at the Genesis show, and its former singer barely touched his first four albums — much less anything from his Genesis days — at his recent Garden date.

Genesis fans yearning to hear chestnuts from its 1971-1977 heyday were better served in downsizing to the Wilbur this past Thursday to catch Steve Hackett, the lead guitarist who rounded out the band for those years (including two after Gabriel left), lately tapping that well with his Genesis Revisited project.

Hackett honored the 50th anniversary of Genesis’s Foxtrot with a whole-album set capped by a 27-minute “Supper’s Ready,” yet this concert didn’t come across as just another night with a tribute band that sports a sole member of the original group. Nostalgia was diffused by powerful musical personalities in the guitarist’s seasoned sextet as well as an initial focus on Hackett’s solo catalog.

A 55-minute first set of Hackett’s cherry-picked works proved robust enough to temporarily put Genesis out of mind, starting with the swirling propulsion of “Ace of Wands,” off his 1975 solo debut Voyage of the Acolyte (which was recorded with Genesis mates Collins and Rutherford). Roger King’s churchy keyboards cast an obvious mood through “The Devil’s Cathedral” (from 2021’s Surrender of Silence), though Hackett also broke out with a raw pick slide and tapped notes along the guitar neck, a technique he pioneered years before Eddie Van Halen.

Two sides of 1983’s Spectral Mornings were well-represented by the floaty title track, featuring bassist Joel Reingold on double-neck and oozing with Hackett’s string bends, and “Every Day,” displaying mainstream pop inclinations with its bouncy beat and cross-band vocals beyond statuesque lead singer Nad Sylvan.

Nad Sylvan with Steve Hackett at the Wilbur. Photo: Paul Robicheau

The group’s virtuosity became clear across the set, from Craig Blundell’s active drumming (into stacks of crash and splash cymbals) in “A Tower Struck Down” to Rob Townsend’s volcanic tenor-sax break in the jazzy “Casino Royale.” Onetime Flower Kings member Reingold dealt a nimble soliloquy on Rickenbacker bass, evoking Chris Squire and Jaco Pastorius, then quoted Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile.”

The set came full circle to the closing track from Hackett’s debut. As beams of kaleidoscopic purple light refracted on the theater’s domed ceiling, the band dropped into the atmospheric, lurching “Shadow of the Hierophant,” Blundell’s drum fills expanding behind Hackett’s guitar moans and Reingold’s bass pedals.

King’s mellotron-toned keyboard summoned “Watcher of the Skies” to signal the hour-long second set of Foxtrot. Sylvan returned atop a big cube behind the band, declining to mask like Gabriel but dramatically lit in a Victorian coat as he peered through a telescope and sang, guiding the song toward its tricky staccato buildup.

However, as the band moved to the folkier, comparatively boring “Time Table,” it recalled how 1972’s Foxtrot didn’t quite rival Genesis’s next two albums beyond its triumphant bookends. The multicharacter “Get ‘Em Out by Friday” came close with stop-and-start dynamics and creeping pauses for Townsend’s flute, but “Can Utility and the Coastliners” hit worthy moments without leaving much of an overall impression.

After standing most of the night (appearing in fine shape at age 73), Hackett sat to pluck a nylon-string guitar for “Horizons,” adding flamenco flourishes to that solo piece, setting up the album’s final course. Much like other epic-length songs by Genesis’s early ’70s prog peers, “Supper’s Ready” was a suite of several distinct sections, and Hackett’s band methodically executed it to near-perfection.

Steve Hackett at the Wilbur. Photo: Paul Robicheau

Gliding between the lower stage and rear pulpit, Sylvan ably negotiated Gabriel’s “Supper’s Ready” lyrics from the gentle “Lover’s Leap,” through Biblical battles and soul-to-soil transformations, to a jaunty “Willow’s Farm” and the climactic “Apocalypse in 9/8.” King’s keyboard solo marched across the masterful rhythm section, with Hackett and Reingold both on guitars while Blundell toyed with the odd time signature over the steady pulse of his bass drum. A threat from the devil dissolved into a love-is-true resolution that carried into the affirmation of “As Sure as Eggs are Eggs,” as fans cheered Sylvan’s cry, “Lord of lords, king of kings, has returned to lead his children home, to take them to the new Jerusalem.” Then it was left to Hackett to string trills and whining sustains through a long closing solo.

But Hackett wasn’t done, launching a 20-minute encore with Genesis’s 1973 jewel “Firth of Fifth,” King doing justice to Banks’s majestic piano introduction and solo, again lifted by the rhythm section. A drum solo topped with chiming multicymbal flurries segued into the mostly instrumental “Los Endos,” as Blundell commanded a piece that Genesis often played live with two drummers. When Sylvan delivered its capping lyric “There’s an angel standing in the sun, free to get back home,” it seemed an apt cue for satiated fans to finally call it a night.

Hackett rolls back to do it again on Tuesday (Oct. 17) at the Strand in Providence.

Paul Robicheau served more than 20 years as contributing editor for music at the Improper Bostonian in addition to writing and photography for the Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He was also the founding arts editor of Boston Metro.

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