In the beginning: Steve Hackett to revisit Genesis in Miller Symphony Hall concert
Genesis was one of the great progressive rock bands. You have a rare chance to hear the band’s music in concert again.
Steve Hackett, who was the band’s guitarist during what many consider to be the group’s creative peak, is bringing his solo work and Genesis’ “Selling England by the Pound” album to Allentown.
The “Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited” concert is 7:30 p.m. March 12, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.
Hackett has kept the spirit of Genesis alive by playing the band’s music in concert and on his many solo albums, which have the same depth, complex melodic structures and musical range as his work with his fellow Genesis bandmates, which included Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins.
Progressive rock, or prog rock, as it’s known, dates to the late 1960s and early- to mid-1970s British bands, including, in addition to Genesis, the groups King Crimson and Yes. Prog rock is typified by longer songs, tempo changes and classical music and jazz influences.
Hackett was lead guitarist for Genesis (1971 - 1977), played on six Genesis studio albums and three live albums, and was inducted as a member of Genesis into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.
London-born Hackett has said his earliest music influences were classical works by Johann Sebastian Bach and the opera singing of Mario Lanza. According to Guitar World magazine, “Hackett’s early explorations of two-handed tapping and sweep picking were far ahead of their time, and influenced Eddie Van Halen and Brian May.”
The first half of Hackett’s Allentown concert is expected to include selections from Hackett’s “Spectral Mornings,” which is having its 40th anniversary, and from his most recent album, “At the Edge of Light” (2019).
The concert’s second half is to feature Hackett and his band performing the entire “Selling England by the Pound.” It will include “Deja Vu,” an unfinished song by Gabriel and Hackett, which was left off the album and later completed by Hackett.
Hackett, calling from his home in London, says the 1973 “Selling England by the Pound” is his favorite Genesis album: “It was a quantum leap forward for the band, with social commentary and many different styles.”
“The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” (1974) was followed by a tour with Gabriel quitting Genesis in 1975. After the release of “A Trick of the Tail” and “Wind & Wuthering” (both 1976), Hackett left Genesis.
Hackett’s tour last year included 16 European countries. This year, the tour encompasses the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In some places, says Hackett, “People sing along with every word. The audiences are extremely varied, from ages eight to eighty, including many aspiring guitar players.”
And unlike many rock concerts, especially prog-rock concerts, it is mixed in gender. “The romantic side and storytelling aspect of the music appeals to women,” Hackett observes.
Hackett has no trouble recreating the classic Genesis sound:
“It is easier now in many ways. The people I work with are very skilled and the technology is great. And I have a passion for ‘Selling England by the Pound’.”
Hackett’s band includes Nad Sylvan, vocals; Jonas Reingold, bass, 12-string guitar; Roger King, keyboards, and Gary O’Toole, drums and percussion.
Hackett’s solo work is more in the spirit of classic Genesis than the band’s later albums. After Phil Collins took over as lead vocalist following Gabriel’s departure, the remaining three members of Genesis took a much more commercial direction.
“Spectral Mornings,” Hackett’s third solo album, is very much in the progressive rock vein, with majestic washes of sound, a pastoral feel and a bit of eccentric English humor.
As with “Selling England,” Hackett’s solo albums’ varied moods work well for a dramatic stage presentation.
“At the Edge of Light” was released last year. Says Hackett, “There are twenty people on the album from all over the world. It’s a bit of a UN approach.” The album includes musicians playing didgeridoo, the Persian stringed tar, and the Armenian double-reed dudek.
“I’ve done 70 or 80 albums, including 25 to 30 studio albums.” Most of Hackett’s albums were recorded live in concert. Hackett also has many DVD releases. “I’ve lost count,” he says.
Hackett admits to being addicted to putting out albums: “But it’s a good drug to be addicted to.
“An album is like a journey. It takes you on an adventure. So much music today is disposable. Music is therapeutic. It is good medicine.”
With the advent of digital downloads, singles are now primary and albums tend to be ignored. At the time “Selling England” was made, Hackett recalls, “It was considered gauche to try to get a hit single, and we did not care if we had one.”
Ironically, Genesis’ first hit single was from that album, the song, “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe).”
Genesis had its share of disagreements. Gabriel and Hackett both left while it was quite successful:
“There was a resistance to composition by committee. Peter Gabriel was tired of that before I even joined the band.”
Hackett has been asked many times if Genesis might reform, in the wake of reunion tours by the likes of Cream, the Police, and the Eagles.
“I’m open to it, but I say, ‘Don’t hold your breath.’”
For now, Steve Hackett is content with making his own music and honoring the music of Genesis.
Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; millersymphonyhall.org; 610-432-6715