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Steve Hackett, Birmingham Symphony Hall - review

Steve Hackett's Genesis Revisited tours have been a regular on the live circuit for years now - each one mining a different aspect of the guitarist's long and varied career in Genesis and as a solo artist.

Last night he brought the latest incarnation of his band to Symphony Hall to celebrate two of his fans' most beloved albums; Genesis's Selling England by the Pound, from 1973, and, marking its 40th anniversary, the luminous Spectral Mornings, a relative youngster, from 1979.

The two-and-a-half-hour show kicked off with Every Day from Spectral Mornings, a song full of melody, rich harmonies and the first chance to hear Hackett's unique guitar tone; in turn deep, attacking and then soaring, with the 69-year-old taking lead vocals too.

The show's first half was a celebration of both Spectral Mornings and his most recent album, this year's At The Edge Of Light, with a trio of the most recent pieces - Under the Eye of the Sun Fallen Walls & Pedestals and Beasts in Our Time - dispatched in quick order, and showing that Hackett's creative juices are still flowing generously.

The rest of the first half was then dedicated entirely to Spectral Mornings, the album's title track rising higher and higher, The Virgin and the Gypsy gentle and beguiling, Clocks - The Angel of Mons spiky and unpredictable. The latter was knocked a little off course by an extended drum solo from Craig Blundell, which although technically impressive, rather outstayed its welcome - one relic from the 70s that perhaps should have stayed there.

Singer Nad Sylvan. Photo: Andy Shaw.

After a 20-minute interval it was time for the evening's main course, Selling England by the Pound, played in its entirety and in order.

With the opening Dancing With the Moonlit Knight, Swedish singer Nad Sylvan showed yet again what an inspired discovery he was for Hackett, rising to the challenge of filling original Genesis singer Peter Gabriel's vocal role. He doesn't impersonate Gabriel, but he brings his own unique, eccentric theatricality to proceedings, his voice's timbre, inflections and slight rasp naturally a close fit.

The singalong of I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) was utterly infectious, but again was in danger of being derailed by multi-instrumentalist Rob Townsend's jazzy interlude on saxophone.

Elsewhere, Firth of Fifth featured Hackett recreating his most celebrated guitar solo, supported by Roger King's impressive keyboard work, and The Cinema Show was as shiny and bright as the day it was minted.

Two highlights were the rarely played More Fool Me and The Battle of Epping Forest; the first delicate and restrained, the latter a rousing example of Genesis at their most playful, Nad Sylvan inhabiting the vocal creations of Peter Gabriel in a range of comic characters - Liquid Len, Harold Demure and The Bethnal Green Butcher - as gangland rivalries are settled among the trees.

The Selling England section of the show was completed by Deja Vu, a beautiful song that was originally worked on for the album but not completed at the time. Years later Hackett put the finishing touches to Peter Gabriel's initial sketch and brought it out of its far too early retirement.

The evening ended with a leap forward to 1976's A Trick of The Tail, bookending that album's opener, Dance on A Volcano, and closer, Los Endos - with a diversion via Hackett's solo track Slogans - to end the concert on an emphatic, triumphant note.

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