Steve Hackett & Genesis Revisited, Jump Time with “Seconds Out” Performances in Ohio
The first set of by Steve Hackett The April 28 performance during the “Seconds Out + More” tour in Cincinnati, Ohio was breathtakingly short. Thirty-six minutes and twenty-one seconds, to be exact. (Just kidding, but really not that far off.) And the British prog-rock guitarist took a moment after the first song to “apologize” to the audience in advance.
“This set is going to be a little shorthe warned the Taft Theater audience, adding that they would hear some of his best-known solo pieces as well as a few new tunes. True, he been abbreviated but densely charged with energy and brimming with musical superpowers. “After that, we will take a break. . .and when we get back,” he said, stopping dramatically, “we’ll be playing all day. Seconds elapsed album.”
As if on cue, the Taft Theater audience erupted with wild approval. Again, at Hackett’s sold-out May Day performance at the Goodyear Theater in Akron, Hackett gave a similar intro after the first song. And the audience reaction was more than just a carbon copy. Nice job when you can get it!
Obviously, those restless Ohio audiences shouldn’t surprise Hackett and his band, Genesis Revisited. Slowly approaching 50 years since its release in 1977, Genesis’ famous double live album Seconds elapsed remains an object of great affection for the former Genesis guitarist and for Genesis fans everywhere. And that’s largely true because that tour and recording were Hackett’s last contributions to Genesis. So no one is laughing at anyone here: the killer first put aside, seconds is the main attraction for Hackett fans on this current tour.
Still, we can happily say that fans had no shortage of delightful moments during this imposing first set on both nights. Leading with just five songs, Hackett and the band have surprisingly leapt in time throughout their solo career, from their debut in 1976. Journey of the Acolyte on its last release, 2021 Abandonment of silence.
In short, the set was filled with songs and sounds that will make all the hairs on your neck stand on end! For example, the instrumental mellotron and synth overture, “Clocks-The Angel of Mons”, from 1979 Spectral Mornings, ignited the audience with mad zeal. Then, in the middle of the set, came a startling new track full of twisted saxophones, organ and guitar called “The Devil’s Cathedral”. (Hackett, whose music often has supernatural overtones, described her in Cincinnati as “a dark story” of murder and other dirty deeds.)
Hackett gave last place to the chillingly grandiose Moog bass pedal instrumental “Shadow of the Hierophant”. In his soaring heyday, drummer Craig Blundell also took center stage for the first time with his percussive equivalent of a heavy-metal guitar solo, much to the delight of audiences in both cities.
Break time came and went both nights in roughly the same amount of time and got everyone back in their seats for the Main Event – Seconds elapsed. And what an event that turned out to be! Far from just going through the stages, Hackett and the band only used the original running order of the double live album as a starting point. Just like digging up buried treasure, they brought every gem into the seconds back to the present setlist with loving care and a generous amount of creative enhancements thrown in for good measure. Adding plenty of twists, layers, and extensions, the finely tuned team at Hackett made this newly found 50-year-old music ring true.
Lead singer Nad Sylvan, who made only intermittent appearances in the first instrumental set, became the focal point of the second “half” as the hatless Mad Hatter MC. Joining in with every song, he deftly navigated the seconds repertoire, wisely chosen by Genesis originally to feature the best songs of the mid-70s by Peter Gabriel and his successor Phil Collins. Varying his vocal timbre – whether it was deeper or taut and angular like Gabriel, or airier and melodically softer like Collins – Sylvan mimicked the styles of both singers convincingly. He also used various phrasing mannerisms typical of Collins live performances that place listeners in that other “Phil Zone.” And whenever needed, bassist Jonas Reingold also provided higher harmonies.
Throughout the seconds presentation, the five-piece band behind Sylvan brought welcome weight to many songs that some have stereotyped as melodramatic or overly sentimental. For example, at the start of the sequence, the obviously “ecclesiastical” “The Carpet Crawlers” began in its usual hushed, processional manner, with an arpeggiated keyboard figure and dark vocal overlay. Through the stair steps of each verse, the band increased their levels behind Sylvan, and at the moment of this song’s resounding peak, a true sense of community spread among the fans.
In classic songs like “Firth of Fifth” and “I Know What I Like,” the band’s versatile musician, Rob Townsend, played clarinet instead of flute lines. He also strapped on a tenor sax for an extended funk-jazz leg in the middle of that last song. Clearly, the band weren’t rushing to plow until the sets were over on both nights, and they were quietly taking turns licking around the stage. And, really, this R&B reboot of the song’s original trippy medley was enough to make longtime fans forget for a moment that this was Genesis music!
Another spiritually uplifting song with a wide dynamic range, “Afterglow”, also appeared at the start of the seconds set, and – despite Sylvan’s plaintive, impassioned vocals – it really owes much of its emotional impact to Blundell and Reingold, whose urgent beats helped elevate the audience to a full “climb” at the end of the song. .
Later, in the “final reel” of the set, came the moment of ceremonial magic that virtually every fan was really there for – Genesis’ conceptual deep dive, “Supper’s Ready.” Brilliant throughout the evenings, Roger King was superb in replicating the many keyboard layers originally designed by Genesis’ Tony Banks for this dramatic track. Through the rapid movements of the 25-minute epic, moving from melancholy pastoral passages to loaded prog vamp, English Music Hall fantasy, a tense, offbeat section with an organ solo over a swelling martial cadence, then the glorious orchestral finale, King used every keyboard at his disposal.
Always the master of the handle, Hackett was in full flight himself in the “Supper’s Ready” multi-part, moving seamlessly through the many sequences that build up to the triumphant ending. On previous tours, Hackett would have taken the liberty of extending the heroic but all-too-brief guitar solo of the original. And this time, not only did he stretch it into a “kiss the sky” moment that lasted nearly four minutes longer, but he also masterfully dialed in the volume of his guitar into a pulsating ambient tonal bed that suggested the ever-widening expansion of the Universe. . Truly mystical!
The narration did not end with “Supper’s Ready”. Hackett’s band had another Genesis mini-drama in store at the end with the fan-favorite “Cinema Show,” which began with the flicker of finger-picked guitars tuned to the sparkling spin of multiple half-mirror balls spread out on stage.
In perfect ‘Peter’ vocals, Sylvan artfully sang the story of the song’s romantic young couple, Romeo and Juliet, then the band took the audience on the breathtaking synthesizer rollercoaster that Genesis had lightly truncated for their live arrangement at the time. But Hackett & Co. had a musical surprise in their back pockets, again performing the song in its entirety with a slide in backing song from the original studio recording on Sell England by the pound. And with his slight vocal return in this coda to the main set, Sylvan gave an almost prayer-like silence to the closing song.
The bis, of course, had to include the original Grand Finale medley “Dance on a Volcano/Los Endos”. And, thanks to Craig Blundell’s wonderful performances on both nights, that ending was pure musical fireworks. With the stage all to himself for an extended solo in the middle, he worked his way into the solo using his biggest drums. Changing the dynamic, he hopped on a small set of splash cymbals resting on his bass drum, then launched an impressive sequence of pitch bending with a depressed elbow to alter the drumhead chord as he produced a series of modified tones. The crescendo built audibly into a final volley of full-throttle drum attacks. It was slightly different each night but, without a doubt, a powder keg performance each time.
Like the perfect maestro, at the very end of “Los Endos,” singer Sylvan turned to the audience with his blonde mane glistening like a halo around his head. Smirking, he slowly raised his arms from his sides above his head and gently called the fans to their feet. But, judging by the reactions of these two Ohio audiences, you could easily see that they were already way behind him.