Hackett seeks a light to the future while celebrating Genesis past

“I still remain cautiously optimistic about being at the edge of light,” says Steve Hackett

FOR the first time, former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett is on the road performing his old band’s 1973 album, Selling England By The Pound, in its entirety.

Now 69, Hackett will be performing the venerated likes of Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, Firth Of Fifth, Cinema Show and I Know What I Like (In My Wardrobe) at a sold-out York Barbican on Tuesday (November 19).

This will be complemented by further Genesis numbers, selections from Hackett’s Spectral Mornings album to mark its 40th anniversary and highlights from this year’s At The Edge Of Light release.

“The idea to do the whole of Selling England By The Pound came from recalling that, at the time, John Lennon said it was one of the albums he was listening to that year,” says Steve.

“By the time Sgt. Pepper came along, there were surprises around every corner in The Beatles’ music, so the challenge for me was always there, and I was rather hoping that Genesis would expand to an orchestra, but in fact they did the opposite and got smaller and smaller!”

He looks back fondly on Selling England By The Pound. “It was my favourite Genesis album that gave us our first hit,” he says.

“Then something special happened with Spectral Mornings, with my first touring band, and now I feel this year’s album, At The Edge Of Light, is special too, doing something political that I knew would be uncommercial, doing something that I wanted to do at a certain point, like when Queen and Led Zeppelin did creative things in an earlier era.”

As the title would suggest, At The Edge Of Light is a place still shrouded in darkness. “Much of the album does centre on that: the populist world view evinced by politicians, that dark times are ahead. It’s very worrying,” says Hackett.

“Look at the situation in so much of America. The man who was ‘going to make America great again’ has put 800,000 people out of work. That’s haunting.

“We don’t mention names, but much of the album is symbolic lyrically, but there are other things on there beyond politics: love songs and travelogues, so I don’t think it’s a one-horse-race album.”

Songs for this fully orchestrated album partly came out of conversations with his wife, Jo, suggesting lyrics, then Hackett coming up with melodies. In addition, he drew inspiration from the music of his youth. “I was born in 1950, and by the time the Sixties were in full cry, you had Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie, doing wonderful versions of Dylan songs, with music carrying a deeper meaning without being didactic…though there’s nothing wrong with boy-meets-girl songs, but music changed for the better.”

Hackett urges people to make friends across the world, rather than for Britain to become insular in these toxic Brexit days. “The idea that we can just exist on our own, sailing off into the Atlantic…if that happens, I think there’ll be a rude awakening, once people realise what they have voted for. Be careful what you wish for. Look at what’s happening in America, with people queueing up for food in Washington. I don’t know what to say about that, but I hope people come to their senses.”

Nevertheless, the choice of the word ‘light’ in the album title indicates Hackett’s view is not all doom and gloom. “I still remain cautiously optimistic about being at the edge of light, rather than the edge of an abyss,” he says.

At The Edge Of Light is an album where Hackett “pulled no punches, gave it everything, but not in an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink way”, and he had a “great time doing it as I thought ‘let’s give it the full monty’.”

He brought such a scale to his Autumn 2018 tour too, performing Genesis and Hackett material with a 42-piece orchestra, including an October show at London’s Royal Festival Hall recorded for the newly released Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live double album and Blu-Ray digipak.

Now he re-visits Genesis again, this time Dancing With The Moonlit Knight at York Barbican.

Steve Hackett, Selling England By The Pound, York Barbican, Tuesday 19 November, 7.30pm.

Charles Hutchinson

Finch and Keita to play summer gig with Canadian trio Vishtèn at Pock Arts Centre

One-off collaborative tour: Catrin Finch, Seckou Keita and Vishtèn to play Pocklington next June

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Winners Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita and special guests Vishtèn will bring their one-off collaborative tour to Pocklington Arts Centre next summer. 

Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Sengalese Kora maestro Seckou Keita, will perform with Canadian multi-instrumentalist powerhouse trio Vishtèn on Saturday, June 13.

Finch and Seckou, who played the National Centre for Early Music in York on October 20, were named Best Duo/Group in the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, while Seckou also received the award for Musician of the Year. 

Since forming their partnership in 2013, they have released two albums, Clychau Dibon that year and Soar in 2018.

Arts centre manager James Duffy says: “I saw Catrin, Seckou and Vishtèn’s first ever public performance together in Canada, as part of a Music PEI Showcase in October. The response that night was truly wonderful and deservedly received a standing ovation. 

“It’s a fantastic collaboration that blends folk/roots and world music between these two highly regarded artists.  Thanks must go to Focus Wales, Music PEI and Theatr Mwldan for bringing this show to Pocklington in 2020.”

In September, Finch and Keita travelled to Prince Edward Island on the east coast of Canada to meet and collaborate with Vishtèn, who are flag-bearers for the Acadian musical tradition globally. 

Now, this collaboration will be heading to British shores in a one-off tour that will combine sets by both artists with a special set featuring new material by Finch, Keita and Vishtèn together.

In the Vishtèn line-up are twin sisters Emmanuelle and Pastelle LeBlanc, from Prince Edward Island, and Pascal Miousse, a direct descendant of the first colonial families to inhabit Quebec’s remote Magdalene Islands. 

Pocklington’s audience can expect tight harmonies, layered foot percussion and a trademark blend of fiddle, guitar, accordion, whistles, piano, bodhrán and jaw harp. 

Tickets for this 7.30pm concert cost £22 on 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Charles Hutchinson

Review: Kelly Jones, Don’t Let The Devil Take Another Day Tour, York Barbican, September 14

Kelly Jones: “Overcoming things and moving on”. Picture:Simon Bartle

THIS was a solo show, except that it wasn’t a solo show. First up, Dwight A Baker and Patricia Lynn’s country-noir duo The Wind And The Waves, from Austin Texas, thoroughly justified Kelly Jones’s invitation to tour with him: the best support act in ages at the Barbican, with song titles as sharp as This House Is A Hotel (for grumpy teens) and a queue at the merch-stall afterwards.

In Jones’s words, “this tour is about overcoming things and moving on from obstacles and building strength from that”. This sentiment is reflected in Don’t Let The Devil Take Another Day, the title of the upcoming Stereophonics album, out in October, and trailered here by a band who “learned the songs in five minutes”.

The title number and This Life Ain’t Easy But It’s The One We All Get conveyed Jones’s apprehensive yet defiantly hopeful tone on a night when he revealed as much in his storytelling from his back story, as darkly humorous, poignant and South Welsh-rooted as Dylan Thomas’s writings.

He opened by talking about once-a-week, Sunday childhood bath time, third in line behind his brothers for the increasingly dirty water, as he set about song writing from the age of eight when they removed their improvised “ghetto blaster” each week. He now had 160 songs, from 12 or 13 records, to pick from, songs familiar and rarely performed from Stereophonics 22 years and his 2007 solo work, Only The Names Have Been Changed.

The names this particular evening were Jones on acoustic and electric guitars, stand-up and grand piano; Gavin Fitzjohn on piano, guitar and exquisite trumpet and Fiona Brice on violin and piano, constantly swapping places and roles, joined by drummer Cherisse Osei, hair blowing wildly behind her as if in a wind tunnel, and even she switched from one drum kit to another. Rather than being restless or breathless, there was an arc and flow to the night, songs benefitting from new arrangements, such as Jones and Fitzjohn perched on high stools for a ukulele account of Rewind.

The stories were heartfelt, one taking in early days with Stereophonics’ Stuart Cable, his mother by the name of Mabel Cable and Keith Richards’ shepherd’s pie dressing-room rules, before his abiding sense of Cable dying too young poured into Before Anyone Knew Our Name. “I miss you man,” he sang, the pain still raw in that soulful voice, the best from Wales since his fellow Jones, Tom.

Kelly recalled his callow football days, playing up front of course, but this was the cue for debut single Local Boy In The Photograph, his tribute to the team’s right back who threw himself under a train.

Not only the tour, but so many of Jones’s everyman songs are about “overcoming things and moving on from obstacles”. Even his first choice of cover, Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through The Night, a song his father sang in his working men’s club gigs, now carried that weight.

The second, Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, had Jones and Patricia Lynn mirroring Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks to the max.

A medical emergency in the audience brought the show to a halt for 15 minutes, handled suitably respectfully by band and audience alike, and the usual 11pm curfew was subsequently waived, enabling a hits-heavy singalong encore of Maybe Tomorrow, Traffic and Dakota.

More frontmen of Jones’s standing should do shows like this: seeing him and his songs in a new light.

Charles Hutchinson

Review copyright of The Press, York