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.