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11/30/2010 1:23:05 PM

Travelling North from Teesside to Gateshead wasn't a sensible thing to do taking the horrendous weather conditions into consideration, but, it had to be done. For this I must thank Ian Kerr, Progmeister's prolific photographer for driving us there and back in the worst winter snow and ice for many years. Was it worth it? As Churchill the dog would say "Oh Yus". The Sage Gateshead is just a dream of a place to see any gig and Steve Hackett was no exception. Housed in hall two the surroundings were reminiscent of The Thunderdome being circular with many different viewing levels which added to the atmosphere of the whole event.

When Steve and his band took to the stage with "Valley Of the Kings" it was greeted with a very warm reception and was soon followed by "Every Day" which went down just as well. Indeed all of the classic early Hackett pieces that historically stirred loyal devotee's to a frenzy were played. "Ace Of Wands" Spectral Mornings", The list too long to log. Of the pieces played from "Out Of The Tunnels Mouth", Fire On The Moon" and "Tube Head" were without doubt the most memorable. The whole evening was without a high point because the bar had been set high from the outset. If I were asked at gunpoint I would have to site "Shadow Of The Hierophant" as not only my personal favourite all evening but one of the best things that I have ever seen Steve Play live. Amanda Lehmann's delicate vocal making it a magical moment.

Of the Genesis songs that were played I was left wondering if the original band could ever have played them as well as they were by Steve Hackett's typhoon of a rhythm section. Not wishing to insight a riot I will keep my thoughts to myself. Gary O'Toole thundered his way through "Watcher Of The Skies like a demon whilst Nick Beggs proved himself not only a visual accompaniment to the event but to be the Professor Of Low frequency. Nick was as happy playing polite almost acoustic and atmospheric pieces on his Chapman stick as he was stomping on his Roland bass pedals.

Leaving the stage following a magnificent crescendo of "Los Endos" the audience voted with there applause for more. After the usual amount of time the band returned to play "Firth Of Fith" and finished the evening with "Clocks" concluding with Gary O'Toole leaving nobody in any doubt who was in charge of the drum department, staggering! What an evening. Looking at my watch it was hard to conceive just were the time went. Over the passage of time since leaving Genesis, I have like many other people seen Steve Hackett in his bands in their many guises.  I honestly feel that the band I witnessed on that very Sunday evening at The Sage Gateshead is the most synergetic.

Make no mistake though, Steve Hackett is still the man that everyone present was there to see. Without him there wouldn't be the songs, tunes or indeed the heritage of such an event. In which ever band that Steve Hackett finds himself he is by now a legend and can perform quite happily with brother John and Mr King playing an acoustic set or with his hand picked electric band playing classic prog. With the aid of technology and the skills inherent within the latest incarnation, songs that historically could not be played live can now be given the live Hackett treatment. None more evident in than "The Golden Age Of Steam" which I felt was just terrific. Hats off to Roger King who I'm lead to believe knows a thing or two.

Reflecting on those early performances in Steve's post Genesis years, I catalogue as an onlooker the chameleon like nature of his bands to suit his persona of the day. I have viewed Steve as visually awkward, sometimes stilted and tongue tied to fully charged and up beat. On this occasion I viewed someone at peace with himself and surrounding. Content and happy in his own skin. I watched a band representing the gold standard in musical performance. I would therefore suggest that the next time Steve Hackett roles his train out onto the tracks that you brave the weather how ever good or bad it may be and experience what prog rock is all about.


11/27/2010 8:35:24 AM

Braving the snow and icy roads of Friday 26th of November myself and good lady set out for Darlington to catch Retro-Genesis perform at the Darlington art centre. On arrival we were stricken by the similarity of the building to Chaterhouse which as the loyal amongst you will know is where the whole Genesis phenomenon began.


We were glad to get inside out of the cold and find ourselves a decent seat. It always pays to be punctual methinks. Gazing at the myriad of musical instruments and technology, lights, and effects we were bound to be in for a treat. The band took to the stage at around 08:30pm with a breathtaking and somewhat unexpected rendition of the GabrIel classic “Come Talk to me”. Tim Esau's bass playing throughout the whole show though was terrific though it was with the Gabriel pieces that his talent was more apparent.


Pausing for breath front man Tony Patterson announced that the first half of the evening would be their SoGabriel set before launching into a rousing and dramatic outing which was “Steam”. To slow the pace moody and very atmospheric songs like “Snap Shot” “Mother Of Violence and “San Jancinto were put through there paces before playing my favourite of the evening “Red Rain”.


By this time I was expecting many of the sensibly glad fifty something’s like me to be baying for their favourite Genesis piece. Instead they were more than content with the selection of Peter Gabriel’s best composition and the dexterity in which they were being played. I include myself in their numbers.


“Games Without Frontiers” loaned itself very well to audience participation and received gleefully my many of the members of the crowd not least the ladies. A slightly protracted beginning to “Sledgehammer was marred slightly by Tony Patterson’s at that juncture non illuminating jacket. However, boards man Jon Lewis kept up the momentum in true Dunkirk spirit whist Tony returned to the stage and performed all the appropriate movements to this rousing and phallic interpreted song.


The So Gabriel set ended with “Here Comes The Flood” Very apt I thought with recent history still fresh in the minds of the people in Cumbria.  As everyone retired to the bar still reeling from the musical bombardment so ably portrayed I listened to the many positive comments being traded not only by the usual clientele of such an event but couples and groups of men alike.


As the band took to the stage for the second half of the evening the excitant of many was too much to contain and I feared that some of the air drummers in the audience may even hurt their hands or damage the furniture. Dogged my a keyboard technicality the intro to” Watcher Of The Skies” had to be halted and started again. This I found ironic because being as I am one of the many people who witnessed a few Genesis gigs from this era I thought it further added the authenticity of the evening. Genesis were known for their gaffs.


All the favourites were played “Hogweed”, “Broadway Melody Of 74” etc. However, “Firth Of Fifth” was nothing short of magnificent. Hats off to jon Lewis who breezed his way through it with aplomb whilst being aided and abetted my the powerhouse that is Franco Zuccaroli. Quite where they found this guy I don’t know. I fear that only kryptonite will stop him. Paul Boydell’s guitar playing was at it’s best during this song and remained smooth and constant throughout the whole performance.


The Knife had the air drummers back out in force and if my memory serves me correctly had a little more vim about it than the last time I watched Genesis play it as an encore. The use of laser throughout this song was terrific. As the band left the stage the crowd had already begun the relentless applause until the bands return. A medley beginning with Solbury hill fusing with I Know What I Like” allowed more audience participation whilst the betrayal of the Gabriel era heralded the concluding section of “Los Endos”.


As the band played their last few notes the entire population of the building was ushered from the building due to the fire alarms going off. Not surprising really as the amount of smoke being emanated from the rear of the stage was at one stage colossal. As we left the building in a blizzard we pondered the difficult journey home whilst asking ourselves was it worth it. And as we looked over our shoulders at the fire brigade arriving my thoughts were that I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.


RetroGenesis played an astounding gig which I feel made them transcend the tribute band title. I believe that they are more than that. Indeed the quality of these five excellent musicians put them into a league of their own. The nostalgia element of what they are loved for was catered for but I have to say that the So Gabriel set was far more appreciated than the now antiques road show of Genesis classics that we all know and love.  I may be wrong but as Mr Gabriel himself mooted, Are RetroGenesis about to shed their skin? Watch this space.








11/14/2010 9:07:36 AM

must confess to knowing little about Dec Burke and when we received “Destroy All Monsters” for review I was intrigued to say the least. My first impression whilst I was driving with it playing in the car was one of surprise and apprehension. However, once I was armed with a mug of peppermint tea and sat comfortably in front of my hi-fi all the apprehensive thoughts took flight.


The album kicks off with the trail blazer that is “The Last Time”.  This massive opening gambit would not be out of place as accompaniment to a CSI type crime drama. Fast moving with just a hint of Prog metal this mean and moody piece sets the pace for a large majority of this well put together and packaged album.


Having pinned me firmly to my chair the gentle introduction to “Winter To Summer” give me pause for breath before regaining the pace of it’s predecessor. The song demonstrates Dec Burkes adept touch with not only guitar and keyboards but as a very competent music technologist. I make no apology for suggesting that this too could very easily be used as a James Bond theme. Dark and powerful it throws itself headlong into the next track “Signs Of Life”.


The thunder and lightning being stirred up by Ark man Tim Churchman on drums project “Signs Of Life” from the confines of the speakers and aims it right at the listener. Clever keyboard and electronica prevent this tsunami of a track from being full blown thrash. This is somewhat contrasted by “Something” which is as close to pop as Dec Burke will allow himself to become, though I suspect Simon Cowell would not allow his acts to sing it on X-Factor. Praise be!


“Open" brings the pace down a tad and finds the ex-Frost man singing an atmospheric almost holographic ballad. The feel and style is maintained throughout the following piece “Promised. Eerie would be the way that I would describe this song and it has a nice synth solo included for good measure beautifully played by Carl Westholm.


“Small Hours” is very easy to like.  I found that it is without doubt, the most bright and breezy song on the whole album. I was reminded by the chorus of Carly Simon’s “Let The River Run”.  There is also a great guitar solo in the middle played by Hywel Bennett. Not I suspect the famous actor. I felt that on this particular piece that a great deal of dexterity and deftness had been shown which allowed a showcase for a great musical unit.


Moving on to the concluding title track “Destroy All Monsters” brought to an end to a daring and mysterious collection of mainly steel edged songs which I fear may represent the darker side of life. After the second proper listen to this album I found it compulsive and I found myself doing something I hadn’t done for many years, referring to the superb cover for inspiration with regard to images represented by music and lyric.


I am unsure if there is a storyboard to this dark, exciting and intriguing album but I intend to find out. I may even ask Dec Burke himself. Watch this space. In the meantime I suggest you get on line and order yourself a copy.




11/9/2010 6:17:02 PM


Living as I do in a town that has just hosted the biggest tall ships gathering in Europe, I was very much at home with the nautical theme to the title track of “Charlestown”. Reading the brief synopsis within the CD booklet allowed me understand what the album was all about.


On first listening to the folk overtones of “Charlestown”, it made me wonder if this isn’t the kind of music that Jethro Tull would have made should they have dared commit to a more progressive style.


“Charlestown” really does conjure up a picture of an epic voyage around Land’s End to Bristol aboard a tall ship laden with china clay. Guy Manning’s folk-like lyrical expression add further to the authenticity of such an event.  This really is prog as good as it gets.


What sets it apart from many such musical excursions is its upbeat, brisk and open sound, rather than the dark and bleak approach so often portrayed by bands trading atmosphere for musical content.  The whole soundstage demonstrated by this piece is wide and full with an engaging clarity.


Following the thirty five minute opening opus “Caliban and Ariel” brings about a more gentile approach with delicate touches of percussion, acoustic guitar and a rich cello.  Contrasted by the following “Man In The Mirror”. This song reminded me very much of caravan of yore and was dancing around in my head for days. A fantastic blend of traditional instruments like fiddle and saxophone make this song shear joy.


“Clocks” can only be described as haunting and slips back into the folk theme running through this truly excellent album, which is a credit to the multi-instrumental talents of Guy Manning and his cohorts. It’s a song that seems to represent desolation yet steers clear of becoming dour.


Shifting up a gear or two, the penultimate “TLC” shifts from wholesome prog to blues and beyond.  I found this song to have a very high feel good factor and really uplifting.  Listening to this track brought a smile to my face in the belief that it demonstrated all the things I love about prog rock music.


I found myself not wanting the album to end, but end it did with “Finale”.  Like the rest of the album this piece was packed with exciting and interesting textures.  The vintage keyboard sounds and patches like Moog, Mellotron, Rhodes, Wurlitzer and Hammond are of the very best I have heard anywhere and add to the magic.



Did we like this album?  You bet you’re ass we did.  Guy Manning has recorded his best work yet with Charlestown and with the aid of gold standard musicians created a tour de force.  Beautifully packaged and oozing quality, miss this one at your peril.




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