Gaining entry into a seated, progressive rock concert would no doubt not appeal to most under 50, yet for me the opportunity to go a little left-field and cover a guitarist of Steve Hackett’s stature (familiar with finger tapping?) carried a subversive charm that contrasts with Manchester’s present musical disposition. As I’m seated, it invokes more a cinema show feeling (optical migraine-induced 3D aquatic documentaries?) than a live rock showcase with jazz undertones. Of course this changes when the technicians finish setting up and the performers commence the set.

Divided by interval, the opening segment focuses on Hackett’s solo material from both the late 70’s (Spectral Mornings in particular) and more recent ventures. For the ill-informed, it’s essentially what you’d expect from a prog musician’s solo career: more prog. Although that’s not to be perceived negatively as the material is quite strong and varied, the standout cuts being the instrumental rendition of ‘Tigermoth’ and that one with the Middle-Eastern, jazz-flute (I think?) augmented piece that I fail to recall the name of. As expected, the band is cohesive and technically advantaged; Steve even brings out his flautist brother (shy apparently) before he wraps up the first half with a drum solo; indulgent and unnecessary as ever.

The latter portion focuses on audience satisfaction; the revisiting of Genesis material from Steve’s seven year tenure, with Selling England by the Pound (John Lennon liked it apparently) being done in its entirety as the salient highlight. The fact that the record thematically deals with commercialism and Americanisation remarkably feels relevant in a whimsical, depressingly observant kind of way. The band faithfully plays through the opening track (‘Moonlit Knight’) as one would expect, although following that they turn the catchy single ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’ into an extended jam that leaps back into the chorus whenever they instrumentally see fit. It also showcases the adept singing ability of the Gabriel-esque-yet-adding-his-own-spin vocalist Steve appears to have acquired somehow; he brings a theatricality (although eschews the costume changes) that complements the character-driven facets (Epping Forrest etc) situated throughout the album. The guitar solo on ‘Firth of Fifth’ highlights Steve’s genuine fondness for the record; there’s a certain serene, protracted melancholy in the chord progressions that cast-irons Selling England into a unique statement in Genesis’ extensive catalogue, of which you can no doubt attribute to his influence.

Although each musician has the spotlight shown on them (literally in some cases) throughout the set, at this point I choose to zero in on the keyboard player’s work on the penultimate track (end of fourth line, start of fifth); it has that proto-Legend of Zelda soundtrack feel that goes hand in hand with the album’s artwork, whether that makes any sense I have no idea but I suspect the analogy will appeal to a demographic niche in scope. The post-album epilogue includes what was an unfinished track (which Steve eventually finished) and the ever-jolting ‘Dance on a Volcano’, as well as other tracks I fail to recognise which conveniently tie up the show in a climactic fashion typical of any rock-type spectacle that abides by the convention of catering to audience psychology; a lone shout of “Supper’s Ready!” went unheeded however, although you can understand since pragmatically the running time would have most certainly got the venue a fine.

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Angus Rolland

Recent career decisions have compelled me into the journalistic... thing; I could list my literary influences or even debate which 3rd rate beverage has the best economic value per litre (But I won’t). Oh, in addition, I write reviews for the Independents Network.