After his much celebrated 2015 studio album, “Wolflight”, which cracked the top 40 in the UK and top 50 in Germany upon release, Steve Hackett has done something unusual for his new live release – he filmed and recorded it in Liverpool.“When InsideOut told me that I could film a gig on the British leg of the 2015 tour for release, I thought that we should do it away from London. My last three DVDs have been done at venues in the city – Shepherd's Bush Empire ('Fire & Ice', 2011), Hammersmith Apollo ('Genesis Revisited: Live At Hammersmith', 2013) and the Royal Albert Hall ('Genesis Revisited: Live At The Royal Albert Hall', 2013). I felt doing it in Liverpool had a certain ring to it. This is an extraordinary city and the Philharmonic Hall is an extraordinary venue. Besides, it's not as if Liverpool is known for having any good music – there's never been a good band from there. Ha!”
Hackett's love for Liverpool goes back to his time with Genesis, as he attests.
“We played there a few times in the '70s, and the fans have always been very good to me there. And as a huge Beatles fans, I also know the landmarks there, such as Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. I have been on the Magical Mystery Tour. So, the city means a lot to me from that point of view as well. The Beatles set the benchmark for all of us who have followed; we take our imagination from them.”
Hackett's own career is hugely expansive, and the challenge for him was to put together a live set for last year's tour (dubbed' 'Acolyte To Wolflight With Genesis Revisited') that best represented the many facets of his acclaimed work.
“We did two sets, which came to about three hours in total, with a brief interval between them. That was good for losing weight! For the past two or three years I have been concentrating on the Genesis period. But a lot of people have also been asking me to play my solo stuff, which is very gratifying. 'Wolflight' sold very well for me and got an excellent reaction, so I obviously wanted to feature songs from this in the performance. It was also the 40th anniversary of my first solo album, 'Voyage Of The Acolyte', therefore it was fitting to acknowledge that landmark. And the solo set built from there. It wasn't an easy job to decide what to include, but I think there was a good balance between old and new.”
The second set saw Hackett paying tribute to his Genesis era, and included songs he hadn't performed live for many years.
“I did 'Get 'Em Out By Friday' and 'Cinema Show', for instance. The latter has been asked for by a lot of people, and it was a great workout for all of us onstage. This is such an iconic song, both rhythmically and keyboardistically!
What have always born in mind when choosing the songs is what they mean to the fans. Time has a way of turning them into an emotional calendar for people. These songs take on an importance and become part of their lives. So, when I do them live, authenticity is important. I am aware that what I have to do is find a connection between nostalgia and what things can sound like in a contemporary setting. There's clearly room for interpretation, but to go for something like a jazz wig out... that would be totally wrong!”
Amanda Lehmann guests on 'Shadow Of The Hierophant', a song which perfectly represents Hackett's philosophy for the way an old favourite should be performed in a modern context.
“For personal reasons, Amanda could only do a few shows on the tour. But when she was able to make it, as on this night, we do the full version of the track, and she sung it wonderfully. What we did was turn the end into an extended drum solo, to showcase Gary O'Toole, and it's remarkable how well this went down. It brought the house down every night, and was the perfect way to end the first set.”
A multi-camera shoot, this was done with no prior rehearsals, but Hackett had every confidence in the people he was working with.
“Paul Green, who did the filming and editing, is someone I've worked with before. And because of his experience with me, he had a handle on how it was gonna go. He was also been very innovative. He used one particular technique to show what Gary was doing on drums, and it is an unusual effect I have never seen before. The drums seem to arc, because of the lens he's using. It gives a very different perspective to the whole viewing experience.
The backdrop we used comes across as an art deco hanging cinema curtain, and that is going to look very striking on the screen.”
The audio has been mixed by Ben Fenner, who does the live sound for the band, and is someone who Hackett implicitly trusts.“I have worked with him for a long time, and wanted to wait for him to be available. He always does an excellent job.”
The acoustics in the Philharmonic Hall were very impressive on the night, albeit rather challenging.
“They were very, very live, which was great of course. But it also meant that I could hear the sound bouncing off the back wall. In fact, all of us onstage were unsure which band we were actually playing along with, because of this acoustic effect. There appeared to be two, with a slight delay. This meant was that we all had to be on our mettle, which was no bad thing.”
What you hear in the mix, though, is exactly what the band sounded like on the night. There has been no extensive 'fixing' in the studio, as sometimes happens with a supposedly live recording.
Finally, how does Hackett feel this DVD will come across to fans? “It will be a totally immense experience!”