Steve Hackett will breathe new life into a beloved Genesis album Thursday in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The legendary former Genesis guitarist will perform the band’s 1973 prog rock classic, “Selling England by the Pound,” in its entirety at 20 Monroe Live, a 2,600-seat music venue located in the heart of Furniture City.
“It happens to be my favorite Genesis album. That setting was 1973, and just as we were leaving New York desperately trying to find a gig anywhere else in the States, we heard that John Lennon gave an interview and said Genesis was one of the bands he was listening to, so I assumed he liked that album at the time, and we were all very proud of it,” said Hackett, who performed with Genesis from 1971-1977.
“I get to do it again in its entirety, which wasn’t possible with the technology we had back in the day, plus an extra track included like a deleted scene. Something that Peter Gabriel introduced to the band as an unfinished song. I finished it years later with his blessing, and we shared credits on it.”
That “deleted scene” of a song is “Déjà Vu,” a quiet, emotional track filled with deep synths, exquisite classical guitar strums and a haunting extended electric guitar solo. This time, Hackett will perform it live with singer-songwriter and musician Nad Sylvan, keyboardist Roger King, bassist Jonas Reingold, saxophonist/flautist Rob Townsend and drummer Craig Blundell.
Together, the prog rock quintet is embarking on a 27-date North American “Genesis Revisited” tour through Oct. 20 and playing eight other influential tracks from “Pound” as well as highlights from Hackett’s popular 1979 album, “Spectral Mornings,” and his latest release, “At the Edge of Light.”
The band previously performed a series of “Genesis Revisited” tour dates in 18 countries in seven weeks and will head back to Europe and the U.S. as well as Australia and New Zealand next year. Their next Michigan date will take place March 4 at The Fillmore Detroit.
Selling England by the Pound and Spectral Mornings
As for “Pound,” fans will hear longtime, cherished favorites, including the Britannia-flavored, “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight,” the radio-friendly, “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” and the eloquent, classically-tinged “Firth of Fifth.” It features Hackett’s infamous guitar solo as part of the classic-era Genesis lineup with Gabriel, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks.
Released Oct. 13, 1973, “Pound” proudly represents the iconic British prog rock sound of the 1970s and continues to be known as the “definitive Genesis album.” With strong classical music influences, beautiful flute solos and innovative guitar techniques (think tapping), the album features literary and mythological references mixed with esoteric British cultural references.
“We weren’t selling masses of albums, but we hoped that our record company would renew our contract each year. The more experimental and wilder the ideas, there was always the chance they might say, ‘You’ve done it this time, forget your contract, we’ve got to tear it in two,’” Hackett said.
“In terms of ambition, we were quite modest really with our requirements. I don’t think we had any idea the brand was gonna become anything like as successful as it became. I think that was a question of luck despite the talents of the team. Everyone was driven, and it was a great band to be in.”
Four years later, Hackett departed Genesis after recording three other highly-respected albums with the band and opted for a solo career instead. By May 1979, he released the prog rock fan-favorite, “Spectral Mornings,” the first of his solo albums to feature a touring band consisting of younger brother John Hackett, Nick Magnus, Dik Cadbury, John Shrearer and Pete Hicks.
Today, “Spectral Mornings” remains a Hackett classic 40 years later with its strong use of Mellotrons, bass pedals and vocal harmonies. The album’s opener, “Every Day,” is highly-regarded live staple in Hackett’s sets that features anti-drug culture lyrics as well as a soothing extended guitar solo.
“By the time I was doing ‘Spectral,’ we had this touring band that was going down really well with crowds, and we were test-driving some of the material that was going to end up on that album. We were already doing the title track, ‘Spectral Mornings,’ we were playing ‘Clocks’ live, that was really designed as kind of successor to the fact that so many people loved ‘Trick of the Tail,’ the opening track, ‘Dance on a Volcano,’ specifically because of the bass pedals,” said Hackett, who also included 12-string and nylon guitars as well as a koto on the album.
“That was the first time a lot of people were hearing bass pedals and a way to test their hi-fi systems, and I thought, ‘Why not have a bass pedal solo?’ and so we did, and it’s a bass pedal solo that really sort of shakes the foundation of the buildings. That’s what it does. It’s meant to resonate. It’s still a big noise, so I love doing that live, it wakes up the audience.”
At the Edge of Light and Genesis Revisited Live Album
Outside of his landmark Genesis and solo albums, Hackett continues to release a series of influential and ingenious projects featuring a talented roster of artists and musicians worldwide. In January, he dropped his 25th solo album via Inside Out Music, “At the Edge of Light,” which sonically radiates hope, optimism and growth in a world struggling with cultural and societal differences.
The uplifting album opens with a worldly instrumental, “Fallen Walls and Pedestals,” featuring powerful guitar solos mixed with King’s soaring keyboards and orchestral arrangements. In a sense, evil leaves a destructive path as it exits one world and quickly re-enters another as the turbulent “Beasts in Our Time” emerge from the shadows.
“There is concern for what’s going on at the erosion of liberties, and the things people fought for with civil rights, the idea that that’s being contested, certainly things going on, so many dictatorships, democracy itself being under threat in the west at the influence of a right-wing press,” Hackett said.
“The press in most cases it seems is owned by very rich people, their mission is tax evasion, so they’ll sell all sorts of policies implemented by their pals who are politicians that are not in the public interest, such as Brexit.”
The other eight brilliant tracks on the album thematically reference the ongoing battle between the light and the dark with an eventual shift toward “Peace.” It also features artists and musicians from Azerbaijan to Iceland to Hungary to India and eloquently showcases the sonic beauty of that musical diversity.
“The previous album, ‘Night Siren,’ had 20 or so people from all over the world. The same thing really happened with this, but it was just a case of travel to a lot of places, and I just wanted to get my extraordinary friends on the album. I didn’t set out to do something that was a world music album, but we have those influences, and it goes on,” Hackett said.
“Perhaps the whole subtext of music is healing and building bridges. We’re basically ambassadors for peace, and I think music does something that politics is unwilling to do. There are no borders for music, that’s the kind of music I’m making these days. We welcome everyone. I’m interested in the Latin influence, the mixture of cultures. I’m a kind of musical mongrel and a mixture of all these separate dogs, and I’m proud of it. I think that music is stronger as a result of that.”
For his next project, Hackett will release “Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live at Royal Festival Hall” Oct. 25 via Inside Out Music. The double live album and Blu-Ray/DVD were recorded Oct. 5, 2018 in London with the 41-piece Heart of England Orchestra conducted by Bradley Thachuk.
“As a product, it’s extraordinary, it doesn’t seem possible that you can get that many people together, and they’re all playing in tune and in time and showing up on the night and not going bankrupt in the process, but it was a great success, and I’m very proud of it, and I might just watch it again because I’m so proud of it,” Hackett said.
7 p.m. Thursday
20 Monroe Live, 11 Ottawa NW in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Tickets: $45 to $99.50