Guitarist Steve Hackett doesnít need an introduction actually. From 1970 until 1977 he was a member of Genesis, one of the most influential bands in the history of progressive rock. After leaving Genesis his solo career mainly consisted of highlights and it still does. Many devotees still buy his albums and visit his concerts. Watching a DVD from this excellent musician usually is a treat for oneís eyes and ears. Spectral Mornings, a DVD for the first time released in 2005, is no exception. This DVD contains seventy minutes of a performance filmed on the 8th of November 1978 for the German television in order to promote his second album Please Donít Touch. This was the fourteenth and final concert of a very successful tour in the same line-up. So, from a historical point of view you could say that this tour was in fact the start of Hackettís solo career.
Steve Hackett and his band performed a shortened set for the German television of which only one hour was broadcasted on TV. Originally, this performance was available as a VHS-tape and as a DVD on which the none-broadcasted material was added as bonus footage. On the new version of that performance we can now watch the entire concert which means that the bandís introduction Ė Carry On Up The Vicarage and Star Of Sirius Ė have been included. This was not the case during the broadcast probably due to a lack of time. It was a wise decision to release this concert again, because this time you donít have to switch to the former additional footage. Now you can watch the entire performance as it was filmed at the time.
Itís obvious that a large part of this concert contains songs taken from the Please Donít Touch- album that was recorded with the help of some of the finest musicians available. However, Hackett couldnít take them on tour so he had to find strong substitutes in order to perform the songs of this album. Of course, itís difficult to replace a fantastic singer as Steve Walsh (Kansas). To be honest, thatís almost impossible. During the performances of Racing In A and Narnia lead singer Pete Hicks appeared to be the weakest performer in Steveís backing band. However, the instrumental pieces from his second album are a delight to watch. Especially on Carry On Up The Vicarage the bandís in good shape. During the performances of the songs from Hackettís debut album Voyage Of The Acolyte the band mostly succeeded in playing strong renditions, especially keyboard player Nick Magnus Ė who has now a successful solo career by himself Ė puts his mark on very strong renditions of for instance Ace Of Wands and Shadow Of The Hierophant. The intro of the latter starts a bit like Genesisí Watcher Of The Skies originally sung by Sally Oldfield, Mike Oldfieldís sister. Since Sally wasnít available when the song was performed live, they asked bass player Dik Cadbury to do the vocal parts, which he did in a rather strong way. I canít say that about the live performance of Star Of Sirius. Pete Hicks isnít able to reach the vocal level of Phil Collins on the original album version and sometimes the music tends to be a mix-up especially when too much instruments are playing at the same time.
However, the short acoustic set performed by Steve Hackett on acoustic guitar and brother John Hackett on flute is really stunning including the two Genesis-songs Horizons and partly Blood On The Rooftops. Brother John didnít only play the flute in Steveís backing band. Sometimes he also assisted on the electric guitar and he did some excellent work on the bass pedals as we can hear on the pieces taken from Hackettís third solo album Spectral Mornings. That album wasnít released at the time, but the audience could already enjoy great versions of the title track and Clocks - The Angel Of Mons. During Spectral Mornings we can also enjoy the superb drum parts by John Shearer. He probably is the best drummer Steve Hackett ever had in his backing band.†
Neither the images, nor the sound quality of this performance reach the same level as we have on todayís new DVD- releases. Even the new 5.1 surround sound didnít really improve the sound level to a higher quality. It just seemed to be impossible to improve the sound of this seventies gig. However, it didnít change my judgment for this release. The footage is just too exciting to give it a low rating. People who like the music of Steve Hackett, Genesis, Yes or todayís prog heroes as Pallas, IQ and Pendragon will enjoy this DVD just as much as I did!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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