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Steve Hackett brings “Genesis Revisited” world tour to Albany Sunday

Steve Hackett on stage in 2018.
Cathy Poulton
Steve Hackett on stage in 2018.

Progressive rock legend Steve Hackett, best known as a member of Genesis, is bringing his world tour to The Egg in Albany on Sunday. WAMC spoke with him before the gig.

Hackett, 72, is renowned for his expansive, detailed song craft and innovative guitar playing. His sonic palate, rich in color and imagination, stands in stark contrast to where he was raised.

“I grew up in in an area called Pimlico, which was basically center of London on the River Thames. It was a heavily bombed area in the war. When I was growing up in Pimlico, there were lots of bomb sites. I mean, it wasn't exactly like Berlin at the end of the war, but you could see that many of the streets really have been damaged very badly and we grew up in apartments which were newly built. It was a very interesting time. In fact, I grew up in the shadow of what was to become Pink Floyd's most iconic album sleeve, the one with the flying pig in front of the Battersea Power Station. So the Battersea Power Station was the view from my bedroom window as as a kid. And a very powerful image it was too when that was working full steam, as it was in those days. It was one of the one of the biggest pollutants known to man at that point, it was the biggest building in Europe at that time. And I was facing that, the other side of the water, facing that thing belching out the smoke. Light and heat, it was producing all of that, but at the same time, it was creating the ash gray sky above with four smokestacks that were in constant use. And it was an extraordinary sight, both then and now. Now it's been turned into apartments, and it's iconic in a different way.”

A member of Genesis from 1971 to 1977, Hackett contributed to landmark albums like “Selling England by the Pound” and “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” before leaving to pursue a solo career. He says he likens his own work more and more to travelogues.

“If I brought it right up to date from those early efforts in the 1970s, the most recent album is 'Surrender of Silence,' where you have the influence of African music, the influence of Russian, oriental, as well as straight rock and electric guitars and all the rest, but a much wider selection of instruments, both orchestral and world music stuff. So, I think I always had this this travel bug ever since- When I was a kid, we emigrated to Canada in 1957. And as emigres, you know, that was a fantastic journey for me, just to be able to travel across the Atlantic on an ocean liner, and to see icebergs for the first time, and then to travel through Canada and to see the Rockies. First time I'd seen mountains, first time I'd seen icebergs, first time I'd seen the ocean- I mean, that was incredible stuff for a boy from the smoke, from the center.”

During the pandemic, Hackett posted a series of videos on YouTube explaining the background of a number of his compositions. Of the song “Behind The Smoke” from his 2017 record “The Night Siren,” Hackett speaks about the importance of supporting and protecting migrants and refugees. He tells WAMC the sentiment emerged from his own family history and the way he was received after moving to Canada as a child.

“The very first day we were there, there were some kids who came and knocked on the door and said, 'Can Steve come out to play?' That was that was extraordinary, very, very welcoming. The Canadians were very welcoming. And so there was a sense of community that was fantastic. There was Jericho Beach just around the corner, which was extraordinary, the vistas of that. But I think my sympathies for migrants, emigres, whatever you want to call it, and refugees, my family on my mother's side in the late 1800s were escaping pogroms in Eastern Europe. They came via Poland, made their way through to Portugal. They were Jewish on my on my mother's side, and then they were absorbed into into London as many people were at that time, into London's East End, where they worked very, very hard. Lost their original names as they were rechristened on the way in, so. And you know, I'm very proud of the heritage. And so when I hear people talking about migrants and economic migrants and the lack of sympathy and the compassion fatigue seems to be paramount in the world at the moment- It seems extraordinary to me that had those people escaped from oppression at that time, and if it were modern days, they would probably be interned somewhere.”

An inveterate traveler, one of Hackett’s favorite places to visit is as steeped in myth and legend as the prog anthems that have defined his career.

“I was at this place in England called Dartmoor. It's probably most famous for the story of, although it's a fictional story, 'The Hound of the Baskervilles,' written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the inventor of Sherlock Holmes. We were on Dartmoor, and my wife wanted to find, it was a particular configuration of standing stones, and quite by chance we happened upon it. We were with friends, and we saw some extraordinary stuff. So, sometimes just on your doorstep, that can be totally wonderful. So, I'm not sure if you can really describe it. I mean, it is a wilderness with wild ponies and the moors and many people have lost their way on it and lost their lives. There's a prison right in the center of it, and they reckon that if you managed to break out, the chances of surviving are pretty remote because it is so wild and desolate and unfriendly, of course. So it has sparked many, many a ghost story.”

On his current world tour, dubbed “Genesis Revisited,” Hackett reconnects with songs he wrote as long as 50 years ago.

A recent Genesis reunion that did not feature Hackett played its final show in London last month.

As he returns to the catalogue that kick started his career, Hackett likens the experience to reminiscing with an old friend.

“It's songs that have not only sprouted legs and have a life of their own, but also sprouted wings. And they have lasted, so they have become classic. Even if I didn't play them, there are tons and tons of tribute bands and schools that have done orchestral versions of these things and jazz versions and orchestras. And so it's music that, it will not lay down and die. It just doesn't do that. It carries on. So that's wonderful for music that we imagined would be here and then gone. And it seems like it's not. It seems like it's in for for the long haul. And people sometimes say, 'Well, this is a classical music of tomorrow.' And I love it when people say that.”

Steve Hackett performs the music of Genesis at The Egg in Albany on Sunday.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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