Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett plays any solo he wants on “The Knife”


By Steve Newton

Vancouver’s hardcore Genesis fans are no doubt chomping at the bit for the upcoming performance by Steve Hackett, the legendary band’s former guitarist. On his current tour, Genesis Extended–which plays the Vogue Theatre tomorrow (December 11)–the 64-year-old picker and his five-piece band re-create the best-loved tracks from the group’s ’70s heyday, when it vied for prog-rock supremacy with groups like Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, and Yes.

So yeah, there will be solos.

It’s also been a while since Hackett has played here, the last time being at the Town Pump back in 1993. But this city holds a special place in his heart, as he lived here briefly as an extremely happy child in the ’50s, when his family moved from England.

“I was all set for a life in Vancouver,” Hackett explains from a tour stop in Boston, “and it was not to be. My parents became very homesick—my mother in particular. It has to be said that my mother has never really travelled in her life, and as a very young parent she emigrated—bit of a one-way ticket—then decided, ‘Oops, perhaps not.’ But the child’s-eye view is not the same as the adult. The child’s-eye view is ‘I’ve got sun, I’ve got beaches, I’ve got a dirt track out the back, which is my Wild West. This is magic!’ ”

Some 57 years after his Cowboys ’n’ Indians days, Hackett may yet be able to conjure some magic in Vancouver. He’s been getting help on the tour from an ace band that includes singer Nad Sylvan, keyboardist Roger King, bassist Nick Beggs, drummer Gary O’Toole, and saxophonist-flutist Rob Townsend.

“There are five of them and then one of me,” he explains, “and the entire Genesis canon from 1970 to ’77 to draw from. And I throw in a little bit into ‘Los Endos’ a couple of things that I wrote subsequently, and funnily enough, I think that was what [Porcupine Tree’s] Steve Wilson enjoyed most of all when he saw me live.

“And I take liberties with some of the solos,” he adds. “If there are any really good phrases that were on the originals I play those—anything remotely iconic—but then I go off the map into other ones as well. I don’t mess around with certain songs. ‘Musical Box’ I play pretty much verbatim; ‘Fountain of Salmacis’ I play absolutely as written. However, when I play ‘The Knife’ I just play any solo I want.”

According to Hackett, Sylvan draws from the vocal stylings of original singer Peter Gabriel—as well as Gabriel’s replacement, Phil Collins—but puts his own stamp on things.

“He’s got a voice that sounds a little bit like Phil, I think, but he sounds great singing the Gabriel material as well. There’s moments when I think, ‘That’s pure Phil,’ but he does it his own way, and he lives it. His dream was to be the Genesis singer, so I think it’s an adolescent dream come true for him. He loves doing the stuff, and he’s very flamboyant, androgynous. He is a whole show unto himself.”


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