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Steve Hackett - Union Scene, Drammen (Norway) - 7 April 2017

It's been eighteen months since I saw Steve and his extraordinary band perform on the Wolflight tour. Tonight I am lucky enough to be in Drammen, Norway at an almost sold out Union Scene. I have been fortunate enough to witness multiple shows on Steve Hackett tours since 1993's 'Guitar Noir' - the build up to the first show is always extra exciting for me as I try to anticipate what numbers will be played.

My favourite Steve Hackett song 'Every Day' starts off proceedings so there is a huge smile on my face immediately. As always, Steve's soloing is impeccable and the vocal Norwegian crowd are lapping it up. Keyboardist Roger King and drummer Gary O'Toole are looking ultra-cool with their shades. Steve is promoting his latest excellent opus 'The Night Siren' and the first track to be played from it is the instrumental 'El Niño' on which bassist Nick Beggs especially shines. Rob Townsend plays various woodwind throughout the show and the familiar introduction to 'The Steppes' has the crowd cheering. It's been a few years since this classic has been aired and it is great to hear this old favourite once again.

Two more new album tracks follow: 'In the Skeleton Gallery' is dark and intricate whilst 'The Night Siren' opener 'Behind the Smoke' once again showcases how diverse Steve's songs are (this one has a definite Middle-Eastern flavour) and shows how well he and the band can translate the studio sound to a live environment. This new album has had hugely positive reviews and the skill and technique shown with these new songs makes it easy to understand why.

'Serpentine Song' quietens down things a little – I love this tune – it reminds me of a sunny afternoon in the park (Hyde in Steve's case). The rarely played 'Rise Again' from 1999's 'Darktown' album has the crowd rocking and 'Shadow of the Hierophant' is the final number from Steve's solo catalogue. It is a rousing rendition with Steve and the band in full flow – the floor is shaking!!. The only thing missing was Amanda Lehmann's angelic vocals.

It is the fortieth anniversary of my favourite Genesis album 'Wind and Wuthering' and Steve introduces Nad Sylvan to the audience before the band launch into 'Eleventh Earl of Mar' – I am on cloud nine as are many of my fellow Scandinavian new found friends. Steve reminds us that it is 40 years since he last played 'One for the Vine' and once again the crowd erupt. However, Steve's right hand man Richard (Buckland) hands Steve a different guitar for this classic, which Steve realises after the first few chords is not the correct one. Steve professionally and with some dry humour quips 'that was the jazz version' and restarts the song with the correct six string in place. Nad's vocals are sublime especially on the higher notes and the audience are in raptures!

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Steve picks up his acoustic guitar for 'Blood On The Rooftops' as Gary switches to lead vocals and finally removes his cool shades. '...In That Quiet Earth' is another instrumental treat before the final song from 'Wuthering' – the crowd favourite 'Afterglow' is unleashed on this enthusiastic audience. Personally speaking, hearing almost thirty minutes of music from such an amazing album is priceless and judging by the mad applause and ferocious hand clapping the rest of the crowd agree.

'Dance on a Volcano' is up next as the post Gabriel output continues and then a very rare treat indeed – 'Inside and Out' – which was recorded during the 'Wind and Wuthering' sessions but not included on the album (it was released six months later as part of the 'Spot the Pigeon' EP ) and goes down a treat. Finally the part of the show which everybody had been waiting for - yes that song with that guitar solo. Roger King's keyboard intro to 'Firth of Fifth' sends the crowd wild and Steve demonstrates why he is held in such high regard with the best guitar solo bar none from the world of Prog!

The crowd cannot believe how lucky they are as next up is 'The Musical Box' – once again Nad shows us what a superb vocalist he is and Nick Beggs demonstrates his versatility on his twin-neck bass and twelve string. Steve contributes further stunning guitar work on the main set closer. All six members of the band take a bow and after much shouting of 'More' (apologies I'm unsure of the Norwegian translation) and clapping in unison the band return. Steve treats us to the opening of 'Myopia' before the band go into 'Los Endos' with snippets of 'Slogans' where Steve shows off his fantastic tapping technique!

AND THERE YOU HAVE IT... two and a quarter hours of musical bliss. I've seen Steve perform live on almost fifty occasions and he never ceases to amaze me with his dexterity on the electric (and acoustic) guitar, he is still without a doubt the master of his instrument – a true genius as on top of his game as he has ever been. His band are brilliant and complement each other perfectly. I can't wait for the UK shows. My only complaint: I wish they could have played for at least another three hours ... :)

Az Chaudhry

PS - I'd like to add a special mention to the extremely friendly and helpful staff at Union Scene.

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