"THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS" THE TOTAL EXPERIENCE LIVE IN LIVERPOOL - ACOLYTE TO WOLFLIGHT WITH GENESIS CLASSICS. THE NEW LIVE DVD/CD RELEASE FROM STEVE HACKETT REVIEWED BY ALAN HEWITT.

OK, I will put my hands up and say that I am extremely biased where this release is concerned. A Hackett live release from my own home town and favourite venue was always going to bring out the partisan in me, wasn't it? That said, I shall try and be as balanced as I can whilst discussing this release.

Steve has certainly been spoiling his fans over the last few years, not only in terms of the sheer amount of gigs that he has undertaken in support of both the Genesis Revisited II album and its successor, last year's excellent Wolflight. Indeed, I still remember Steve saying to me when we talked about the release of the former back in 2012 that he was, to quote his words.. "going to take a year out for this before normal service will be resumed..." and here we are almost four years later with the culmination of that project!

The Genesis Revisited element of this recent spate of touring activity has been well documented by the previous two live releases from Steve but, as he wisely decided last year to merge a set of his own classics alongside some of the Genesis material that did not get performed on the preceding tours, it is not for nothing that last year's tour can truly be called "the best of both worlds" .

And so, on with the show as they say. From the shiver inducing intro music of Corycian Fire and the fearsome howl of a wolf, the show gets under way with the blistering guitar refrain of Spectral Mornings. Now, when you perform your best known solo track at the very beginning of a show you may begin to think that it is all downhill from here but worry not, dear reader, Steve is far too canny a trouper to fall into that trap! Spetcral… merely sets the stage for what is a mammoth two and three quarter hour extravaganza and just to show how strong the new material is, the next batch of tracks are all from the Wolflight album, Out Of The Body and Wolflight itself make themselves equally at home alongside their older counterpart and are equally well received by the crowd (including yours truly, of course!)

The 1979 classic Every Day takes us back again with a galloping version which really takes no prisoners and it is followed by an equally magnificent Love Song To A Vampire, perhaps one of the most dramatic and emotional songs that Steve has penned in quite a few years. With the added harmonies of Amanda Lehmann, Roine Stolt - who also does a great job on a variety of stringed instruments during the evening - and Gary O'Toole who is not only an impeccable drummer, but also no mean singer too, this one really takes flight and if you can evoke light and shade in a lyric, then this one does both!

An acoustic reading of Jacuzzi is graced by the appearance of Steve's brother John on stage. It is always a delight to see the brothers Hackett together and this shimmering performance is just the contrast that is needed with so much long form and dramatic music in show this evening.

We briefly revisit (pun intended) Steve's first solo album proper, 1978's Please Don't Touch for a truly magisterial reading of Icarus Ascending in which the star of the show is Nad Sylvan who manages to turn himself into a latterday reincarnation of the late, great Richie Havens. A truly remarkable performance and one which may go some way to convince some of those who doubted his vocal abilities.

With the fortieth anniversary of Steve's first foray away from nanny and her charges (his words once again), we are also treated to a healthy selection from Voyage of The Acolyte. For an album now in its middle age, the material here still sounds vibrant and fresh which is no mean feat. Indeed, here the entire band seem to have swallowed the opportunity to stretch their musical legs with some stunning performances throughout Star Of Sirius in which once again Nad Sylvan shines, whilst the rhythm section of Roine and Gary have no end of fun during Ace Of Wands and A Tower Struck Down. However, of all the tracks from this album it is Shadow Of The Hierophant which is held in the deepest reverence by Hackett fans and here we can see exactly why. Once again, Steve and the band are joined by Amanda Lehmann for what is probably one of the most breathtaking performances you will ever see.

The band then take a well earned break before returning for the material by that well known beat combo that Steve used to be a member of, and anyone who thought that the set would remain the same as it had for the preceding two tours would be greatly mistaken as once again, Steve has decided to give some of those tracks that didn't get invited out to play very often back in those days, their chance to shine.

So, the second half gets under way with the surprise pairing of Get 'Em Out By Friday and Can-Utility & The Coastliners, the former is a real delight and it is wonderful to see Nad, Gary and even Steve take on the various characters that are portrayed in the song.

For me though, the real highlight of the entire evening is that "contentious little number" After The Ordeal, here Steve's classical leanings are really to the fore and the combination of his superb, stately almost severe classical guitar and Roger King's superlative keyboard playing are simply a joy to behold. Music really doesn't get any better than this and in a setting like the magnificent Philharmonic Hall, it reaches new sublime heights.

One omission from the previous two tours is put right next with Cinema Show in all its glory, a true band effort with some superb playing all round. The Lamb…and The Musical Box too, are greeted like old friends by a crowd fully intending to relish each and every moment of what they know is a very special evening.

Encores? Of course there were! Beginning with Gary O'Toole's metronomic intro heralding the aural nightmare that is Clocks - The Angel Of Mons and what a joy it is to hear it tearing up the place again like Prometheus unchained! Here it is Gary and Roine who really let fly with some ferocious playing but of course, Steve's guitar too threatens to rip the roof off the noble old pile before the end.

And bringing up the rear what else could it be but Firth of Fifth,, to many Steve's finest Genesis moment and who am I to cavil at that opinion. Once again, the entire band bring their combined talents to bear on what is a masterpiece pure and simple.

And that's it for the evening. Three hours went by in the blink of an eye on the night and it may well do so again as you watch this truly remarkable document of what was an incredible night of music and nostalgia. They don't make 'em like this any more!

But that isn't he end of the story, oh no. The second DVD has yet more treats in store in the shape of two documentaries, the first of these, Live In Liverpool - Behind The Scenes, does exactly what it says on the tin. Here is a glimpse into what goes on in the setting up and and staging of a gig such as this. Gigs DON'T just happen you know! Far from it as this marvellous feature demonstrates.

This is followed by Somewhere South Of The River , a look at the rehearsals for the 2015 tour. This will be of special interest to any musos among you with plenty of technical detail form the band and also from the people who work with them who are often overlooked but without whom...

And bringing up the rear on this disc, at last for those of us who don't have a Blu Ray player, at last we get to see the stunning promotional videos which were made for Corycian Fire, Wolflight and Love Song To A Vampire. Far from your average video fodder, these actually TELL the story of the songs and in truly vivid detail, In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Wolflight video is the best promo I have ever seen - and I've seen plenty over the years folks, I can tell you!

As live album packages go, Steve has never short changed his fans and this one is no exception. Old and new fans alike will be delighted with this release and it will go even further in cementing Steve's reputation as one of the most musically and visually creative artists that has ever graced the UK - well done to all involved.

Alan Hewitt