For fans of iconic British progressive rock band Genesis, frustration has been the order of the day for the better part of a few decades.
The band has been inactive since the late 1990s, with the exception of a 2007 reunion tour featuring its most commercially successful lineup – Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. That tour stopped at First Niagara Center, but for fans of the band’s most revered works – it’s '70s albums, essentially, with particular emphasis on the ones released while Peter Gabriel was still the group’s front man – pickings were decidedly slim. If you wanted to hear full versions of epic multi-movement pieces like “Supper’s Ready,” “The Musical Box,” “Firth of Fifth,” “The Cinema Show,” or “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight,” you were outta luck. (You did get “I Can’t Dance” as an encore, however. Lucky you.)
With Gabriel fully committed to his brilliant solo career, and reunion talks forever frozen in the rumor stage, it seemed that the best chance the world’s army of Genesis fans had of hearing this magnificent music performed live was to buy a ticket for a Genesis tribute band – the excellent Musical Box, for example.
Guitarist Steve Hackett – a member of Genesis during the band’s most adventurous period – took it upon himself to set things straight a few years back with his twin “Genesis Revisited” albums, however. And on Thursday, Hackett brought his magnificent band to a sold-out Riviera Theatre for a transcendent performance that proved demonstrably that no one plays Genesis quite like a musician who was there when the music was first created.
Hackett saved the Genesis material for the second set of his rapturously received show, and when did unveil this beloved music, he went for broke, leading his stellar band – bassist/guitarist/12-string guitarist Roine Stolt, (of next generation prog outfit the Flower Kings) singer Nad Sylvan, keyboardist Roger King, saxophonist (and the man responsible for manning the bass synth pedals so essential to the Genesis sound) Rob Townshend, and drummer/harmony singer Gary O’Toole – through a breathtaking set of the epics, among them “Get ‘em Out By Friday,” “Can-Utility and the Coastliner4s,” “The Cinema Show,” “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,” “The Musical Box,” and “Firth of Fifth.” Judging by the looks on the faces of those in attendance – and the repeated standing ovations greeting the musicians at the end of each piece – all of this was received as if something akin to a religious experience. It should be noted that Sylvan, faced with the unenviable task of singing Gabriel’s parts, accorded himself incredibly well.
This tour is known as the “Acolyte to Wolflight to Genesis Tour,” however, and so the first set celebrated Hackett’s debut solo album, 1975’s “Voyage of the Acolyte,” and then moved through the man’s stellar discography, ultimately arriving at this year’s “Wolflight.” This first set equaled the set that followed it, which is to suggest that it was touched by something that looked and felt and sounded like magic. Particular kudos should go to drummer O’Toole, whose percussive skills were beyond the virtuosic and whose harmony vocals were sublime. The set-closing “Shadow of the Hierophant” was simply stunning, a tour de force of Hackett’s eloquent and lyrical guitar lines interspersed with Townshend’s jazzy soprano sax figures and O’Toole’s percussive crescendos.
The Riviera Theatre provided the perfect acoustic environment for this intensely moving show. The sound throughout was absolutely as good as it gets for a rock show. Western new York Genesis fans finally got what they’ve been craving for decades.