photo credit: Steve Rood

As Genesis has drawn the final curtain closed on its live performances, Steve Hackett, the band’s stellar former guitarist, continues to carry the legacy banner for the group’s mid ‘70s output.  Seeing and hearing Hackett at work in 2022, though, is far more than a trip through the classic era of the group that featured Peter Gabriel’s plethora of theatrics or Phil Collins’ playful exuberance to accompany often intricate and demanding prog-rock expeditions.  It’s also a deserving platform for the utter and perfect brilliance Hackett repeatedly displays as a guitarist too often under-appreciated.

On the second of two nights at The Orpheum in downtown Los Angeles, Hackett was greeted by an eager and anxious, if greying, throng that admired his first set of post-Genesis originals with just as much fervor as the second set that re-created the 1977 Genesis live album, Seconds Out.  Standing ovations became routine- from Hackett’s opening “Clocks- The Angel of Mons” to the set-closing “Shadow of the Hierophant”- as the guitarist developed gripping, interwoven melodic passages bolstered by angular percussion and the exceptional soprano sax of Rob Townsend.

It was Townsend’s multi-instrument mastery that, too, allowed Hackett to reimagine the Genesis repertoire, turning, in particular, “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” into one of the finer extended grooves this side of Steely Dan.  Choices like these lifted some of the expectation of matching the original’s Olympian pool of talent: Gabriel, Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford.  Maybe the heaviest load fell to vocalist Nad Sylvan, as Seconds Out is home to both Gabriel’s shadow and Collins’ developing imprint as legendary singers.

Sylvan cut a spectral figure, appearing and disappearing as needed, amidst the fog of dry ice and swirls of colors.  His vocal tone reminded more of Collins; appropriate as Seconds was the first live album recorded after Gabriel’s departure, thrusting Collins into the frontman role.  Sylvan was at his best on “Afterglow,” extracting the depths of sentiment from the deliberately paced classic and winning raucous approval from the near-capacity crowd.

It’s a wonderfully gifted ensemble backing Hackett.  World-class drumming from Craig Blundell and the bass and guitar work of Jonas Reingold anchor a rhythm core that allows keyboardist Roger King, Townsend, and Hackett to handle the 25-minute, shape-shifting song suite, “Supper’s Ready,” with precision and poise, again rendering the Orpheum audience enthralled and ecstatic.  Holding firm to a program kept any indulgences in check, and, really, Genesis’ strength lay in its compositional acumen rather than improvisation.  Still, when those moments came, Hackett’s soloing was so fluid, so pleasingly effortless, it’s a wonder he doesn’t do it more.  Genesis may have retired, but Steve Hackett and his band, with considerable care and an abundance of exquisite ability, thrive as inspired torchbearers for both Hackett’s own solo catalog and that of his days with the iconic British quintet.