Genesis classic, Selling England By The Pound to be played in full by Steve Hackett at Portsmouth Guildhall

Steve Hackett Band, who are at Portsmouth Guildhall on November 13, 2019. Picture by Simon Lowery
Steve Hackett Band, who are at Portsmouth Guildhall on November 13, 2019. Picture by Simon Lowery
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Selling England By The Pound is widely hailed as one of Genesis’s classic albums. And on his current tour, guitarist Steve Hackett will be playing the 1973 opus in full.

In recent years, the virtuoso guitarist has been keeping the flame alive for the early Genesis albums – playing them live on tour alongside his own material.

Steve, who was in the prog-rock band for seven of their albums in the 1970s, has long claimed Selling England is his favourite Genesis release.

‘There’s all sorts of reasons why,’ says Steve, ‘I felt that it was a really good album at the time and just from a guitarist’s point of view, I managed to do some things on it that are still high in my affections, and I know in the affections of our fans.

‘There's Dancing With the Moonlit Knight, the opening track, which goes through so many changes, there’s so many different styles of music and different guitar techniques and what have you, it was cutting edge for the time.

‘Then there’s Firth of Fifth – there’s a great long solo there. But it’s not just for the stuff that I get to do on it, but the stuff that Peter Gabriel was doing with the band at the time – the kind of characterisations that he was doing, the panto meets prog meets all sorts of stuff.

‘It was very British, very eccentric and at that time John Lennon said that we were one of the bands that he was listening to, so I'll never forget hearing that. Blow me down with a feather! That was great.

‘And I love the album still.’

On this tour he is also playing most of his 1979 solo album, Spectral Mornings, plus a few other songs.

‘It’s a long show – we have a 20 minute break in the middle, my stuff in the first half, the Genesis stuff in the second.

‘It's a challenge every night, but I love doing it. It's just a walk in the park compared with Bruce Springsteen doing four-and-a-half hours or whatever he does. Is he trying to catch up with Wagner or what?’

Spectral Mornings was Hackett’s third solo album, but the first he took out on tour.

‘I did Acolyte (1975) when I was still with Genesis,’ he explains, ‘and then Please Don't Touch! (1978) I thought of it really as a studio construct, so touring was an afterthought.

‘I put together a band, so it was this band that got to play on Spectral Mornings.’

He recalls his debut solo tour: ‘We were playing stuff from all three of those albums plus, I think one Genesis number, which was I Know What I Like, as a concession to that.

‘It was a great time – I loved doing that album and it’s its 40th anniversary this year.’

While some of its tracks have remained in his set over the decades, Hackett has enjoyed revisiting the album in more depth. ‘I still normally play Every Day and a few others, but it's lovely to be able to play stuff such as The Virgin and The Gypsy which is the second track on that album, and Clocks, which was a firm stage favourite – it still thunders when the bass pedals come in.’

While this show may be looking back, Steve hasn’t let up with the new material. At the start of 2019 he released his 25th solo studio album, At The Edge of Light.

‘The current album hit the charts in 12 different countries, so I'm sounding a bit American saying this – we Brits don’t like to blow our own trumpet – but I will, because that one took off and I’m really pleased about that.’

Sonically and thematically the album picks up where his previous solo album, The Night Siren left off – reaching far and wide across the globe for its influences.

‘We've got an Indian sitar player on it called Sheema Mukherjee and she is fantastic. She came in and did her solo straight off, it was extraordinary. 

‘All of India was there in the headphones as we were listening, it just sounded so great. I tried to play her sitar and I couldn't even hold it, of course!

‘The album was strong and it was varied, and I think there were some incredible performances by other people on it.

‘I like it when I just see a lot of people play and I don't have to play a note, I just set things in motion and see my dreams come to fruition.’

With so much material at his disposal from his Genesis and solo careers, Steve knows what his public are coming to the shows for.

‘When you play the new material there's a sense that people might not necessarily be as familiar with that as they will with the classic stuff from I Know What I Like and all of that stuff or Supper’s Ready, everybody knows it and can sing along and all of that.’

Last month Steve also released a double live album, Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live at the Royal Festival Hall.

Steve Hackett 

Portsmouth Guildhall

Wednesday, November 13

portsmouthguildhall.org.uk