Review by Shawn Perry
You’d be surprised how many progressive rock fans there are in Nashville. They packed the Ryman when King Crimson played there in 2021. And they were out in full force for Steve Hackett, who played guitar for Genesis in the 1970s, and continues to cover that band’s classic era alongside his own music around the world today.
It was Hackett’s first time at the Ryman, and his first time back in Nashville, according to SetList.fm, since 2017. Prog fans from far and wide, including one-time Genesis drummer Chester Thompson, as well as noted singer and multi-instrumentalist Neal Morse, known for his work with Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic and Flying Colors, were in attendance.
Tonight, Hackett and his five-piece band played two sets — one filled with select numbers from Hackett’s prolific solo catalog, and the second comprising Genesis 1972 opus, Foxtrot. The first set was bookended by opener “Ace Of Wands” and closer “Shadow of the Hierophant,” both from Hackett’s debut solo album, 1975’s Voyage Of The Acolyte. Other highlights included “The Devil’s Cathedral,” a harrowing and cutting number from Hackett’s most recent studio release, 2021’s Sounds Of Silence, and “Everyday,” which had everyone piping in on the catchy chorus. Bassist Jonas Reingold also served up a suave solo just before the climatic finale of the first half of the show.
Everyone in the band — Hackett, keyboardist Roger King, multi-instrumentalist Rob Townsend, singer Nad Sylvan, drummer Craig Blundell, and bassist Jonas Reingold — were hitting their marks, despite some concerns about volume. Before showtime, Hackett had mentioned something about how live the Ryman sounded from the stage. That didn’t seem to raise any concerns from the folks in the balcony.
After a 20-minute break, the audience was immediately swept up into the highly anticipated run through of Foxtrot in its entirety. Touring behind the live release Foxtrot At Fifty + Hackett Highlights: Live In Brighton, the ensemble has the piece down pat, beginning with the haunting “Watcher Of The Skies,” which had Sylvan branding red flashing eyes before delivering the quirky lyrics in the spirit and essence of Peter Gabriel. Not a better team player will you find than Sylvan when it comes to more than serving the Genesis material, transcending all expectations by subtly working in his personality into the mix.
“Times Tables,” “Get ‘Em Out By Friday” and “Can Utility And Coastliners” are all rare diamonds on the concert stage, each exquisitely polished and bounced off the Mother Church of Country Music’s stained-glass windows with reverence and resonance. After Hackett strummed his acoustic through the Bach-inspired “Horizons,” the next 20 minutes of “Supper’s Ready” turned the room into a house of prog worship. Each turn of the suite excited the next section over. King couldn’t have navigated the intricate keyboard parts more perfectly.
The band slipped off for a few minutes, then returned with “Firth Of Fifth,” always a Genesis fan favorite. Sylvan stood high on a riser between King and Blundell, as the red silhouetted Torii Gate emerged as a more dramatic backdrop. A dynamic drum solo from Blundell segued right into “Los Endos” to conclude the show.
Bows were taken and smiles glowed as the audience stepped out onto the relatively calm downtown streets, a slight chill rushing through. It was as if everyone’s head was still in the clouds from an evening of though-provoking, spine-tingling music. Revisiting Genesis in Nashville couldn’t have been done on a grander, headier scale.