Former Genesis lead guitarist Steve Hackett, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the band in 2010, returns to Cleveland for a gig at the Masonic Cleveland in which he'll play the band's 1973 album "Selling England By the Pound" in its entirety, some other Genesis tunes and his own music. The show is set for Wednesday, Oct. 2. ImageCredit: Lee Millward
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Genesis, especially in the beginning, was as intellectual as it was artistic. So it's no surprise that the original lead guitarist, Steve Hackett, is equal parts of both.
Hackett, who is bringing a tour based on his favorite Genesis album, 1973's "Selling England By the Pound," is a bit self-deprecating, but he is equally conversant in music and politics. That includes the current controversy over Brexit, the controversial plan for the United Kingdom to quit the European Union.
"I voted against it," said Hackett, whose tour stops at the Masonic Cleveland on Wednesday, Oct. 2. "It's ironic that England, the nation that saved Europe's bacon in the Second World War now opts to distance themselves from it.
"It makes no sense economically," said the 69-year-old Hackett. "It's a scam, the whole thing. Basically, Rupert Murdoch owns the newspapers and the TV and doesn't want the Europeans looking into his tax arrangements.
"It was sold to the British people as demonizing the foreigner," he said, in what seems to be a global trend.
"Basically, you've got despots everywhere calling the shots," said Hackett, who then cited the swift reaction to the mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to push for an assault rifle ban. "New Zealanders are the only ones with a real leader. She's a beacon of hope in a dark time for the rest of us."
That pretty much ended his rant, because as he also noted: "I make noise for a living. That's what I do."
And he's been doing that since 1968, and even more after joining Genesis in 1970, when he responded to an ad in a music magazine placed by lead singer and band founder Peter Gabriel, looking for a lead guitarist.
He stuck with the band until 1977, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame along with Gabriel, keyboardist Tony Banks, bassist-guitarist Mike Rutherford and drummer-vocalist Phil Collins in 2010.
The iterations of the band fronted by Gabriel and Collins, who moved to that spot after Gabriel's departure, are often described as more artsy under Gabriel and more commercial under Collins. Certainly, the latter incarnation enjoyed a lot wider success - and reaped the financial rewards for it.
But as the Rock Hall bio noted, "But to say that one period was prog while the other was pop oversimplifies the situation, doing an injustice to the often sprightly melodies of the former and the continued musical depth of the latter. With Gabriel's and Collins' voices sharing certain characteristics of tone and timbre, the transition was, in fact, less jarring than might be supposed."
Certainly Hackett's solo work post-Genesis has a bit more of the avantgarde feel of early Genesis. The difference in early Genesis and Hackett's solo songs?
"Mine are vastly superior," he joked. "But apart from that, I have no ego. I'm perfectly balance with a chip on both shoulders."
Then he got serious.
"The difference is very little in that I like to think that at Genesis' best, it was pan-genre," said Hackett, who loves to explore all sounds in his music - classical, jazz and rock. "We tried to do things in as many styles as possible."
"I love orchestras," said Hackett, who toured Europe this past year with an orchestra, but said it wouldn't be fiscally possible to do that for this U.S. tour. "I love using regional instruments. My idea is to cast as wide a net as possible."
That's partly why he's continued to mix his own music - his new album is called "At the Edge of Light" - at Genesis tunes at his shows.
"In recent years, I've been doing 50 percent Genesis material and 50 percent Hackett material," he said. "It's basically a three-hour show. We take a short break in the middle, and we become the other band.
"I love doing the Genesis stuff," said Hackett, who said "Selling England By the Pound" is his favorite album by the group. "It's from a time when we were just starting out in the States and John Lennon gave an interview and said it was one of the bands he was listening to.
"As far as I know, he was the only Beatle who's ever said anything nice about anything we've done," Hackett said with a laugh. Call it a sly laugh. Because "sly" is what you'd expect from an intellectual artist.