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Steve Hackett - Once Above A Time (DVD) CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

4.36 | 79 ratings

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5 stars This is a splendid video concert of one of the undisputed and undisputable pillars of prog, the masterful Steve Hackett. While many of his recent albums are often very good without being outright masterpieces, seeing and listening to this energized display is certainly a rewarding experience. I have never been a huge fan of live albums mainly because if you aren't there, it's just not the same. Obviously, the advent of DVD has liberated this constraint and this is certainly a much valued memento of what a Hackett show would be like. This 2004 concert was held in Budapest, certainly a major prog capital in terms of history (Tull's Hot Night in Budapest and countless shows by western bands during the communist era) and with a healthy prog scene (some fabulous bands like After Crying, Solaris, Janos Varga Project etc..). First off, great bunch of musicians obviously enjoying their craft and who gleefully showcase their talents, namely the majestic Roger King on keys, the vibrant Terry Gregory on bass, winds master Rob Townsend and the energetic Irish drummer Gary O'Toole. And of course, the man with the golden Gibson is a true marvel to behold. For a genre often accused of overt bombast and overblown arrogance, the attitude expressed here is one of simplicity and gentle confidence, with low- key effects and lighting, no theatrics at all. As usual with my DVD concert reviews, a blow by blow description is not called for as it's not a cohesive album that needs analysis and commentary.

The opening storm of "Valley of the Kings" sets the tone with brash symphonics entwined with a slight Egyptian feel, almost expecting some Mummy to appear from the stage. The usual suspects are phenomenally shimmering (Ace of Wands, Firth of Fifth (wow!) , Spectral Mornings, Every Day, Clocks, Los Endos, Blood on the Rooftops, Fly on a Windshield) which comes as no surprise, all being classic pieces that will live on forever. The lesser known tunes are rather attention-grabbing with "Mechanical Bride" furiously veering into almost King Crimson Red period, a definite harsh experimental edge that really screeches, controlled frenzy at its best. "Darktown" has a similar gloom laden atmosphere, full of symphonic dread, with Halloweenish effects and Rob Townsend throwing in some saxy ravings and "Slogans" displaying a manic maelstrom of twists and turns that frankly can only astound. At the other end of the spectrum, "Brand New" is gently lilting with an almost Camelesque flair, bright and sunny with harmony vocals that lift the spirit. "Circus of Becoming" has a whimsical feel announcing the lighter side of Hackett's body of work, yet includes a blistering guitar solo and then with "Frozen Statues", diving into some improv pastels from piano, flute and sax. "Serpentine Song" delves into gorgeous melodies, flute leading the way, a mist of relaxing splendor that is oh so British, simplicity incarnate. The bass propelled jam "Air-Conditioned Nightmare", gives both King and Hackett the platform to flesh out their considerably talents.

There is nary a weak or boring moment, the pace always exhilarating, a true magical concert experience. The beaming smiles from the Hungarian audience reveal a mixture of awe, respect, deep enjoyment and complicity. That sight alone makes this DVD worth the purchase, passing along the warm afterglow to those who weren't in Budapest on April 3, 2004. Certainly one of the finest prog video documents out there.

5 kims

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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