February 2017
more... ArtistsBassistsGuitaristsJuly 2014Steve HoweYes

Cruising to the Edge


Journalist and rock biographer Jon Kirkman welcomes guests aboard Cruise to the Edge 2014 at the Pool Stage. The ship’s sail-away party included a performance by Saga. Photo by Robert Juckett.

Fans of Steve Hackett enjoyed a rare intimate performance, which he began with a classical guitar composition before launching into his signature “Horizons.” Flawlessly picking his Alvarez Yairi cutaway nylon-string, he closed it out with another Genesis classic, “Blood on the Rooftops.”

For the question-and-answer part of the hour, host Jon Kirkman asked him a few toughies. For example: What do the other former members of Genesis think about Hackett revisiting the group’s music through worldwide tours? Hackett joked they probably just wish they’d thought of it first. But he maintains he does it because he has a great affinity for the discography. “You could either take a competitive approach, or you could say I was in a band with people who were a bunch of fantastic songwriters,” Hackett said. “There wasn’t a duff songwriter amongst the band when I was part of it.”

When a fan suggested that he do the Genesis concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway live, Hackett agreed it was “probably a really good idea.” But new, original music is his focus for the future, and Hackett said he might actually end up being his own opening act on an upcoming tour. He quipped that a third Genesis redux would be “very cheesy.”

Pair the 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet with an all-you-can-hear menu of various subgenres of symphonic rock, and what you get is a prog-enthusiast’s dream vacation.

Hackett’s two performances in the ship’s formal Pantheon Theatre were full-on shows, with the master guitarist wielding his beloved 1957 goldtop Les Paul as Nad Sylvan belted out Genesis classics like “Dance on a Volcano” and “The Musical Box,” while UK’s John Wetton guested on “Fifth on Fifth.” Hackett was charming and warm throughout, playfully asking his devout followers: “All those numbers in 7/8—can you dance to that?” (Of course they could.) It wasn’t exactly a Squackett reunion when Chris Squire joined his old friend onstage to jam on a rendition of “All Along the Watchtower,” but it was a memorable moment.

During the UK Storytellers session, Eddie Jobson and Wetton discussed their time in King Crimson with Robert Fripp in the early ’70s, as well as UK’s brief life from 1977-80 (the current lineup with drummer Gary Husband and guitarist Alex Machacek reunited in 2011), and also about their time playing with other legendary acts like Roxy Music and Frank Zappa. Wetton performed several acoustic numbers, too, including “The Night Watch.”

There probably weren’t many casual proggers among this crowd, so the caliber went quite high for questions asked by the audience, many of them musicians themselves. Kirkman bravely asked Tony Levin what it was like to work with John Lennon in the studio on Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey before he was killed. While Levin said he had a tough time dealing with Lennon’s death, the working relationship was special—even smooth.

Yes plays in the Pantheon Theatre on Cruise to the Edge. This venue spot was for the flagship shows, which included two big shows per headliner and guests were assigned to one of the shows. Photo by Robert Juckett.

“It was really confrontational in a New York kind of way, and being a New Yorker myself at the time, I was comfortable with that,” Levin shared. “He came right up to me and said, ’They tell me you’re good, just don’t play too many notes.’ And I said, ’Don’t worry, I won’t. We got along excellently because of that.”

Levin and the other two Stick Men—guitarist Markus Reuter (King Crimson) and drummer Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mr. Mister)—discussed their sophisticated instruments [see sidebar, “Onboard Gems”], and Levin even admitted to putting away the fretless for many years when Jaco Pastorious came around. “He played the way I didn’t realize I was dreaming of playing.” Levin also revealed how upright bassist and composer Oscar Pettiford subconsciously informed his work from a young age. (Levin is currently revisiting this early-’50s “cool” jazz influence as a side project with his older brother Pete.)

Many in the audience were curious about Reuter’s multi-instrumental talents, prompting an explanation of why his heart is in guitar. “I love playing the guitar because my finger touches the string directly and I have the impression that the divine influence can go directly into the string and translate.”

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