Steve Hackett – Hallam Steppes (Highland HL568/569)

Hallam Steppes (Highland HL568/569)

City Hall, Sheffield, UK – June 17th, 1980

Disc 1 (49:11):  Slogans, Every Day, The Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere, Tigermoth, Kim, Time To Get Out, The Steppes, The Toast, Narnia, Acoustic Set, Sentimental Institution

Disc 2 (65:13):  Jacuzzi, Spectral Mornings, A Tower Struck Down, Clocks – The Angel Of Mons, Land Of A Thousand Autumns, Please Don’t Touch, The Show/It’s Now Or Never, Hercules Unchained.  Bonus tracks, Preston Guildhall, Preston, England – June 20th, 1980:  Jam, Every Day, The Show, Acoustic Set

Hallam Steppes is the last of the very few Steve Hackett titles released by Highland and it ranks among their better efforts.  It comes from an FM broadcast on Hallam radio, presenting the complete Sheffield performance on June 17th. 

It is taped off of the radio complete with the DJ comments at the beginning and end of the broadcast and is in generally excellent stereo quality with a fantastic mix.  The only negativity is the occasional FM static, but it is so infrequent and so light that it’s not really an issue. 

Hackett released his fourth solo album (and third since leaving Genesis) Defector in June 1980 and began the most extensive touring as a solo artist which began with dates in England, traveled to Europe and his first dates in the US.  Sheffield is the sixth show on the tour.  The set obviously emphasizes material from the new album starting with “Slogans.” 

When he speaks to the audience afterwards he jokes, “My voice has gone very low today.  Did you know this concert is being recorded by Hallam radio?  Say hello to them.  I just got an interesting piece of news today which is that the album is sixteen in the charts.  Thank you all for buying it.”

He follows with several songs from the previous LP Spectral Mornings and he gives a long discussion about the third song of the set.  “I had a hard time naming this next number.  I was going to call it ‘The People Of Taiwan Long For Liberation.’  And I thought maybe ‘Happily Patrolling The Grasslands.’  Or something like ‘The Fisherman’s Triumphant Song.’  But I finally settled on ‘The Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere.'”  This song is segues into the first half of “Tigermoth” (I’m not sure if the second half of the song has ever been played live). 

“As the bishop said to the actress, it’s time to get out” Hacket says before “Time To Get Out.”  Five of the next seven tunes played in the set are from Defector including “Sentimental Institution,” which is “something a bit different…this will take us back forty-five years to the lounge of a well known London hotel.” 

The short acoustic interlude includes the themes from “Blood On The Rooftops” from Wind & Wuthering and “Horizons” from Foxtrot.

The set closer is “Land Of A Thousand Autumns” and “Please Don’t Touch” played in medley as they are normally.  This piece was used a the set opener on the previous year’s tour.  The first encore is the strange segue of “The Show” from the new album with a cover of the Elvis Presley hit “It’s Now Or Never” sung through a synthesizer. 

The last number is “Hercules Unchained,” the B-side of “The Show” single and Hackett’s only foray into heavy metal.

The bonus tracks come from a very good sounding amateur recording of the soundcheck before the Preston show three days later.  The first jam is a nine minute long improvisation where the rhythm section lays down a funk beat and Hackett applies his abstract screeching doodles. 

“The Show” is played without the Elvis segue and afterwards Hackett asks if his guitar cuts through the brass in the mix.  The short rehearsal tape ends with a through of the three minute acoustic set.  Hallam Steppes is truly a great and very rare Steve Hackett silver worth having.   

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