COMBINING a Rock band with an orchestra is nothing new. Deep Purple recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra back in 1969 at the Royal Albert Hall just before they blew the doors in with their In Rock opus. Since then, everyone from Metallica, Heart and even KISS have crossed their guitars with violins to varying degree of effectiveness. When it`s done right it can be devastatingly impressive.

The music of Genesis, particularly in their Progressive Rock heyday, has always contained something of a melodramatic bombast that would lend itself rather well to symphonic enhancements so when former lead guitarist, Steve Hackett announced a tour celebrating the music of Genesis along with his own solo work all backed by an orchestra, this was certainly a show not to miss.

Dance On A Volcano from Trick Of The Tail was a great way to start with it`s somewhat sinister opening bars before the orchestral bombast revealed itself in all its glory. This was going to be a good night.

The strings on Out Of The Body, from Hackett`s solo work brought the song to vibrant life creating a mood that was akin to 3D when compared to its studio counterpart and the beautiful woodwind opening to The Steppes preceded the militaristic marching beat that was cinematic in scope.

Genesis classics Firth of Fifth and Dancing With The Moonlit Knight were astonishing and here it was where the orchestral grandiosity from The Heart Of England Philharmonic intertwined with Hackett and his band to stunning effect reaching a pinnacle of dramatic intensity during Hackett`s dreamy solo in the centrepiece of Firth of Fifth. An incredible moment made all the more special in the wonderful setting of The Sage.

It`s hard to top a moment like that but Hackett certainly has more up his sleeve during Blood of the Rooftops, where singer Nad Sylvan really came into his own and another dramatic orchestral tour de force in Shadow of The Hierophant.

After a brief interlude Hackett returned with a shrewd mix of solo songs including Serpentine Song and a supremely rhythmical El Nino with a couple of shorter cuts from Genesis, Afterglow and In The Quiet Earth that served as a decidedly delicious hors d`oeuvre to the epic finale of Supper`s Ready and The Musical Box with Sylvan stepping up the theatrics. A truly magical night.

Mick Burgess