There’s a distinct aroma of prog rock about the line-up at this year’s Cropredy festival, or Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, to give it its full title.
Alongside the familiar blend of folk and acoustic acts, including The Waterboys, Capercaillie and, of course, Fairport Convention, the three-day festival of “music and good cheer” features Marillion, The Australian Pink Floyd Show and Steve Hackett, who brings his hugely successful Genesis Revisited show to the Oxfordshire countryside.
Hackett, who joined Genesis in 1970 and played on six studio albums before leaving in 1977, relives and revives some of those magical moments from the likes of Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot and Wind and Wuthering.
Releasing two studio albums of new interpretations of classic Genesis tracks (in 1996 and 2012), Hackett has toured the UK and Europe extensively to packed houses – including two nights at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, in 2013.
“Lovely hall, wonderful sound,” he recalls. “It acts like a natural amphitheatre, a natural amplifier; it feels very natural, the audiences don’t get intimidated by the lush surroundings and there’s enough warmth from the place itself.
“Give it a few years until it’s achieved some faded glory and it will be even better, as the Albert Hall has, but it’s the one to rival the Albert Hall in that sense... it’s worth visiting no matter what’s on because of the nature of the venue.”
This weekend, Steve and his band – which includes singer Nad Sylvan and drummer Gary O’Toole, who share vocal duties – swap lush concert halls for the great outdoors, where they join the likes of The Wonder Stuff and Chas and Dave at Fairport Convention’s annual festival.
“I’m all for live music – it’s the reason bass pedals were invented,” says Steve.
“No matter what you do with the modern record, when you deal with live music your body is going to be shaken and stirred, it’s a physical experience.
“We also hope for the weather – don’t we always? Entrails will be consulted and sacrifices will be made to appease the weather gods.
“No-one’s criticised me for going back to an earlier model,” says Hackett of his decision to revisit his 1970s CV.
“So many people said they’d like to have seen it [first time round] and couldn’t because they were just too young; I’m thrilled to be able to do it and that so many people have been interested.
“The star of the show is the music – it’s not that I’m doing it, it’s that I’m doing it to a standard I always wanted to do it.
“I think what I tend to do is mix the best of the old with the sheen of the new; when I first launched it, it was a glorious idea and then I went into pure panic thinking ‘I’ve now got to deliver this thing’ – relearning this stuff and hoping other people would learn it to the same standard and beyond, so we’d not be outclassed by Genesis on a good night in 1973.”
Despite releasing more than 20 solo studio albums in the last 40 years, the 64-year-old clearly relishes the opportunity to play again such Genesis classics as Blood On The Rooftops, One For The Vine and Dance On A Volcano.
“There’s so much interest in a time when people cared about the details of music, never mind what the singer was wearing,” says Steve.
“In those early days the guys I met in the young Genesis all looked like they’d been to Tom Baker’s wardrobe from Dr Who – it was woolly scarves, overcoats, their fathers’ trousers and shoes; I think we were in an era of anti-fashion.
“Of course I’m sure that era will return because all eras do – for instance loom bands – I remember we had exactly the same thing in the 1950s, it’s extraordinary.”
Cropredy will be the last chance – for the time being – for UK audiences to see Hackett play the Genesis back catalogue; as well as finishing a new album, the guitarist is preparing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his solo debut, Voyage of the Acolyte, with an autumn tour, before heading to South America with the Revisited show in early 2015.
Genesis fans will still be able to get their fix, however; Hackett and his former bandmates – Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford – can be seen on BBC Two in Together and Apart, a one-off feature-length documentary to be aired later this year.
“Other than that no new music was played; we’ve not played as a full team since 1982, a very long time ago,” says Hackett.
“They’re aware that I’m dying for the band to reform and I hope it happens before one of us dies. It’s one of those things it happens, great; if it doesn’t, it’s still great to be involved in music.”