Music Notes: Dances with Wolves

A prog-rock guitar legend turns to a revered & feared creature for inspiration.

Steve Hackett (Photo by Lesley Wood)

(Photo by Lesley Wood)

There’s something that feels totally appropriate about Steve Hackett dancing with wolves.

I can’t put my finger on it, but the thought of one of progressive rock’s greatest guitarists naming his newest record “Wolflight” — and in the stunning accompanying video singing and playing his astonishing guitar licks amidst a sweeping tale featuring these magnificent creatures — just seems to make sense, given the provocative fantasy-like images conjured up by previous Hackett compositions.

And maybe it’ll make even more sense to you after hearing Hackett beautifully describe the reason behind it all. Listen to him tell the tale, and you buy into it all — hook, line and sinker.

“The wolf is the wilderness, and shamanic totem of the nomadic tribes who roamed the Siberian and Mongolian wastes for thousands of years,” Hackett eloquently told me recently as he was preparing for the U.S. leg of his immensely popular “Acolyte to Wolflight With Genesis Revisited” tour. “The title track is about these wild and unpredictable people. The term ‘Wolf light’ was inspired by Homer talking about the hour before dawn when the dreaming mind is still active and the imagination roams alongside the prowling wolf. It was great to spend a day playing and interacting with wolves in the hills just outside Rome. Amazing creatures, potentially dangerous, but incredibly engaging.”

There, now you’re all in, right? Thought so. Hackett has taken his audiences on similar kinds of adventures for years, whether as a member of Genesis or in his solo career, so it’s no surprise his latest effort has that spiritual, deeply evocative tone that threads through so much of his work. And as he embarks on the next part of his world tour, Hackett is stoked about what kind of show he is bringing to the U.S. this time around, which includes a stop at D.C.’s Lincoln Theater on November 13.

“It’s the kind of tour I’ve always wanted to do, with a range and scope of music that’s much wider and involved than before,” Hackett told me. “Running the gamut of styles from Rock to Choral to Progressive through to World Music. I work with a chameleon-like band who can turn their hands and voices to all things, from solo material of mine to early Genesis. I’m really looking forward to bringing this new set to the States.”

(photo courtesy Howard Rankin)

Steve Hackett (Photo Courtesy of Howard Rankin)

The pervading wolf theme of Hackett’s latest record has provided other inspiration for new songs that go beyond just images of wildness and unpredictability. “The wolf is symbolic of freedom, too. The struggle for freedom is reflected in the title track, and also the desire to break free from slavery in ‘Black Thunder’ as well as the need for personal freedom in ‘Love Song to a Vampire.'”

By all accounts, Hackett seems to be at the top of his game, with his effortless and soaring guitar work as strong as ever. It’s continuing to raise the bar on his playing that keeps Steve Hackett the immense and rare talent he has always been.

“It keeps me challenged, and continues to develop. It makes a huge difference to my health, and quickens my heartbeat. It constantly surprises me. I always like to find new ways of playing, and discovering new techniques.”

Steve Hackett performs Friday, November 13 at Lincoln Theater, 1215 U St. NW, Washington DC. $45-$65 available here.

writes about local and national music luminaries for WashingtonLife.com and his own blog at midliferocker.com. He is also lead singer for the successful Northern Virginia classic rock cover bands Second Wind and Heywoodja plus a Rolling Stones cover band and other local rock ensembles.

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