Brighton Dome, Tuesday, November 12

DEPENDING on your view, the 70s prog rock era was either a time of laudable experimentation in the pursuit of “serious” music – or one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history.

Even Genesis, perhaps the ultimate proggers, felt the need to abandon the whimsical stuff for shorter songs about “feelings” that actually became hit singles.

Guitarist Steve Hackett quit the band in 1976, just before they became a global pop act.

But ever since he has deliberately cast himself in the role as keeper of the prog flame – to the delight of hardcore fans.

Hackett’s Dome show paid tribute to one of the era’s great albums, 1973’s Selling England By The Pound - the high-water mark of the Peter Gabriel years.

The show kicked off, though, with Hackett’s most famous solo album, Spectral Mornings, a mix of pastoral songs, classical touches and heavy riffing that is celebrating 40 years.

It’s aged less well than the Genesis stuff, oddly, but at its best on The Virgin And The Gypsy and the beautiful title track, you realise what a loss Hackett was to his old band.

Interspersed with songs from Spectral Mornings was some fine new material, including Fallen Walls And Pedestals (which nodded to Led Zep’s Kashmir) and Beasts In Our Time.

The affable, self-deprecatory Hackett, aware that fans always prefer the old stuff, jokily warned: “It’s not all about keeping the museum doors open.”

Still, he did just that for the second set, showcasing Selling England. The complex time changes and elaborate melodies were recreated by Hackett’s superb band with verve and skill.

A big hand especially to Rob Townsend on sax and flute, who gave many of the long instrumental passages a reboot, and singer Nad Sylvan, who captured the vocal tone and feel of both Gabriel and Phil Collins.

Highlights were Firth Of Fifth and The Cinema Show, which showed off Hackett’s melodic and endlessly inventive playing.

And there was an extra treat for the hardcore. Hackett, 69, said: “This is a director’s cut of Selling England as it features Deja Vu, a song Peter Gabriel brought to the sessions that was left on the cutting room floor. I’ve finished it off and with Peter’s blessing, here it is.”

The show ended with storming versions of Dance On A Volcano and Los Endos from Genesis’s Trick Of The Tail album.

Of course, if you want to see early Genesis, there are plenty of tribute acts playing the circuit. But this is as close as you will get to the real thing – and Hackett may well be the best guitarist around. Oh, and a great light show too. Obviously.

Simon Copeland