It’s the day after the election, and boy did I need a distraction. I have been a fan of Steven Wilson when I discovered Porcupine Tree ten years ago. I love progressive music and love to listen to it as I putter around the house or I am traveling in the car. For me it is soothing and mind calming. I enjoy seeing these artists in concert showing off their great talent. Progressive music reminds me a lot of classical music in its complexity and changing melodies. A lot of people complain that the songs are too long, but in a lot of cases that is required to convey the complex stories being told. Since the 80s, there have been fewer progressive rock bands while more have been moving to progressive metal to get the metal crossover fans. Rush and Porcupine Tree are two of the strongest progressive rock groups coming out of the 80s.
Steven created the band, Porcupine Tree in 1987 and produced 10 studio albums. In 2008, Steven went solo and released his first album, Insurgentes. Since then he has released 3 other solo albums. The first half of the show was the complete work of his latest album, Hand.Cannot.Erase. The show starts with a 10 minute background movie. The strangest part was a view of an apartment building and the lights going on and off in different apartment windows which seemed to go on too long. Finally the band come out on stage and they start with the first song from the album, “First Regret”. Some bands might have a couple of movies that play on a background screen as they perform, but Steven’s show was very different. The entire show had a different movie that went with each song and the band’s performance was in sync with the movies. At one point in the performance, Steven and the band lost the “Click” sound in their earpieces that they used to sync their playing with the movies. However, they were such great performers that they carried on and you could not see any problems. The only other bands I have ever seen that level of movie/song synchronicity was at a Pink Floyd/Roger Waters concert.
For me, my favorite song from the new album is “Routine”. It is a haunting song about loss. They start the song and the background movie showing a child’s bedroom and then a woman outside staring at the sky. Later it shows the woman cleaning dishes and the floor and folding the children’s clothes. About half way thought the song, you see a newspaper article telling about the death of a father and 2 children. You now realize that the mother is mourning the loss and she is just running through her normal routine to try and survive the horrible event. On some shows Steven has Nitet Tayeb join them on stage to sing the woman’s part, but for this show they had her recorded voice played during the song. This melancholy overtone is pervasive in a lot of Steven’s songs.
After a short intermission, the band returned to the stage and started their second set. For this set they played a number of older Porcupine Tree songs and other songs from Steven’s solo works. For their encore, Steven played Prince’s song, “Sign “☮” the Times”. Steven said that Prince was one of his favorite artists from the 80s and loved the diversity of his music. Steven is currently touring with guitarist Dave Kilminster, bassist Nick Beggs, Adam Holzman on keyboards and Craig Blundell on drums.
The last few shows I have complained about the stage lighting. This show was a great example of how lighting should be used. They had a background screen that displayed movies throughout the show and a decent stage light show that fully lit the stage and performers. The best part was that they used front spot lights that highlighted the different band members as they performed different solos or leads. Other bands could really learn from this show on how to utilize lighting.
Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents
Venue: Celebrity Theatre
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2016
Set 1: Album (Hand. Cannot. Erase.):
3 Years Older
Hand Cannot Erase
Ascendant Here On…
Set 2: (Album)
Dark Matter (Signify, Porcupine Tree)
Index (Grace for Drowning)
My Book of Regrets (4½ LP)
Lazarus (Deadwing, Porcupine Tree)
Harmony Korine (Insurgentes)
Don’t Hate Me (Stupid Dream , Porcupine Tree)
Vermillioncore (4½ LP)
Sleep Together (Fear of a Blank Planet, Porcupine Tree)
Sign “☮” the Times (Prince cover)
The Sound of Muzak (In Absentia, Porcupine Tree)
The Raven That Refused to Sing (The Raven That Refused to Sing)