Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents
Venue: Celebrity Theatre
Date: Monday May 14th, 2018
Unless you are into Progressive Rock music, you probably have never heard of Steven Wilson. Steven is truly a Renaissance Man. He is a self-taught composer, musician that can play multiple instruments, sound engineer and music producer. If you remember some of the great Progressive Rock albums of the late 60s and 70s by such bands as YES, ELP, Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant then you really need to checkout the remixes of their classic album that have been done by Steven. I picked up the Steven Wilson Remix version of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung and was blown away be the sound, it had so much more depth and dynamic range. I can’t wait to pick up the YES and ELP albums and see what they sound like. You can find all of the remixes Steven has done at the end of this webpage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Wilson_discography .
This is the second time I have seen Steven and his band. I saw him 2 years ago when he did his “Hand, Cannot, Erase. Tour”. It was an amazing concert and you can see my review here: http://beneathadesertsky.com/2016/11/22/steven-wilson-11-09-16/ . Steven came back to Phoenix to promote his latest album To The Bone. This was his last US tour date and was headed for Mexico, Central America and South America. He performed again at the Celebrity Theatre. For tonight’s show they configured the theater in its ½ round configuration. This was due to the background screen that they play the movies on during the show. However due to stage limitations, Steven and crew were only able to use their small background screen, normally it is 3 times as large. They also seemed to have some technical difficulties and were unable to setup their full quadriphonic sound system. However, the Celebrity Theatre’s sound system is so great, it made little impact on the sound or overall enjoyment of the show.
Steven and the band did a 2-set show with a 15-minute intermission so everyone could get something to drink. The show was a mixture of songs that spans his entire 30-year career. They covered his time with Porcupine Tree, Blackfield and his solo career. Since this tour is promoting his newest album, To The Bone, a majority of songs were from that album. They played 8 of the 11 songs from To The Bone. For tonight’s show Steven was joined by guitarist Alex Hutchings, drummer Craig Blundell, keyboardist Adam Holzman and bass player Nick Beggs. I was extremely please that for the US part of the tour, Steven was joined by Ninet Tayeb. Ninet sang backing vocals for both Hand, Cannot, Erase. and To The Bone albums. She was not with them for their last visit to Phoenix and you could definitely tell a difference with her in person backing singing on some of the songs this time. It made the songs feel more intense and alive.
As always Steven has his movies playing in the background prior to and during the show. The show started with an intro movie of slides that displayed an image and a phrase like Truth, Live, etc. After the first pass of the slides, they mixed up the slides and words to display a different reality. I believe that Steven was attempting to show us that we can be manipulated by the media and online by false narratives. There was one video that played that had a single dancer that started the movie and it expanded into multiple dancers all performing in sync.
The one thing you can expect from Steven is that his show each tour will be different. Since he has never produced a hit song but has a wide catalog music to pull from he does a little different mix each tour. Prior to one of his acoustic guitar songs, he told us that he is an artist and then explained the different between an artist and an entertainer. An entertainer is someone or group that is there to perform what you the audience want, usually only their hit songs. An artist is constantly expanding their repertoire and presenting to the audience something new. Since Steven is constantly producing new music, he feels that this is what he needs to introduce his audience to. Some people in the audience were unhappy that they did not get to hear their favorite song(s), but we got a great mix of Steven’s works. And with Ninet provide backing vocals, it more then made up for any disappointment the audience might have had.
It is really hard to pin Steven’s music down to 1 particular style of music. Some attempt to “pigeon hole” him as “Prog”, a term he does not like. His style shifts from jazz, progressive rock, metal, classic rock and yes even pop. Steven grew up listening to everything, metal, pop, classic rock, blues and jazz in the 70s and 80s. He liked it all. Once he got into high school (US our term), he learned that he had to “pick one style”. Steven never liked to conform to the normal so he continues to this day liking, composing and performing multiple styles of music. Case in point, he likes pop music and bands like Abba. So, he created and performed for us his latest pop song, “Permanating”, where he asked the audience to get up and dance with the music. A common joke for all the King Crimson fans is to , “Just stand and tap your foot”. Another thing about Steven is he does not like to wear shoes, he performs bare foot. So, to not get his feet injured he now has rugs placed on the stage and they vacuum the rugs just prior to him coming out.
I am not going to cover all of the songs played. You can checkout the setlist below for that. When Steven came back out for the encore, he was initially joined by keyboardist Adam Holzman. They performed the first 2 songs. Then the rest of the band join them and they concluded the show with 2 more songs. One of the highlights of the show for me was when Ninet joined Steven and they performed “Parish”. I also loved his “pop” song, “Permanating”, it is just a fun song.
It is a shame that audiences in Phoenix do not seem to like Progressive Rock music. This is the second Processive Rock show I have been at this month and both audiences have been small. I understand that we will never get the crowd sizes of a Taylor Swift concert, but come on Phoenix, this is some of the best music out there. It might not have that “Sing Along” factor of pop music, or the simple beat, but you get so much more. Also, how can you pass up a venue like the Celebrity Theatre to see a show. No seat is bad and at worst you are only about 80 feet from the stage, try that at a Taylor Swift concert. And the sound at the Celebrity Theatre is superb and beats the heck out of any large arenas blasting noise.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2018, All Rights Reserved
Steven Wilson Setlist: (Album)
Intro (“Truth” short film)
Nowhere Now (To The Bone)
Pariah (To The Bone) (with Ninet Tayeb)
Home Invasion (Hand, Cannot, Erase…)
Regret #9 (Hand, Cannot, Erase…)
The Creator Has a Mastertape (In Absentia, Porcupine Tree)
Refuge (To The Bone)
People Who Eat Darkness (To The Bone) (with Ninet Tayeb)
Ancestral (Hand, Cannot, Erase…)
Don’t Hate Me (Stupid Dreams, Porcupine Tree) (with Ninet Tayeb)
Permanating (To The Bone)
Song of I (To The Bone)
Lazarus (Deadwing, Porcupine Tree)
Detonation (To The Bone)
Heartattack in a Layby (In Absentia, Porcupine Tree)
Vermillioncore (4 ½ EP)
Sleep Together (Fear of a Blank Planet, Porcupine Tree)
Blackfield (Blackfield, Blackfield)
Postcard (Grace for Drowning)
The Sound of Muzak (In Absentia, Porcupine Tree)
Song of Unborn (To The Bone)
When I first heard that Ninet Tayeb was performing at the Steven Wilson concert, I thought that she would just be doing backing vocals for Steven, WRONG… She has her own band and man can they rock. Ninet is the lead singer and plays guitar. She is joined by fellow musicians, Joseph Eshine on guitar and background vocals, Yotam Weiss on drums, Matt McJunkins on bass and Doron Kochli on keyboards. From the very first song, they came out rocking. It was an extremely powerful performance. Ninet has a killer voice and can both sing harmony and blast out the lyrics. The Celebrity Theatre was a perfect venue for her, it was small and intimate and the sound quality was outstanding. If you get a chance to see her and the band, then definitely go. And if she is performing with Steven Wilson, then you are definitely in for an awesome show.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ninet Tayeb Setlist: (Album)
Room (Sympathetic Nervous System)
Superstar (Paper Parachute)
Child (Paper Parachute)
Oh Little Dream (?)
Something to Say (?)
Sweet Euphoria (Chris Cornell cover)
Elinor (Paper Parachute)