Not to knock Bigelf, who did a great job transporting the crowd cleanly back to the early 1970s for a little while last night — but there’s not a band in the world that could have memorably shared a stage with Porcupine Tree last night.
After a short set from Bigelf, Porcupine Tree hit the stage in dim light, and the video screen exploded in rhythm with the opening beats of Occam’s Razor. For the next hour, the band played their latest release (or, as front man Steven Wilson refers to it, a song-cycle), The Incident. Some songs had related video that played on the screen behind the band (notably, Time Flies and The Blind House), while others were presented straight-forward, five musicians playing great music.
Following The Incident, the band took a ten minute intermission (helpfully broadcast on monitors through the venue, for those of us that hit that bar) and then came back for another hour of music, with a nice selection of music from their last five or six albums. Even after the intensity of the first hour, the band’s energy levels were on high, all the way through the two-song encore of The Sound of Muzak and Trains.
Porcupine Tree started out as a looser, more experimental psychedelic sort of band, and has gradually coalesced into a progressive hard rock act who are not afraid to dip into epic songs from time to time. Their live playing has become as focused as their songwriting over time as well. The rhythm section (Colin Edwin on bass and drummer Gavin Harrison) is locked tight, even during the songs featuring odd time changes and flailing near-dissonance. Keyboardist Richard Barbieri provides the ambience and atmosphere that underpins even the heaviest PT songs. Up front, touring guitarist John Wesley provides a calm balance for Wilson’s energetic, bouncing frontman performance. Both swap lead guitar roles, and both provide the sole vocals on the stage. Somehow, these five manage to sound equally stripped down and massive, as though there were twenty people onstage instead.
The Tabernacle is a fantastic venue to see live bands of all types, and it never fails to sound absolutely fantastic — everything from stripped down solo acoustic performances (Jim James’ “Bermuda Highway” on the Monsters of Folk tour) to crushingly heavy metal (Opeth during 2008’s Progressive Nation show) is crystal clear but loud and immersive. There’s no better venue, I think, than the Tabernacle for Porcupine Tree, whose sound spans from quiet and plaintively tender to brutal and chaotic. It’s also designed beautifully, from both an intimate-music-experience and architecturally, so the entire experience is wonderful all around.
It’s entirely possible that this will be the best show I see all year — and that’s leaving plenty of allowance for any number of great concerts to come.
- Occam’s Razor
- The Blind House
- Great Expectations
- Kneel and Disconnect
- Drawing the Line
- The Incident
- Your Unpleasant Family
- The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train
- Time Flies
- Degree Zero of Liberty
- Octane Twisted
- The Séance
- Circle of Manias
- I Drive the Hearse
- The Start of Something Beautiful
- Russia on Ice
- Anesthetize (Part 2: “The Pills I’m Taking”)
- Way Out of Here
- Bonnie the Cat
- The Sound of Muzak