Gallery Contributed by Tracie Tee
Gallery Contributed by Tracie Tee
It has been two years since Steven Wilson had played in Australia. On this occasion playing for the first time in the luxurious Palais Theatre in Melbourne. I arrived early to the venue as I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a VIP ticket that granted me access to the Q&A session with the man himself.
During the session, Steven talked to the present fans about how grateful he feels to have grown up listening to his parents’ record collection which influenced him in the early stages of his life. He identifies himself as an artist that wants to have control over the content that is delivered to his audience rather than being an entertainer that creates the music trying to please people. He confessed that he can not stand to be on tour for more than six or seven weeks at a time and how proud he feels about the fact that every single one of his albums are different.
The theatre rapidly filled up and the lights went out at 8 pm sharp. Before the musicians came to stage, the audience was exposed to the short film Truth consisting of a sequence of images paired with words that appeared to have a joint meaning: hate, difference, family, love, happiness, religion, fact, news, compassion, fake, information, sincere, security and other words appeared to make us feel comfortable as they seemed to be complementary to each other. A plot twist was then added, the same images were displayed but this time the words associated to them now seem to be polar opposites. As an example, a Scientology temple is both “science” and “fiction”. The sequence looped again and again and the meaning of the photos made us reflect on how our judgment is affected by our own social conditioning.
The time had finally come. A bare feet Steven and his band came to the stage and the first notes of Nowhere Now opened the concert. A sole spotlight fixed on him made him stand out in the middle of a blue background.
Pariah, sung as a duet with Nineth Tayeb on the latest To the Bone album is next. In this live version of the song, she is not present in the theatre, but we were still delighted with her warm voice and a video of her singing on the big screen until her image disappeared into a colourful explosion that merged with the purple lights on the stage.
Steven then took the microphone to say hello to the crowd and anticipated that towards the end of the show we are more than welcome to stand up. In the meantime, we can sit back and enjoy the first half of the show even though ¨Playing in front of a sitting crowd feels like being the only people dancing in the disco¨.
Home invasion is the perfect opportunity to make Nick Beggs shine on the Chapman Stick. Regret #9 follows naturally and the crowd enjoys the first lengthy instrumental section of the evening.
Of course, many of the people that came to the concert are not only fans of Steven’s solo work, but also of the magnificent work that Porcupine Tree created over the years. The Creator Has a Masterpiece put a smile on the face of more than one.
When Steven grabbed the mic to address the audience again, he asked how many of the attendees were under the age of 23. A decent yell of the crowd was heard. In return Steven proceeded to make a very special introduction to them: “This is an electric guitar. A very particularly beautiful specimen” as he held his recently acquired Custom 1963 Fender Telecaster. A history lesson continued as he told us that legendary musicians like Jimmy Page and Bruce Springsteen have played and loved this guitar model. Steven described its sound as fantastically sexy and rock’n’roll without having to incorporate any additional processing. And he demonstrated it by playing the first chords of The Same Assylum as Before. The way he spoke about his Telecaster throughout the night made it very clear that he is very fond of it.
As we headed towards the end of the first set, the band played Refuge and Ancestral, guitarist Alex Hutchings, Nick Beggs, and Steven Wilson all drop to the ground and play their parts kneeling down or facing to the ceiling.
A tremendous ending to the first set. In the fifteen-minute break, I could hear the punters talking about Steven’s sense of humour and their expectations for the second part of the show. As the second set started, the audience was ready and now standing up. Everyone was treated to the beautiful melody of Arriving Somewhere But Not Here. Everything should go as smooth as usual, right? Well, let’s just say that at the end of the song Mr. Wilson said: “I can see the commentary on the internet tomorrow: Steven Wilson is so unprofessional! He can’t even remember the lyrics to his own fucking song!” Honestly, it was not a big deal, on the contrary, it showed us a more human side of Steven, as he took the opportunity to make another one of his jokes:
“- I traveled 25 miles to see Steven Wilson and then, this??
– Yeah? Well, we traveled 10,000 miles to get here and haven’t slept in 72 hours!! I’m allowed to forget the lyrics!… No really, this is quite embarrassing”
If there is one song in particular that has made To the Bone so controversial, that would be Permanating. Steven is well aware of that and did not miss the opportunity to teach us another lesson. Pop music does not have to be identified as the one performed by people like Justin Bieber, when Steven wanted us to join together in communing for the magic of pop music he referred to the kind of magic created by The Beatles, Depeche Mode, and Michael Jackson. “If you brought a King Crimson or Pink Floyd T-Shirt to the concert, forget about the fact that you are not allowed to move.” The band then proceeded to play Permanating and there is absolutely no doubt that the lighting design was something extraordinary, every colour seemed to be put on the right place and time and they complemented the music perfectly. In the end, I could spot a vast majority of the guests dancing and singing to this iconic “pop song”
Following the happiest moment of the evening, some people seemed to take a short break and grabbed their seat again for a few minutes. Song of I was paired with the physical expression contemporary dancer on the screen, Lazarus was clearly one of the favourites of the evening, behind me I see a couple hugging each other as they clearly shared something special listening to this song.
As the end approached, the band performed Detonation, Heart Attack in a Layby and the instrumental Vermillioncore from the 4 1⁄2 mini-album. Sleep Together, put an end to the second set and it was pure sensory overload. A sensational performance from the band that resulted in a standing ovation. Even Less was the first of three songs that were played as part of the encore. The Sound of Muzak followed but Steven had a special request. He needed us to sing along the lyrics on his signal so he does not as ludicrous as he did in Tokyo a few days ago, where he didn’t get quite that response. The Melbournians did not disappoint as they knew the lyrics and the chorus very well.
We were finally warned that the last song will send us home feeling depressed and indeed, the emotional images and notes of The Raven that Refused to Sing left us with a melancholic taste, but we were also saddened because a great 3-hour performance had finally come to an end.
A consummate performance from Steven Wilson and his band, I left the venue captivated by his charisma and the spectacular display of music and visuals.
Review & Gallery Contributed by Jose Sanchez
Gallery By Tess
Gallery By Vanessa Jarvis
Another Steven Wilson tour of Australia, another opportunity to bask in the glorious nature of the musical gift he bestows upon the world – bring it on!
This show was to be broken into two sets, relatively common with Steven Wilson performances, and for the opening, the audience was introduced to a series of images and associated words on the backdrop with no band members onstage, an insight into Steven’s mind one would think.
Most of these images were strong and thought-provoking, and it was apparent when the images appeared for a second time, only with words previously shown with other images that we were reminded that this world is complete with views and beliefs that bely our intelligence, or unintelligence – depending on how you view the circumstances within… nevertheless, it was interesting to hear the audience responses to the images and words, particularly when they changed to show a perceived new meaning.
The musical component began with Nowhere Now from the To The Bone album, an underrated track in my opinion from what is a stunning album, and a beautiful transition into tonight’s show.
It wasn’t long before Steven began his trademark banter with the audience, to which he freely admits he does a lot of. For me I love that kind of stuff, I mean we’re at these shows for entertainment in whatever form that presents itself, and yeah there are plenty of typical examples at shows where some talk can be too much, well not with this guy because Steven has that British edge to his storytelling, an honesty, humor and merit to what he is conveying and for me it is truly compelling – don’t stop doing that Steven.
So on we go, one beautiful reproduction of his solo songs after another, Pariah, Home Invasion, The Same Asylum As Before, all with his trademark stroll amongst the stage and interacting with fellow band members, and then moving back toward the front of the stage to constantly connect with the audience.
The inclusion of British guitarist Alex Hutchings to the tour has been magically transitioned, that guy is effortless and moves with a grace that just flows magnificently with what he is playing, he really does move with the song structures and it adds so much feel to what are already beautiful and powerful songs.
As is pretty much always the case the audience was treated to various Porcupine Tree songs, during the first set we heard and saw The Creator Has A Mastertape from the In Absentia album which is killer – the drum beat through this song ripped through the theatre and the dual guitars of Steven and Alex was so damn powerful.
Before the first set ended Steven shared a joke with the audience which he obviously enjoyed, basically he asked the audience to raise their hand if they are twenty-five years of age or younger – when some did, he told them that he was going to explain what an electric guitar was – brilliant! He went on to speak so honestly about what that instrument has meant to him, and that in many ways it can be a forgotten artform in part of today’s musical genres.
The first set ended with Ancestral from the Hand. Cannot. Erase album, beautifully winding down the early proceedings and allowing the punters to gather their collective thoughts by grabbing a drink and catch their breath because the magic was only half complete!
It was great to be able to listen to the audience talk to one another during the brief interval and speak so candidly and vividly about the night thus far, many with loud voices speaking so passionately and some even air guitaring when referencing certain songs and lead breaks – that’s what this all about folks!
The second set began with another Porcupine Tree song, Arriving Somewhere But Not Here from the Deadwing album and immediately it was as if the performance did not stop for an interval, smooth transition!
Most of the audience were standing now, for Steven announced right at the beginning of the show that he would prefer that because in his words, the second set would be a little more powerful, the audience did not need a reminder, up they got!
The second song of this set was both exhilarating and strange because it was the groove offering of Permanating from the To The Bone album. I say strange because I honestly did not expect the band to play such a groovy disco-inspired song live, exhilarating because it created a vibe within the theatre which took most by surprise, perhaps all, and an awkwardness which everyone seemed willing to display – why awkward you ask?
Steven, whilst introducing the song explained that he is well aware of the fact that he has alienated some of his lifelong fans by writing such a song, however he wanted to pay homage and respect to real pop music culture, to artists that have historically produced what an older generation would call real pop music, and not necessarily what it has become in modern times.
Steven went on (amusingly) to suggest to the audience that it would be totally okay to feel the need to dance during the song, and if you have no clue, then ask your partner and they should be able to show you how? I have to say that it worked, not for me though… it was one of those moments where caution is completely thrown to the wind and the result is that many would have finished that song feeling as though they have just stepped well beyond their comfort zone, and they feel bloody fantastic about it!
Next up was Song Of I from the To The Bone album, featuring an absolutely stunning collaboration with Sophie Hunger. Sophie appeared digitally on the screen behind the band and that was something to behold, adding a really beautiful dimension to the song – this is a song laden with slow pop beats and a wonderful harmony between Steven and Sophie, and clearly a shift in musical direction as Steven has explained in certain interviews previously, in my opinion, a true mark of an artist who is keen to push boundaries and explore new avenues. I don’t believe that the audience was expecting that, however, they certainly did appreciate it.
At this point I thought to myself, yeah, powerful during the second set doesn’t necessarily mean all heavy guitar riffs, powerful music arrives in many forms and levels.
Another Porcupine Tree song followed, and this one was ultimately the one that united the audience in singing along the most, the wonderful Lazarus from the Transience album. It was a real deep and loud chorus of the band and audience with this one, clearly a favourite.
The show continued to gather pace, both physically and emotionally through various types of musical direction. We heard Detonation, Vermillioncore and Sleep Together, just to rattle off a few, and then ultimately the venue curfew demanded a finish, and we received that in the form of The Sound Of Muzak which brought a resounding ovation and roar – and so the band exited the stage.
The lights stayed down so the encore was on, and it came in the form of Song Of Unborn, again from the To The Bone album. One could see why Steven would leave this one for last, for it is a real message about life and all of its trappings and events, how we weave our way through the maze and try to find meaning to all that confronts us – but it is also a positive message and reminder to do what we can with this beautiful gift, the gift of life – use it and make do Steven says, and then don’t be afraid to die.
What a breathtaking way to end such a magnificent show, another masterful display from a band that delivers an epic performance time and time again – no shortcuts here, just real musicianship and songwriting, along with some wry British humour, my favourite kind!
Review & Gallery Contributed by Roger Brooks.
Gallery By Elizabeth Sharpe
Gallery By Tracie Tee
Gallery By Jose Sanchez
Gallery By Isabelle Haubrich
Gallery By Shane Henderson