Steven Wilson In Concert, a fan experience, Melbourne, Australia, 170 Russell, 28/10/16

Steven Wilson In Concert, Hand Cannot Erase, a fan experience, Melb, Aust, 170 Russell, 28/10/16

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Pre gig

The wait is over. Gig day has arrived. A break from world mayhem and stupidity.

Only really been an SW fan for 2 years, courtesy of the UK Prog Magazine and several features in Guitar Player on Guthrie Govan. Familiar only with SW’s solo work. (Insurgentes, Grace, Raven and HCE). Spotify has been an excellent discovery device despite the dubious quality of the highly compressed files. I’m also listening more to albums in their entirety. The album experience is good. Make the time.

Have bought a fair bit of SW product in recent times from Burning Shed, including the Index book by SW, LH and CG, which has just arrived. Very classy. Very inspirational. Artistry, and respect for the fan, merge as one. SW’s projects are loaded with high end stereo and 5.1 mixes, along with song vids, making of docs, animations, etc. The real deal. Value.

Managed to get just the one ticket to tonight’s gig from a local reseller site (via someone in Western Australia) after missing the ticket release in May. Queing up outside was quite bizarre as I ended up chatting someone who had another ticket not being used, but after several phone calls, it was all a bit too late in the piece to get someone else along.

Anyway, into the venue. Ah yeah, this is the place where I nearly had my hearing shredded by Gary Clark Jnr not too long ago. Great player, but why does someone need to play louder than a 747? Another story. (SW is loud at times, but without the inconvenient bowel vibration)

Projector screen in place, I notice the familiar HCE female character behind the album backstory. This is pretty cool. As a matter of fact this is amazingly cool.

A quick check of the stage and I can see a black Les Paul. Dave Kilminster is in town (Roger Waters, Keith Emerson, John Wetton) . Also in town are: Craig Blundell on drums (Frost, Pendragon, Roland technician, educator, programmer, writer); Nick Beggs on bass, vocs, Chapstick, guitar (Art Nouveau, Ellis and Beggs, Kajagoogoo, Steve Hackett, Rockets, Mute Gods, Iona); Adam Holzman on keyboards (AH Band, AH and the Fents, AH and Brave New World, Chuck Loeb/ Paul Wertico, Jason Becker tribute, Bob Belden, Miles Davis, Jane Getter, Mahavishnu, Marcus Miller, Grover Washington, Lenny White and so forth…….easier to list who Adam has not worked with), and Steven Wilson on guitar, keys, vocs and bass (Porcupine Tree, Steve Wilson Band, Blackfield, Bass Communion, No–Man, Storm Corrosion, Opeth)

Head for the Merch. I strike up a conversation with a young lady. How many people does this place hold? She hits the phone for a google search. Around 1000. Technology working for you, now that’s a rare concept, ……….except for the Merch card machine that is out of action temporarily. Just as well I have cash and there is an ATM nearby. I pick up a T Shirt, HCE bluray and the Get all you deserve bluray pak. Careful with the T Shirt size. I was recently given an extra large T Shirt at a Joe Bonamassa concert, in error, that could double as a windsock at Melbourne airport.

Now lets get a good vantage point. I manage to get a slightly elevated position towards the back of the venue, off to one side. Bang. Won’t be able to consisitently see Nick Beggs who, apart from being extremely talented, apparently struggles (according to SW) to contain his own sexuality in his trousers.

The gig/ first half

At 8:35pm, the ambient intro to HCE starts and Adam Holzman appears and plays the opening notes to First regret. Before you know it the band is on stage and playing the muscular riffs to 3 years older that set up this 10 min piece. Fantastic. Imagery on the screen draws it all together.

Have got to acknowledege the contributions of Lasse Hoile and Carl Glover to all of the high quality visual imagery on show tonight. Imaginative. Edgey. Contextual. Right. Must be so satisfying for SW to be working within such a creative/ intuitive alliance.

SW makes an announcement at this point that they will be doing the whole HCE project for the first half of the 3 hour gig, so if anyone in the audience doesn’t dig the album, they can take off for a while. Of course, no one moves. Everyone is riveted.

After a false start to Hand Cannot Erase, the band heads deeply into the HCE project.

At various stages in the delivery of HCE in total, SW engages the audience with some banter and perspective. Melbourne people are a bit too uber cool for themselves according to SW. They need to loosen up. This is great. (I once went to an Eric Clapton Concert where the only thing EC said for the whole night was “I’m surprised you’re all here and not at the cricket ”. WTF?)

SW explains the visual backdrop to Perfect Life. An attempt was made to incorporate the screen vibe from the Australian film “Picnic At Hanging Rock”, directed by the talented Peter Weir. Nice filming by Youseff Nassar. Would have been great to have picked up a local female vocalist for this part of the show. Beautiful piece of music. As a Melbournian I must head out west again and scale Hanging Rock in the not too distant future. Pretty unique place, with indigenous overtones.

Routine was described by SW as one of the saddest songs that he has written, captured beautifully by an animation, painting (I think) a pretty sad story of loss, and the futility of an attempt at an ongoing day to day diversionary routine.

From here it was into the instrumental/vocal workout of Home Invasion. “Download sex and download (god?)”……..interesting first lyric line.

The band segues into the AH/ DK instrumental showpiece of Regret #9. AH on keys reminds me of a cross between Jan Hammer and Lyle Mays. Beautiful playing. I wonder whether the audience fully appreciate the musical heritage that AH brings to the table. DK nailed the guitar part of this piece. I really appreciate the way DK hit the established signature melodies originally recorded by Guthrie Govan, then added some.

Transcience. SW’s vocals sound clear and of course are right on pitch. Great touch on the acoustic guitar by Dave. A real stylist. Accurate. Quality sound.

Ancestral. Extraordinary piece (13 mins?). Love the dynamics. Instrumental first section. Odd time signatures. Introduce vocals. Pretty heavy riffing towards the end. SW gives the uber cool Melbournians another opportunity to clap/ respond more primally. After all it is the Friday night before a 4 day long weekend, for most.

Really enjoying SW’s vocs, and playing on keys, guitar and bass. Also enjoying his control of the band. A small element of Frank Zappa at work here. Love it. Nick Beggs playing doesn’t miss a beat. Very classy on stage presence as well. Love the sound and really deep range of the Chapstick. Craig Blundell’s playing doesn’t disappoint. Class.

Happy Returns. The familiar introductory ambience and piano notes from the begining return again and sync beautifully with SW’s vocals and the emotional video presentation. Quality. And there’s that train reference again. I like the way SW takes the first guitar solo towards the end of this piece, before handing over to DK, the resident stunt guitarist (Frank Zappa used to refer to Steve Vai as his stunt guitarist). I often think it would be technically harder to work in this band than Return To Forever or Yes at their peak in the early 70s, and that’s saying something.

“Ascendant here on”. …………………………Finish HCE.

Gobsmacked.

Intermission. I choose to keep my viewing position.

First half setlist

  • First regret
  • 3 years older
  • HCE
  • Perfect life
  • Routine
  • Home invasion
  • Regret#9
  • Transcience
  • Ancestral
  • Happy Returns
  • Ascendent here on

 

The gig/ second half

Second half setlist

*will have to declare here that I don’t know the Porcupine Tree (PT) catalogue

           Dark matter (PT)

  • Index (from Grace before Drowning)
  • My book of regrets (from 4 and a half)
  • Lazarus (PT)
  • Harmony Korine (from Insurgentes)
  • Don’t hate me (PT)
  • Vermillioncore (from 4 and a half)
  • Sleep together (PT)

 

Encore

  • Sign of the times (Prince)
  • The sound of muzak (PT)
  • The Raven that refused to sing (from Raven)

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The second set starts with a PT track (Dark Matter) that I’m not familiar with, but the tempo and feel is clearly a little more menacing and psychedelic than the vibe in the first half of the gig. For me the PT catalogue is a bit of a treasure trove that I will check out at some point. Where do you start? Need for a guide to PT?

Index (Collector) from the Grace before drowning album slips in nicely after the psychedelic fog. The vid syncs up perfectly with the mentally deranged theme of someone collecting and indexing everything from dolls to human beings. Have seen this live on the “Get all you deserve” concert DVD, done in Mexico in 2012. Craig Blundell duplicates the Marco Minneman fills to perfection. SW presents another take on the vocals, pretty much speaking the words over a percussionless first half of the tune, then winding up more aggressively vocal wise as the second half of the piece presents itself.

My book of regrets is probably one of the more current compositions played so far tonight, from SW’s interim release “Four and a half”. This piece according to SW was part of the HCE sessions, but didn’t fit the framework and texture of the underlying HCE vibe. SW kicks the track off with a classic chordal riff. The track goes into an improvisational middle structure before coming back to a slower interlude groove featuring (I think) SW on guitar. Its then back to the opening riff. Love this riff. It almost plays itself. Sounds great up against the melody of the vocals. First lyric lines. “In the back of a taxi cab in London town, its like watching TV with sound turned down………”

Lazarus fits neatly into the next part of the repertoire. This is a PT piece from the Deadwing album and Steven proceeds to paint a respectful verbal tribute to David Bowie, as one of the tracks on the very last Bowie album (Blackstar) was indeed Lazarus. The audience sing the chorus which adds to the emotion of the evening. “Follow me down to the valley below, moonlight is bleeding from out of your soul”. Classic. Respect of the highest order given to the recently departed chameleon of the music industry. Reinvention. Vision. Originality. All around. Celebration.

Harmony Korine is next, and proceeds to bring the house down. Can’t stop listening to this track in the car. An unstoppable anthem from the Insurgentes album with Nick Beggs pointing his bass guitar to the heavens as the band rocks out to infinity, with SW smashing out octaves on the guitar that become a bit atonal/ angular as the piece moves towards climax.

“Don’t hate me” slides in out of nowhere. A PT track from the Stupid Dream album. Of course I haven’t heard this piece before. Love the verse vocal downward slurs. Big chorus. Great melodies. Great emotion with the lyrics. Adam Holzman (I think) gets to really stretch out with a beautiful solo (rhodes?). More train references. Bring it.

At this stage in the performance a hessian screen of some sort has been dropped in front of the stage. Videos of a woman in motion are projected on to this screen, with the main screen behind providing a backdrop of colours. Spectacular. Speechless.

Vermillioncore. Instrumental from the HCE sessions. Ambient intro and then “bang”. Another classic (descending) riff, that segues in and out of a driving groove. Great colouration by Adam Holzman. Great drumming by Craig Blundell. Unison guitars of the world unite. Karl Marx would have dug this.

Sleep together. A PT track from the Fear of a Blank Planet album. Very menacing synth motif starts the track up, with SW vocs against a backdrop of a steady groove and continued slippery synth/ string lines. Big chorus. SW really belts the shit of some sort of baritone PRS guitar. A trip. The band get to stretch out. SW (I think its here) plays an extraordinary guitar solo laiden with echo/delay and reverb and slide. Just what the doctor ordered. SW in concert has a habit of doing what is right for the overall arc/ expectation of the fan experience. This solo was one of the main highlights of the evening for me. A couple of guys in front of me look at each other and go “how good was that”.

Encore

Sign of the times by Prince with a contextual verbal introduction by SW. How respectful is this gig? How informative is this gig in a cruisey musicology way? Passion. Respect.

The Sound of Muzak by PT. From the album In Absentia. Verse groove in 7/8? Chorus in 4/4. Giant chorus. Giant lyric “One of the wonders of the world is going down, its going down I know”. Would be happy to have called it quits as a composer after having written only this chorus melody and lyric line.

The Raven That Refused to Sing is the final song of the night, and is introduced by Steven as the best song he has ever written. Fantastic finish to the evening. Bring the house down. And then…………the journey is over.

I head to get some more merch, another T Shirt and the double Raven vinyl.

Extraordinary evening.

In the car park I chat to several guys from the concert. Collectively buzzed out by SW. One of the guys has just been to see King Crimson in Tokyo. A special one off trip. He was raving about the current KC lineup. The other guy talks about getting into the playing and artistry of Jeff Beck. I’m able to recall the adventure of my first day in Paris, 2014, where I got to see Jeff Beck up close and personal at the Le Grand Rex.

The magic of music.

Never ending.

When too much music sometimes is never enough.

(thanks to setlist.fm for assistance in confirming the SW setlist at Billboard, Melbourne, 28/10/16)

 

 

 

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~ by gazlington on November 6, 2016.

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