Prog - - Contents - FRASER LEWRY

We catch an early Steve Wil­son UK show, sail the North Sea on HMS Prog as The Beast From The East hits, and there are also re­views of Steve Hack­ett, Am­pli­fier, Sons Of Apollo, Joe Payne, Gala­had, Or­phaned Land, Curved Air, When Mary, Paul Draper and more…



DATE 15/03/2018

“W hat we do up here is a big, sexy rock’n’roll show,” says Steven Wil­son. “But it’s like we’re the only peo­ple danc­ing at a party. We could hear our own foot­steps as we walked on stage.”

Wil­son is faced with an au­di­ence well set­tled in com­fort­able seats, and he clearly wishes they weren’t. He wants peo­ple on their feet, and it’ll hap­pen even­tu­ally, but more of that later.

To be fair to the crowd, it doesn’t start like a party. The evening opens with a rather stern voice in­tro­duc­ing a short film that plays on a gauze cur­tain strung up in front of the stage. A se­ries of ap­par­ently un­con­nected im­ages flash up. There are pic­tures of foot­ball vi­o­lence and new­born babes, cow­er­ing fam­i­lies and CCTV cam­eras, ISIS fight­ers and Richard Nixon. To add to the air of con­fu­sion, words are flashed up over the im­ages: SCIENCE. SE­CU­RITY. FAKE. EGO. THREAT. GRIEF. HAP­PI­NESS. It feels per­ilous. Russ Ab­bott this is not.

What it is, is spectacular. Nowhere Now glides by in a rush of Who power chords with a spi­ralling Floyd cho­rus. A dream­like Pariah fea­tures a dig­i­tal duet with Ninet

Tayeb, her face pro­jected 20-feet high onto the gauze. Home In­va­sion stut­ters and grinds with me­nace, Nick Beggs swap­ping bass for Chap­man Stick and back again, key­boardist Adam Holzman de­liv­er­ing a wildly os­cil­lat­ing solo. An­ces­tral starts with a skit­ter­ing, Ra­dio­head-style noo­dle-along, but by its fin­ish the band are lit­er­ally on their knees, pump­ing out a wild, vir­u­lent noise as the song cli­maxes.

Song Of I is a dra­matic, widescreen won­der, mak­ing the point in a com­pli­cated Venn di­a­gram where Ulver, Depeche Mode and Por­tishead col­lide. It’s all very loud, it’s sur­pris­ingly heavy, and any meek­ness in the orig­i­nal record­ings is ban­ished by the in­tro­duc­tion of an ag­gres­sive, oc­ca­sion­ally vi­o­lent sheen. And it’s all done with­out los­ing any of the el­e­gant, uplift­ing beauty of the com­po­si­tions.

There’s also a tasty sprin­kling of Por­cu­pine Tree songs scat­tered through­out the set. The Cre­ator Has A Mas­ter­piece slowly builds be­fore dis­in­te­grat­ing in a wall of fierce noise, Ar­riv­ing Some­where But Not

Here de­vel­ops slowly, the band mem­bers grad­u­ally rais­ing the ten­sion with egg shak­ers, be­fore reach­ing a howl­ing peak as cars speed by on the back­drop. And Sleep To­gether pro­vides a spectacular fin­ish, with Eastern string ar­range­ments giv­ing every­thing a mon­strous, Kash­mir-meetsmetal mo­men­tum.

Wil­son’s in avun­cu­lar form, jok­ing about the age of the au­di­ence (“Is any­one here un­der the age of 40?”) and bounc­ing around the stage with re­laxed aban­don. He in­tro­duces the mu­si­cians – an en­ter­tain­ing, drawn-out busi­ness that in­volves the band mem­bers wav­ing at each other from op­po­site sides of the stage – and he even in­tro­duces his new gui­tar, a bat­tered 1963 Tele­caster in dire need of a paint job. He says it’s the first time he’s re­ally bonded with such an in­stru­ment.

He demon­strates the vis­ceral rock sound it makes, and as his el­bow levers fu­ri­ously dur­ing the slash­ing chords that back­bone Peo­ple Who Eat Dark­ness, we could al­most be watch­ing

Dave Grohl.

De­spite the un­de­ni­ably epic na­ture of much of what’s on show, the high­light of the set is Per­ma­nat­ing, the three-minute won­der that’s a con­tro­ver­sial cat amongst the prog pigeons. Wil­son in­tro­duces it with a long pre­am­ble about the “won­der­ful tra­di­tion” of pop music: ABBA and The Bea­tles (hooray!) in one corner, Justin Bieber and Mi­ley

Cyrus (boooo!) in the other. He talks about the mag­nif­i­cence of melody and har­mony, and about not pay­ing at­ten­tion to gen­res.

“I’ve never said what kind of music I make,” he says. “Other peo­ple have al­ways done that. I don’t give a shit about mu­si­cal bound­aries.”

He talks about the odd thrill of watch­ing men in Opeth T-shirts at­tempt­ing to dance to the song, and about not be­liev­ing any­one who says they don’t like pop. It’s a shame he has to say any of this, but it’s a win-win sit­u­a­tion for Wil­son. His more open-minded fol­low­ers get to stand – fi­nally – and ex­pe­ri­ence a few moments of ef­fer­ves­cent pop glee (Per­ma­nat­ing sounds like ELO play­ing the world’s best roller disco) and Wil­son gets to troll any stodgy old bores ter­ri­fied by songs you can whis­tle while you work.

As a look of joy slowly crosses Nick Beggs’ face while his tack­les the back­ing vo­cals, and as Wil­son peers up at the bal­cony to check out peo­ple’s moves, one can only hope there’s more of this sort of thing to come. A whole al­bum, per­haps.


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