TAKE A BOW

VENUE the fill­more, philadel­phia DATE 30/11/2018

Prog - - Contents - JOR­DAN BLUM

Steven Wil­son’s To The Bone tour hits the US, plus Fish, Car­a­van, Tesser­act, Von Hertzen Broth­ers, A Per­fect Cir­cle and more…

Fresh off the re­lease of his lat­est con­cert film, Home In­va­sion, pro­gres­sive rock icon Steven Wil­son re­turns to Philadel­phia for the se­cond time this year to reign with dis­tinc­tive ex­cel­lence. Pulling in tracks from his lat­est al­bum, To The Bone, past se­lec­tions and a fair amount of Por­cu­pine Tree gems

– as well as a sur­prise tribute track – tonight Wil­son and com­pany ra­di­ate un­fal­ter­ing poise, va­ri­ety and con­sis­tency with their char­ac­ter­is­tic merg­ing of su­perla­tive sounds and provoca­tive sights. It’s an out­stand­ing per­for­mance that ce­ments his place among the best live acts in the genre.

Tonight is split into two sets, and, as ex­pected, To The Bone is spread across both halves: Nowhere Now, Pariah and The Same Asy­lum As Be­fore all oc­cur be­fore the in­ter­mis­sion, with Song Of I and De­t­o­na­tion com­ing later on. Each track is repli­cated ex­cep­tion­ally (with key­boardist Adam Holz­man adding some ex­tra flair to the end of De­t­o­na­tion), and even the ir­re­sistibly cel­e­bra­tory Per­ma­nat­ing – per­haps Wil­son’s most po­lar­is­ing tune ever – seems unan­i­mously well-re­ceived by the crowd, in-be­tween those more in­tro­spec­tive and som­bre choices. This could be due in part to Wil­son’s pre­lim­i­nary de­fence of it, and a jus­ti­fied jab at fol­low­ers who turn their backs on him for writ­ing “joy­ous pop”.

The quin­tet on­stage tonight (com­pleted by Alex Hutch­ings on guitar, Nick Beggs on bass and Craig Blun­dell on drums) also ac­knowl­edge greats from ev­ery pre­vi­ous Wil­son solo record ex­cept for 2011’s Grace For Drown­ing, such as Re­gret #9, a heav­ier take on Home In­va­sion and a slightly ex­panded No Twi­light Within The Courts Of The Sun. There’s also An­ces­tral (fea­tur­ing back-up falsetto vo­cals from Beggs), Ver­mil­lion­core and The Raven That Re­fused To Sing, which closes on a splen­didly bit­ter­sweet

“THROUGH­OUT THE EVENING, HIS SAR­DONIC YET WEL­COM­ING PER­SON­AL­ITY

SHINES THROUGH.”

note. To­gether, these pieces give a strong over­view of how Wil­son has changed as a solo artist over the pre­ced­ing decade.

What’s most won­der­ful and mean­ing­ful, how­ever, are the nods to ear­lier en­tries. Nat­u­rally, sev­eral Por­cu­pine Tree com­po­si­tions – The Cre­ator Has A Master­tape, Don’t Hate Me, Lazarus, Sleep To­gether and

The Sound Of Muzak – re­ceive rep­utable treat­ment (although Wil­son’s voice has clearly deep­ened a bit over time) and earn plenty of ap­plause. That said, the two stand­outs from that era are the grungier take on Even Less (which Wil­son plays on his own) and the awe-in­spir­ing ren­di­tion of Heartat­tack In A Layby, that has Wil­son, Beggs, and Hutch­ings trad­ing vo­cals dur­ing its dev­as­tat­ing fi­nale.

Within the en­core, Wil­son also praises Prince be­fore launch­ing into a wholly un­fore­seen and faith­ful take on one of the late vir­tu­oso’s most beloved sin­gles,

Sign O’ The Times. It’s one of the most en­dear­ing mo­ments of the night.

Wil­son is known for mak­ing jokes and wry ob­ser­va­tions in-be­tween songs, and tonight is no dif­fer­ent. For in­stance, after ac­knowl­edg­ing his pen­chant for melan­cholic ma­te­rial, he en­cour­ages the au­di­ence to “clap out of time” dur­ing the cou­plet of Home In­va­sion and Re­gret #9, just to an­noy drum­mer Craig Blun­dell. Later, he chas­tises main­stream mu­sic by quip­ping that no one un­der 25 years old knows what an elec­tric guitar is!

With­out a doubt, Wil­son’s most salient re­mark comes be­fore Even Less, when he ref­er­ences the ab­surd no­tion that his band do ‘cov­ers’ of Por­cu­pine Tree hits (as op­posed to the truth: that Por­cu­pine Tree sim­ply recorded ‘a ver­sion’ of his songs). Through­out the evening, his sar­donic yet wel­com­ing per­son­al­ity shines through, both at­tract­ing his devo­tees and hu­man­is­ing him­self in the midst of their re­vere.

As al­ways, the vi­su­als ac­com­pa­ny­ing the per­for­mance do a su­perb job of com­ple­ment­ing the mu­sic. In ad­di­tion to fren­zied coloured light and smoke ef­fects, Wil­son wisely uses the large screen be­hind him to dis­play char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally cryp­tic im­agery, such as close-ups on a woman’s face as she stands stat­i­cally against chang­ing back­grounds, blood-red clouds evok­ing the style of Lasse Hoile, and peo­ple with huge pa­pier-mâché heads fight­ing in the woods.

A pre-recorded Ninet Tayeb ap­pears for the cho­rus of Pariah, count­less fig­ures in ei­ther black or pink dance dur­ing De­t­o­na­tion and Song Of I, re­spec­tively, and the Truth short film, con­sist­ing of words like ‘death’, ‘fic­tion’ and ‘grief’ placed over strik­ing pic­tures, opens the show. Once again, Wil­son en­sures that his fans’ eyes are al­most as cap­ti­vated as their ears.

Hav­ing played this set-up dozens of times al­ready, the band clearly have ev­ery note and nu­ance nailed down, yet they still bring re­newed en­thu­si­asm and fo­cus to each bit of re­mark­able song­writ­ing and in­stru­men­ta­tion. Thus, they so­lid­ify Steven Wil­son as a su­perla­tive artist whose live pres­ence is as sin­gu­lar as his stu­dio cre­ations. Bravo, in­deed.

WIL­SON AND CO GIVE A STUN­NING PER­FOR­MANCE. WIL­SON AND HUTCH­INGSTRADE RIFFS.

CRAIG BLUN­DELL DOES HIS BEST TO IG­NORE THE OUT-OF-TIME CLAP­PING. ALEX HUTCH­INGS’ HALO HAS SLIPPED, BUT WE CAN LIVE WITH THAT. ADAM HOLZ­MAN ADDS EX­TRA FLAIR… AND FLARE.

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