TAKE A BOW
VENUE the fillmore, philadelphia DATE 30/11/2018
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
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.