September 25, 2010

Porcupine Tree

The bottom corner of my bedroom mirror is the holding place where I keep all of the tickets to concerts that I will be attending. Recently, tickets for Stone Temple Pilots and Yes concerts have graced that spot for a short time. However, the very corner of the mirror has had one ticket sitting in place since early February, up until last night. It's kind of strange that tickets went of sale so early for a concert in late September, but such was the case with Porcupine Tree at Radio City Music Hall.

Porcupine Tree is a band that I still think of as new, even though they've been formed since 1992 and have 10 studio albums to their credit. If you're not familiar with them, they are sort of an eclectic progressive rock band. Their music is experimental and dynamic, ranging from the psychedelic and ambient to searing rock guitar riffs. As frontman, Steve Wilson, explains, “One of the beauties of music – one of the reasons it’s still the greatest art-form, even over cinema – is that it demands so much of the person that experiences it, as well as those that create it."

Some of their albums are: "Deadwing," "Stupid Dream," "In Absentia," "Signify," and "The Incident." Though, my favorite Porcupine Tree album is definitely 2007's "Fear of a Blank Planet." It features 6 masterfully written pieces, including the 17-minute "Anesthetize," which I think is one of the greatest songs every caught on an album. The album also has guest appearances by Alex Lifeson of Rush and King Crimson's Robert Fripp.

Now, I have seen Porcupine Tree in concert in the past and they have always been great, but nothing that I had experienced before prepared me for the 3-hour epic concert I was going to witness at Radio City Music Hall. 

The show began in an unusual way. Starting time on the ticket was 8:00 PM and they were on the stage by 8:05, seated and sporting a very minimal set up: acoustic guitars, upright bass, small drum kit, very little lighting. They went on to play through 5 songs that were unfamiliar to my ear. The sound was good, though the atmosphere was very laid back. The vibe struck me as kind of odd and a little anti-climactic. As they finished up their last acoustic number, they announced that they would be back in a few minutes, and walked off of the stage. The road crew proceeded to rearrange the entire stage with the house lights still out and one irritating keyboard note droning over the PA system the whole time.

I was just asking myself if I was really enjoying the direction of the concert, when suddenly the rear stage curtains parted revealing a much more extensive set-up: monster drum set, huge keyboard rack. The band reemerged at once and launched into an electrifying evening of songs, old and new. The sound was phenomenal. The drums and bass were deep and powerful. The guitar tones were mouth-watering. The keyboards and vocals crisp and clear; all adding up to a symphony of progressive rock that was a 5-star feast for the ears. The concert also showed Porcupine Tree utilizing elaborate stagecraft. A screen behind the band stretched from one end of the stage to the other, lighting up the hall with grand images and graphics. It was a high-octane performance that had me teetering on the edge of my seat and cheering wildly. 

About 90 minutes into the show, they announced a ten-minute intermission. The house lights once again stayed down and a timer appeared on the screen rolling down from the 10 minute mark. As the last ten seconds ticked off, the audience joined in the countdown: "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1..." Before anyone could yell "Blast Off," the band erupted into the opening bars of their latest album. It was fantastic! They continued to play another hour and a half worth of songs. By the time 11:00 came around and they were finishing up their encore of "Arriving Somewhere Not Here," I was feeling well-rocked and completely satisfied. 


This was a magnificent performance and instantly earned a spot on my "All-Time Top Concerts" short list. Definitely worth the 8-month wait...

"He shall not be afraid of evil tidings:
his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD."

~Psalm 112:7