Sunday, April 21, 2013

Steven Wilson -- Howard Theatre - Apr 20 2013

Steven Wilson - Such a misleadingly simple name--Steven Wilson. His main band's name, Porcupine Tree, conjured up more of the image of the complex progressive music that endlessly flowed out of Wilson. He has also worked behind the scenes with Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth and many other collaborators as he has built a deserved reputation as one of the masters of progressive music. Tonight he featured a normal sized band consisting of drums, bass/backing vocals, keyboards, guitar, and flute/sax, while he sang and played an ever changing array of guitars, keyboards, and even bass. It did not take me long to remember how great he is on stage. I had not seen him in many years since Porcupine Tree played in Falls Church. He has a great personality and energy that he shows in the music and even in his pleasant and funny stage patter. The music was fantastic as well, as was the overall stage presentation. They began about a half hour before the show with a film related to their recent album cover and some great ambient psychedelic droning music. The band then ripped into a variety of music from recent albums, along with a few older numbers (as best I could tell--you'll have to get set lists elsewhere as I am terrible with titles). They were extremely versatile as you could hear folk moves, psychedelic touches, some very heavy metallic moves, and a touch of progressive jazz. At one point they seemed to be a blend of Parsifal, recent Opeth, and Rush, while at other times I would hear progressive metal, or a reworking of King Crimson's "Cirkus". The versatility in the writing is more than matched by the skills and versatility of these players. I thought the excellent bass player was familiar and yes, it was Nick Beggs who I saw tour with Steve Hackett some years back--the use of the Chapman Stick is a giveaway, although he is a recognizable presence on any stage.
Just before the halfway point of the 2 hour set, a scrim dropped as the band took a four minute break while a film played with more trippy music. They returned and played behind the scrim for a few songs which was a nice touch as they showed films which blended into the band who were lit enough blend in with the images. Sound, imagery, personality... everything clicked tonight. They finished in style and came back with an encore that was a medley of surprises for the hardcore fans, of which there were many. In fact, it was wonderful to see such a full house tonight as I was not sure how this would go over at this venue. But smart music fans know to come and see Steven Wilson when he comes to town, as it is a rare treat that works on about every level. I now feel a lot smarter for choosing this as my Saturday night treat.

Quote of the Night: SW... "I'm going to play a cheery song... Do I detect some sarcasm?"

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