We liked prog at Thrash Hits back when it was uncool to like prog. Is it still uncool to like prog? We don’t care – we still like prog. Which is why Amit Sharma busted down to West London last week to catch Porcupine Tree progging it up
Steven Wilson must be pretty darn chuffed with himself at the moment: Porcupine Tree have just released new album, The Incident, to rave reviews and plenty of the tour dates listed on their website proudly state the words ‘Sold Out’. Tonight’s London show is just one of them…
This is not to say it’s been an easy journey – Porcupine Tree have been around for over twenty years and their latest offering of majestic progressive rock is their tenth studio album. But tonight the band look as humble as ever onstage – from the haunting opening chords of ‘Occam’s Razor’, the band are utterly immersed in what they do. Following on with ‘The Blind House’, Wilson then confirms rumours that the first half of tonight’s set will indeed be a showcase of The Incident in its 55-minute entirety. If that wasn’t progtastic enough, tonight’s show also features a mesmerising visual accompaniment from Danish artist and cinematographer Lasse Hoile, who has worked with Porcupine Tree’s visuals since 2002.
The manner in which Porcupine Tree effortlessly weave through different genres without losing their definitive sound is spellbinding – ‘Drawing The Line’ sounds emotive, beautiful and raw yet (as on the record) this is followed by the electronic nightmare that is The Incident‘s title track. Porcupine Tree really are one of the only bands that can cite such vastly differing influences as Radiohead and Meshuggah – which you can actually hear within their music – and do so without sounding disjointed or alienating the audience.
It’s fair enough to say that a lot of people here tonight will have heard of Porcupine Tree through Wilson’s involvement with Opeth, as producer for breakthrough albums Blackwater Park and Deliverance / Damnation. But a lot has happened since then, and Porcupine Tree have gone from strength to strength. Since signing to Roadrunner Records in 2006, they have continued perfecting their intricate, calculated, yet honest sound to an ever-growing fanbase.
Watch some guy’s dodgy camera footage of Porcupine Tree live in London
After a ten minute break, the band come back on to treat the audience to ‘The Start Of Something Beautiful’, filling the Apollo with its eerie ambience and melancholic, tender vocals. Barefooted, Wilson looks intensely focused and devoted to perfection as he switches from guitar to keys, often mid-song, without a note out of place. After some more choice cuts off Deadwing and Fear Of A Blank Planet, it is fitting that the band choose ‘The Sound of Muzak’ and ‘Trains’ off breakthrough album In Absentia for a grandiose, sing-along encore. They started the evening with the album that currently crowns Porcupine Tree’s career, and they end it with the one that marked the beginning of its ancension. If they carry on playing shows like this, they’ve still got a long way to rise just yet…
Porcupine Tree @ Hammermsith Apollo – 09 October 2009 setlist
The Blind House
Kneel and Disconnect
Drawing the Line
Your Unpleasant Family
The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train
Degree Zero of Liberty
Circle of Manias
I Drive the Hearse
The Start of Something Beautiful
Russia on Ice
Strip the Soul
Bonnie the Cat
The Sound of Muzak