The Porcupine Tree mastermind is determined to make it as a solo artist, with emphasis on both the “solo” and the “artist”. With the first two headline gigs in London being held at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, this is a grandiose upgrade for Steven Wilson. Even his mother was in attendance – in the Royal Box. Class.
Six things we learnt when we saw Steven Wilson on the Southbank
1) Sitting down is annoying. It removes the fluidity of a gig environment. To nip to the bar might involved shuffling past half a dozen people (who have to stand up) and getting back in to your seat involves the same, of course. However, this is all part of Steven Wilson’s plan to ensure as many people are held captive to his audio-visual masterpieces. He spends an inordinate amount of time making sure that his concerts are truly memorable experiences and if making everyone sit down – like we were made to do at school, for instance – is the only method of retaining our unadulterated attention for the duration of the performance, you can’t really knock him.
2) It’s clear why Wilson has chosen the RFH for this gig – it sounds colossal. Straddling that fine line between bombastic and excruciating, the volume was just loud enough for the swathes of new album, The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) – all six glorious songs are played at some point tonight – to wash over you without piercing your ears completely. With the kind of grandiose music that Wilson makes and his righteous emphasis on creating the finest live experience possible, this is £25 very well spent.
3) One thing that does help a bit whilst clamouring for your seat is the light show. They are bright. While the surreal nature of the music is added to by the projections that accompany the songs – the subject matter often dwells on horrors past, so Lass Hoile’s images are far from comforting – the general light show shines brightly upon the ceiling. It’s certainly the least amount of darkness we’ve scurried around in at a gig.
4) Steven Wilson is one of the most innovative modern (retro?) rockers around. It’s taken three albums to figure that out but tonight is certainly confirmation that his ideas are translating. He always disliked being pigeonholed as a Kerrang! band or a Metal Hammer band or even as a Prog band (his views on now being a Thrash Hits band are unconfirmed) but after his work with Porcupine Tree – originally and essentially a solo project – he has a status and pedigree that allows his artistry and attention to detail to feel like more of a treat for us, the fans, rather than a 150-minutes exercise in AV self-indulgence.
5) It may be the Steven Wilson show but the fact he’s got Nick Beggs, Marco Minneman and Guthrie Govan as his backing band is just incredible. Yes, they’re among the most accomplished musicians in their field (and beyond). With this band, even the simplest of songs ripples and swerves into excellent new formations.
6) He’s still bringing a lot of the Porcupine Tree fans with him. His solo material is about as far away from PT material as Opeth’s Heritage was from their old material – rooted in the same sounds, but hitting a different part of the sonic spectrum, one that uses melotrons and woodwind more. The cheers when he played ‘Radioactive Toy’ were deafening.