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Thursday, 17 October 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson, Colston Hall, Bristol

After a pre gig steak dinner (and of course a couple of pints) we made our way tot he still visually striking Colston Hall for a night that promised to be interesting. I've followed Wilson since he was in Porcupine Tree and I genuinely believe that The Raven That Refused To Sing is probably his finest work and I'm sure he thinks that too. As we entered the hall, we were told that show will begin at 8 and finish promptly at 10:10, a nice 2 hour set from Wilson and his all-star band. As we took our seat we were greeted by the projected footage of a street, with cars moving around people walking back and forth that as the time went on all got a bit eerie as a busker appeared and proceeded to smoke and stand around before finally tuning the guitar and setting up just as Wilson himself came onto the stage with an acoustic guitar and proceed join in with the man in the video as part of a string rendition of PT's Trains which is one of my favourite tracks so a good start, then as the band came on stage they moved into Luminol which was the first excuse for the band to show off their chops, they are truly a stunning group of musicians, the drums of Chad Wackerman are amazing, merging power and technique (what else would you expect from a Zappa alumni), the keys of Adam Holzman added jazz, blues, prog and massive Hammond driven atmosphere to every track and were a major part of the sound, as was the bass of Nick Beggs (yes him from Kajagoogoo) who's meticulous bass playing was a marvel especially his Chapman stick slap playing on Holy Drinker. Guthrie Govan as usual was mesmerising on the guitar, he is one of the best guitarists not only in Britain but possibly in the world, his solos were jaw dropping and he worked well as tandem with Wilson. Last but not least was the sax and flutes of Theo Travis added a new dimension to the sound which harks back to King Crimson and even Jethro Tull in places. Wilson himself was bag of energy jumping around in the instrumental breaks, moving between guitar, bass and his keyboard set up, I was quite surprised how many times Wilson didn't have an instrument considering how solo his records have been in the past.

After the 15 minute opening the shorter Postcard followed introduced by Wilson's self-depreciating humour where he mentioned that we would be hearing some new material later in the night, however first was The Holy Drinker and the dreamy but ominous Drive Home. More Wilson banter followed this near 20 minutes of music as he introduced the new song which we were told was 15 minutes long and not finished but it was pretty good and bodes well for the new album (expected this year). This was the end of part one of the set, as the audience caught their breath a sheet fell in front of the stage and onto it was the intro video for The Watchmaker (cue an exodus for the toilets, for most of the audience your hardened reviewer excluded) The band then came back and plunged straight into song itself which brings me to my only criticism, during this song the lights and video footage was used to great effect, however when the screen was down the video was obscured by the retina scorching lights which for me was major downer as I wanted to see the visuals and the light show but I found that the one was more prominent than the other. Ok so mini moan over and back to the show we had Index and Sectarian and the curtain fell again for the final furlong. Harmony Korine followed (Steven Wilson's hipster moment) before an edited (to 15 minutes) version of Raider II and The Raven That Refused To Sing brought the main set to a melancholic but strangely euphoric end. 

 Another break another chance to regroup and then the final return, the end came with one of his earliest solo tracks and the closest thing he has to a hit in the PT classic Radioactive Toy which brought the house down. That was it, it was over an amazing ride through the multi-faceted sound of one of the most talented performers in British music and this was a musical experience that left you in awe of what was unfolding in front of you. Half way through the set Wilson encouraged the crowd to cheer a bit louder, Steven this wasn't because we weren't enjoying the show it was because you and your band managed to silence an audience with your music. Well done you sir! 10/10   

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