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  • Concert Review: Porcupine Tree in New York City 10/13/07

    Out 14 2007, 15h19

    Sat 13 Oct – Porcupine Tree, 3, Head>>Fake Sound System

    I don’t really know how to start so I’ll dive right in to the concert review. After a little background!

    Porcupine Tree were last here in May and I was fortunate enough to catch them back then. Fear of a Blank Planet had just been released and the band played all of it. Non-stop. Now, five months down the line, the band have released a new EP titled Nil Recurring and are back on tour. The setlist for this tour has been changed somewhat to accommodate the new material and also sees the return of some old fan favorites. The setlist for the show is featured at the end of post.

    So for a change, the show kicked off with What Happens Now? from the new EP. The mood was set and PT were on their way. Boy, did they rock the house! Steven Wilson was in a good mood throughout the concert and the crowd was fantastic. Hearing Dark Matter live was exhilarating! Anesthetize followed a new song, Cheating the Polygraph and some brief chatter from SW. He said, “Some of these new songs are hard to play you know! But this next one’s easy. It’s only 17 minutes long!” That cracked me up.

    Towards the end of the main set, SW said, “We’re now going to play the last two songs” to which the crowd responded with a resounding “NOOOOOO.” With a grin on his face, SW shot back, “What do you mean NO? We’re going to play the last two songs off the new record, not the last two for the night!” That was a signal for them to indeed play the last two tracks off FoaBP, Way Out of Here and Sleep Together. Both kicked some major ass and Sleep Together was great as a set closer. But I kept waiting and waiting and Blackest Eyes never came.

    When the guys came back for an encore, SW said they would have to learn new songs when they return the next time. And then they kicked off the encore with Blackest Eyes. HELL YEAH!!! PT followed up my favorite with Even Less and Halo! What an encore! Sure, they didn’t play Trains, but I got to hear that last time around. This time, I got three tracks off the new EP, The Sound of Muzak, Even Less, Dark Matter, and A Smart Kid!!!

    To sum it up, another great show by one of my favorite bands. The sound was probably better at the show in May but this one wasn’t too far behind in terms of quality and sheer energy. I hope they return soon with new songs and maybe play a larger venue! SW said, “We come here every six months but you guys still show up.” We will continue to show up to hear you guys play live!

    Oh yeah, the opening band was Head>>Fake Sound System, a side project by Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun of Living Color. Nothing special but Doug Wimbish was doing some real crazy shit with his bass. It was just the two of them, one on bass, one on drums, with a laptop providing some extra tunes to help them out. They didn’t play for long and PT came on right around 9pm. They finished a few minutes before 11. Tight performance.

    SETLIST:

    What Happens Now?
    Fear of a Blank Planet
    The Sound of Muzak
    Lazarus
    Cheating the Polygraph
    Anesthetize
    Open Car
    Dark Matter
    Nil Recurring
    A Smart Kid
    Way Out of Here
    Sleep Together

    Encore:

    Blackest Eyes
    Even Less
    Halo
  • Concert Review: Porcupine Tree in New York City 5/19/07

    Mai 20 2007, 16h32

    Sat 19 May – Porcupine Tree, 3

    Let me start by saying that Porcupine Tree are a great live band. Their songs are great on the albums but live, there is an energy to them and they burst into life. Plus, Steven Wilson being the technical genius that he is, their sound in a live concert is very close to the album versions. And the icing on the cake was the venue: this was my first time at the Nokia Theatre at Times Square and it is a terrific venue. The construction looks futuristic and the lighting and decorations are well-done. They have seats in the back and standing room up front and can hold 2100 people at once. Plus you can ogle at Nokia’s line of cell phones to kill time! Anyway, let’s get to the actual concert!

    I have been closely following the band’s setlists from this tour and so I knew what to expect. They started with the title track off the new album and it rocked everyone’s balls off. Then, instead of going to an older song, the band starting playing My Ashes, also off the new album. It was clear that they intended to play the album in its entirety first and older songs later on. Up next was Anesthetize, arguably my favorite off the new album. It sounded even better when performed live! The middle section was amazing and the band did a great job of recreating the song live. What was great about the entire concert was that people actually knew the lyrics to all the songs and were singing along quite often.

    The band went on to finish with Sentimental, Way Out of Here, and Sleep Together, the latter two again topping the album versions. It’s astounding how PT can make the live versions sound even better than the studio versions. At this point, the band took a five minute break. When they came back out, it was time for the old material and they kicked things off with Lightbulb Sun. It sounded different but they pulled it off well. Open Car was immediately after and it sounded great! Gravity Eyelids isn’t exactly my favorite song on In Absentia but the instrumental section in the second half of the song blew me away. On this tour, the band have been playing some songs they haven’t played in years and even outtakes. Drown With Me was an outtake from the In Absentia sessions and they played it next. The layered vocals didn’t work very well here but it was a nice version of the song.

    And then came the song I really wanted to hear: Blackest Eyes. It is pretty much my favorite PT song and it also happens to be the first song by PT that I heard. In a way, it got me into PT. It was just amazing seeing it performed live. It sounded great. Half-light from the Deadwing sessions and Sever from Signify followed next. Usually this is where the band takes a break and the crowd yells for an encore. But they weren’t leaving and Wilson took up his acoustic guitar. He told us how a girl in Cleveland had given him a box with little toy trains inside. Of course, he decided they were going to play Trains, trading it for Even Less. I like Even Less but I like Trains even more. I was not expecting to see it today but it was so good to see it! Even with a setlist I had pretty much memorized, PT were able to surprise me by playing Trains! When I first saw the band’s crew setting up the acoustic guitar, I was hoping for Trains.

    The band returned for an encore with just two songs: Mother and Child Divided and Halo. Trains ate up Even Less which is usually part of the encore. I held out till the end to hear Arriving Somewhere… or The Sound of Muzak but that didn’t happen. The lighting for the show was good and the visuals were pretty nice. The band played well and hardly missed a note. Wilson’s voice was a little different than on the albums but he still has a beautiful voice! The sound guys/Wilson did a superb job of putting out great sound. I must say that the venue had good acoustics as well! Plus I got a special T-shirt and poster too! All in all, a fantastic show. And it was cheaper than big acts like Tool and Pearl Jam that I saw last year.

    The opening band was called 3 and they were all right. They were talented musicians but the mix wasn’t too good. I could hardly hear the singer above the music or make out his lyrics. I will have to try out their albums to see if they are any good.

    Setlist:

    Main Set:
    Fear of a Blank Planet
    My Ashes
    Anesthetize
    Sentimental
    Way Out of Here
    Sleep Together
    -Break-
    Lightbulb Sun
    Open Car
    Gravity Eyelids
    Drown With Me
    Blackest Eyes
    Half-Light
    Sever
    Trains
    -Break-

    Encore:
    Mother and Child Divided
    Halo
  • Fear of a Blank Planet Review

    Mai 5 2007, 21h01

    Two years after Deadwing, Porcupine Tree are back with a new studio album. Last year saw the release of a live DVD, Arriving Somewhere But Not Here… which featured a concert filmed in Chicago. A great DVD for any Porcupine Tree fan! On the tour to support the DVD, PT started playing some new songs that they were working on. Fans returned from these concerts saying good things about the new material, in particular a monster twenty-minute track. The new album, Fear of a Blank Planet is out now, and this is my review!

    FoaBP is quite different from previous PT albums although somewhat similar to In Absentia and Deadwing. There’s a definite progression and PT seem to be moving more into the metal side of things. Not that I mind! The title track starts off with a simple beat and guitar before exploding into crunching riffs and heavier drumming. Steven Wilson has one of the most beautiful and unique voices in music and listening to it layered over the heavy riffs is quite an experience. The title track talks about teens who start wasting their life away, mostly due to bad parenting and poor upbringing. Of course, society is blamed by Wilson too. It’s a very bleak song and has little hope in it. That’s actually the tone of most of the album and an indication of the direction in which PT is taking their music. Unlike Deadwing, there are no up-tempo songs other than FoaBP. Well, that’s not completely true. The near-eighteen-minute mostrosity, Anesthetize has a rocking middle section. The song starts off slow. I’m tempted to say that the opening is almost Radiohead-esque but of course, it’s not! After six minutes or so, the song picks up speed with some excellent drumming and guitar work. It continues it’s up-tempo run until the twelve-minute mark at which point it appears that the song is over. However, the rest of the song is a slow, reflective piece. It does sound like a whole different song though.

    Alex Lifeson from Rush and Robert Fripp from King Crimson worked on this album with PT. Lifeson contributed a guitar-solo to Anesthetize while Fripp was responsible for soundscapes on Way Out of Here. The album flows as a single piece and the remaining songs are relatively slow and bleak. It ends with Sleep Together which intersperses quiet moments with loud electric guitar riffs to great effect. Following up Anesthetize is Sentimental which is somewhat like Collapse Light into Earth from IA. It also has a riff towards the end that is reminiscent of Trains, also from IA. But it’s a good song nonetheless and it treats different subject matter.

    On the whole, this is another strong effort from Porcupine Tree. It paints and dark and grim picture of the world but does it without being emo about it. SW has a lovely voice and his string arrangements are terrific. Gavin Harrison’s drumming is powerful as always while Richard Barbieri provides some good atmospherics with his keyboards. I’ve always felt that Colin Edwin is underused as a bassist. He gets the odd song where the bass dominates guitar, but most of the time, he supplies straightforward bass lines. Maybe SW should consider upgrading his role! So, all in all, I like this album a lot. However, to me, Porcupine Tree hit their peak with 2002’s In Absentia. The album is chock-full of great songs! 2005’s Deadwing was also a good album and as much as I hate to say it, I think I like Deadwing more than FoaBP. But that’s more of a compliment to the earlier albums than it is a knock on the new one. I get to see PT live in less than three weeks and I am really excited. I had the chance to see them last October but they were playing the night before Tool and I had to prepare for an exam the following week. But I own the DVD they released so that kind of makes up for the missed opportunity!
  • Spiral Out

    Out 8 2006, 19h46

    It’s been 5 months. I missed the ones earlier because the website crashed. This was the last one for the US for this year. This was one hell of a way to spend saturday night. I got myself a mammoth poster too. My ears are still not back to normal - they cannot tolerate this much good stuff this loud.

    Tool opened with Stinkfist and played the setlist I had expected them to play. I knew this was going to be awesome but I found out just how awesome tonight. We had floor tickets and were less than 100 feet from the band. We could clearly see the band and their instruments and I got a kick out of watching Maynard gryating to the music. Danny Carey is an extremely talented drummer, one of the best in rock n’ roll today, probably a little under-appreciated outside the Tool community but terrific nonetheless. He just seems to play everything so effortlessly that he almost seems inhuman. He never missed a beat and with his iMac next to him, he was able to produce all those beats from his mandala pads that sound oh so good on the albums. Adam’s poise was in complete contrast to Maynard’s perpetual motion. Justin is a fantastic bassist and his basslines on songs like The Pot are simply breathtaking. He for one was matching Maynard’s gyrations with his head-banging and bass-humping.

    Tool made smart use of lasers. They had mirrors set up in different parts of the stage which reflected some of the laser beams, thus creating criss-crossing beams that looked awesome. Being on the floor meant missing some of the visuals but shit, watching these four guys perform some of my favorite music live more than makes up for it.

    So, ISIS opened for Tool and were all right. I just wanted them to get off so that Tool could on. Justin actually joined them on stage for their last song wearing a funny mask+hat. So everyone’s waiting for Tool to come on and at 9:13 the lights went out. The place erupted and a couple of minutes later the guys came on stage and took their position. MJK greeted us and immediately after that, the band went into Stinkfist. I think it’s a great opener and I knew it would sound spectacular after the sound during ISIS’ set blew us away. I mean, being so close meant that we could feel the air being displaced by the speakers. It was like a wall of air hitting us every few seconds. After Stinkfist, they played The Pot, Forty Six & 2, Schism, Jambi, and Rosetta Stoned with Lost Keys. The talkbox solo in Jambi was unreal!! Rosetta Stoned was a trip! Maynard was running around stage with his megaphone slung around his back. He nailed all the lyrics and even gave us the scream towards the end. Danny’s drumming was out of this world and I wonder how he manages to remember all the time signatures. Then came Wings. After that came 10, 000 Days. I love these songs but they always make me sad. They’re just so beautiful that they bring tears to your eyes and send chills down your spine. This is Maynard’s poetry at it’s very best. I wish the asshole behind me wasn’t such a jackass. During the quieter parts of these songs, he would randomly scream at the top of his voice. I mean, WTF? Dude, screaming during a song like this is rude and insensitive. It probably pisses Maynard off when people do that. But I appreciate the fact that these guys continue to play the song live even though it’s probably very hard for them. Thanks for playing them Tool!!

    After 10, 000 Days, the band took a break and sat on the stage for a few minutes. Taking in the applause and cheers from the enthusiastic crowd. Then Justin lit his lighter and thousands followed suit. It was a wonderful sight - all those lighters together lit up the arena and made me wish I had brought a lighter. Then came Lateralus. That song is unbelievably good live. The lights and lasers went berserk during the song and more lighting behind the band was switched on. It was surreal. Then, after teasing us for a good minute or two with a weird interlude, Tool played Vicarious. Undoubtedly my favorite track off the new album, I was thrilled to hear it live. MJK did a fantastic job with the “la la la la lie” and “Much better you than I” parts. He cut them out of the song when he was sick a few days back. I just hope the video comes out sooner rather than later. Finally, they ended with Ænema which is a big fan favorite. It’s a great song and the guys nailed it. They nailed it well.

    The set was kind of short but I was expecting that. Maynard promised they will come back in the spring and I cannot wait!! Hopefully they’ll come back with a different set list and a different stage set up. Maybe they’ll play at Madison Square Garden. I’ve been here two years and still haven’t been inside the Garden. I hear it’s a great concert venue.

    This was my third concert this year and I’d say probably the best. Pearl Jam comes close but not close enough. Electric Six are third, only because PJ and Tool are such amazingly good bands. A guy in our row got caught smoking. A lot of people were smoking pot and drinking booze. But that’s expected. I just hope my hearing returns to normal tomorrow. If you are going to have sex, make sure you use a condom. And when you leave, throw your stuff in the trash cans. Hey, that’s not a law, just a suggestion.

    Also, it seems New Jersey won the prize for the being loudest audience on this tour. Used to be Cleveland until Jersey trumped them. We weren’t loud enough for Maynard. At the end of the show, all four band mates got into a huddle and were all smiles. They threw some of their stuff to the audience but we weren’t close enough to catch stuff.

    Thank you Tool. Thank you for an amazing show.