Shows I’ll Never Forget: Steven Wilson, April 4, 2012

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At The Showbox, Seattle, Washington: I had no idea I was going to be out this late.

The ticket stub said 7 p.m. When I got to the venue, they said that was when the doors were opening. After standing in the line outside, we finally entered the building around 7:30 and change.

Cool enough, I thought. Ample time to grab a pre-show beverage, collect my photo pass, secure the details, and settle in for a nice evening of music from the great Steven Wilson. I figured I’d be home by about 10 p.m. Time enough to write my review, quaff a frosty beverage, and call it a night.

As it turns out, I was dead wrong.

Before I go any further, let’s get one thing straight. I love me some Steven Wilson.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Steven Wilson dropped by to talk about classic 1970s sounds, prog’s rebirth and his amazing album ‘The Raven.’]

Ever since discovering him about three years ago as something of a late bloomer, I have thoroughly immersed myself in the extremely prolific Mr. Wilson’s various musical projects, including Blackfield, No-Man, Bass Communion — even the super obscure shit like Incredible Expanding Mindfuck — and of course, Wilson’s most commercially viable project, the great prog-metal band Porcupine Tree.

To say Steven Wilson is the hardest working man in show business, left carrying the torch for the rapidly dying art-form of prog-rock, would be an understatement and then some. In between juggling his numerous bands, Wilson also occasionally slums as a producer on projects ranging from death-metal acts like Opeth, to remixing classics from his rock idols like King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and Rush.

In short, the guy is a musical genius.

That said, based upon his show at Seattle’s Showbox on Wednesday night, I also think he may be overestimating his reach as a solo artist — at least for the time being — performing for audiences in North America. Of the three times I have seen Wilson perform in concert (once with Porcupine Tree, once with Blackfield, and this week as a solo artist) this was by far the best.

It was also the most challenging.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Porcupine Tree’s ‘Fear of a Blank Planet’ was an intense song-cycle of despair, with some the heaviest, fastest – and prettiest – playing the band had ever done.]

Remember that 7 p.m. start time I mentioned on the ticket? Well, once we got into the building, the house lights finally went down at about 8, and were followed by a series of photographs projected on a curtain, accompanied by ambient music that I assume came courtesy of Wilson’s Bass Communion project.

In the interest of art, this would have been cool for about fifteen or twenty minutes — but it went on for about an hour of what would have been otherwise valuable drinking time.

So here’s the thing: I understand the value of art, and I especially understand it when we are talking about someone as gifted as Steven Wilson. But what I have little patience for is artistic self-indulgence.  Once Steven and his great band finally took the stage, they continued to play from behind the curtain for several songs.

The music was amazing, of course — even if not particularly well paced from a strictly performance standpoint  — and the images projected on the curtain were visually interesting, as expected. But let’s face it. It’s one thing to see the members of Pink Floyd standing around onstage in a huge arena, while pigs fly by, and jet planes crash onstage during a performance of, say, Dark Side Of The Moon or Animals.

It’s quite another to not be able to see the members of Steven Wilson’s band performing in a small club at all.

By about the sixth song, the curtain was lifted, and Steven Wilson and his band of amazing musicians performed an awesome two-hour set of songs drawn from his solo albums Insurgentes and Grace For Drowning. The band was incredible, and Wilson delivered a modern day prog-rock clinic, complete with all the mellotrons and bizarre time signatures any self respecting prog-rock nerd could ever ask for.

But for all his musical chops, Steven Wilson still needs to learn a thing or two about stagecraft.

All I’m sayin’…

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Setlist, April 4, 2012 at Seattle, Washington:
No Twilight
Index
Deform To Form A Star
Sectarian
Postcard
Remainder The Black Dog
Harmony Komine
Abandoner
Like Dust
Luminal
Venemo
No Part  Of  Me
Raider II

Encore:
Get All You Deserve

Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd

The Something Else! Reviews webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, is syndicated through Bing News, Topix and AllAboutJazz.com. The site has been featured in The New York Times, NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, the NoDepression.com Americana site, Popdose.com and JazzTimes, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com, Rock.com, Blues Revue Magazine and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Glen Boyd
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  • Mark Hartman

    Dead on review, Glen. Two other things I’d add:
    1. The Showbox staff is exceptionally courteous and accommodating.

    2. Not a venue conducive to a courteous audience. When you mix a readily available bar in close proximity to the stage you end up with loud, drunk dip****s who talk through every song.

  • Glen Boyd

    LOL Mark…yeah, there were a few drunk folks in the house, weren’t there? Standing outside in line before the show, there also seemed to be a much steadier flow of homeless folk asking for spare change than usual. I enjoyed the show a lot though…the music was brilliant. I just wished it were paced a little better, and the projections on the curtain maybe cut in half, time wise would have made for a bit less drag time. By the time I got home, it was well past midnight and I was dead-ass tired.

    -Glen

  • Mark Hartman

    Maybe not as distracting closer to the stage, but by necessity my wife and I were seated in the ADA section (after three joint replacements she has difficulty standing for long periods), and there were several obnoxious patrons who simply couldn’t take a hint. Very distracting. Given the volume of the music, that’s saying something! Much better crowd for the PT concert at the Moore three or four years ago during the “Deadwing” tour.

    Agreed the music was brilliant, making up for the sub-Saharan mosquito net obscuring the band for the first half and hour and the tedious wait for the show to start.

    Cheers,
    Mark

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