Get All You Deserve, the just-released concert DVD from Steven Wilson, showcases a live performer coming into his own, even as it provides a brief glimpse into his forthcoming new solo release.
Recorded at Teatro Metropólitanon in Mexico City, as Wilson undertook the fifth of what would eventually be 26 concert dates, the film includes among its 16 tunes a sweeping new effort called “Luminol.” This epic original will eventually find a home on an upcoming studio project that Wilson, who has served, over the years, as frontman with Porcupine Tree and Blackfield. He’s recording with legendary engineer Alan Parsons (Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Alan Parsons Project).
[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Steven Wilson dropped by to talk about classic 1970s sounds, prog’s rebirth and his amazing album ‘The Raven.’]
That album will be Wilson’s third solo LP, following last September’s Grace for Drowning, which was nominated for a Grammy. Wilson toured with keyboardist Adam Holzman, guitarist Niko Tsonev, drummer Marco Minnemann, bassist Nick Beggs and Theo Travis, who played flute and sax. Tunes like “Luminol” represent the first time he has written with their particular musical strengths in mind.
We gathered around the watercooler at SER Towers to discuss this new music, which represents an intriguing new development in the on-going maturation of Wilson as one of prog-rock’s new leading lights …
TOM JOHNSON: Man, this set really is pretty awesome. I was worried that it would not really be a very strong live album, since I’ve never been a huge fan of the Porcupine Tree live sets, but that fear has been dashed. This is MUCH stronger than any PTree live set I’ve heard before.
S. VICTOR AARON: My initial impression is that Wilson made some discreet but important changes from PT. The band’s a little tighter. The arrangements are a little jazzier. His music had shifted some from Floyd to Crimson. All of these together add up to something really exciting. When he starts composing full-time for this band, it should get better still, if “Luminol” is any indication.
TOM JOHNSON: I purposely held off checking out “Luminol” until this, and it was worth the wait. If that’s where he’s taking the new stuff, it’s going to be pretty great. I’m starting to think SW is the new Fripp, just a bit less quirky and unlikable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see PT resurrected in a number of years in a completely new manner just like Crimson was, confounding some long time fans. I really like that he doesn’t seem to have many qualms about moving in a new direction when the opportunity arises.
MARK SALESKI: You will all be shocked and surprised to learn that I totally dug this recording. Seriously.
S. VICTOR AARON: What sets it apart from other Wilson projects, in your mind?
TOM JOHNSON: My guess — it’s all the jazz-Crimson-Mahavishnu moments throughout.
MARK SALESKI: I dunno. When I think of what I heard, it kind of sounds like a mashup of Pink Floyd, Steve Morse, and something a little heavier. At some point, I decided to try to shelve my tendency to get annoyed by vocals because the music was really engaging.
TOM JOHNSON: One thing I find odd about his new band is that the direction is jazzier, but he ditched a strong jazz drummer for a strong rock drummer. Not that he’s any less qualified, of course. Marco easily takes on Gavin’s parts from ‘Insurgentes.’
MARK SALESKI: It went over the top for me when the crazed horn solo showed up during “Sectarian” … reminding me of early Crimson.
NICK DERISO: He has constructed a truly great band. The guy I can’t get over is Holzman — who I knew as a sideman with Miles Davis, having appeared on Tutu. Some deep, Rick Wright-type ruminations on “Luminol.” Gorgeous.
TOM JOHNSON: I’m always surprised to see Marco involved in these “serious” projects. The guy is a happy loon, it seems like he should be in something more fun (like, uh, Mike Keneally’s band?) Have any of you see his audition with Dream Theater? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vaDfcKzLbY&t=15m57s) Talk about a bad fit! Skills-wise, he’s more than capable, but in terms of his attitude and stuff, he’s just entirely too goofy and fun to fit in that band.
NICK DERISO: That video is hilarious. He’s like a flurry of drum sticks behind this face-swallowing smile.
TOM JOHNSON: This is a very different SW than was in PT — very loose and “into” the music, maybe reactive is a better word? Where before he just stood in front of the mic, here he’s all over the stage, interacting with the other guys in the band. Much more interesting to watch and I think the result is a better live band.
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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Steven Wilson, and his bands Blackfield and Porcupine Tree. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
SHOWS I’LL NEVER FORGET: STEVEN WILSON, APRIL 4, 2012: 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.
BLACKFIELD – LIVE IN NYC (2007): It wasn’t enough that we got not only the amazing Blackfield II album, and one great album and an equally great EP from Steven Wilson’s main band, Porcupine Tree (Fear of a Blank Planet and Nil Recurring, respectively) in 2007, we then got this live DVD to sate the desires of fans clamoring for more — because we always are. Wilson and bandmate Aviv Geffen, along with longtime band director/artist Lasse Hoile, filmed this show in New York (you know, hence the name) and it lives up to last year’s Porcupine Tree DVD, Arriving Somewhere, in all respects.
PORCUPINE TREE – FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET (2007): It might be easy to go on and on about the themes of isolation that waft through Blank Planet‘s lyrics, but for me, it’s all about one thing: the music. Honestly, sometimes the lyrics are a little pedestrian and it’s not like this isn’t a topic that hasn’t been covered a million times before. They’re simply excuses for Steven Wilson to lay down some of those gorgeous harmony choruses. But back to the music: Wilson cranks things up a bit here, and, as I said above, he seemingly has split off the pop-side of the band to Blackfield, so Porcupine Tree can focus on the darker, heavier, grittier, and weirder stuff.
BLACKFIELD – BLACKFIELD II (2007): A lot of hay has been made of Porcupine Tree’s 2007 release Fear Of A Blank Planet, and yes, I’ve joined in the fray. It’s a solid effort from a band that hadn’t stumbled much to begin with. But PT’s leader Steven Wilson is just too talented to stand pat with Fear being his only contribution for this year. For the second time in about as many years, he’s gotten together with Israeli singer/songwriter Aviv Geffen to collaborate on a more mellow, mainstream sounding album than Wilson’s prog rock alter ego. The incredible thing is that “more mainstream” didn’t mean any real drop off in artistic quality.