Steven Wilson - Live Review
It is only 10 months since Steven Wilson was last in Manchester at the Bridgewater Hall with its atrocious sound for rock bands. That performance seemed a somewhat reserved, nervous affair being only three dates into the world tour. Tonight Wilson has upgraded himself to the Apollo, a far better rock music venue and the volume has been turned up too!!
After the 10 minute art video of a block of flats from collaborator Lasse Hoile, the show started with a performance of his last full album, Hand.Cannot.Erase. complete with a video display on a giant screen at the back. His band seemed looser and heavier than last year too – Guthrie Govan’s perfect precision playing replaced by Dave Kilminster’s brasher, rockier, more fluid approach. With the band having played together for a while it gave them more room to manoeuvre within the structure of the songs, making them a little less predictable. The whole band are clearly enjoying themselves and that comes through in the powerful and majestic performance of the songs. The audience too has had time to absorb the complexities of the album so their appreciation is even more zealous.
After the interval the band return and play a selection of songs, with some differences to last year, including six Porcupine Tree classics all delivered with aplomb and gusto by this band and rapturously received by the audience who lap up every second. Lazarus and Let’s Sleep Together are quite simply sublime.
Ninet Tayeb, the Israeli singer who has worked with Wilson on several recordings was making selected appearances on the tour and sadly Manchester was not selected. Consequently Wilson has to sing both vocal parts to Don’t Hate Me and his voice is clearly stretched hitting the high notes in this 18 year old Porcupine Tree classic. It also meant no Space Oddity dedicated to David Bowie either.
From the new mini album, 4 ½, we are treated to a rendition of No More Regrets which drips with melancholy and Vermillioncore where the band is let loose and is more like a superb heavy prog rock workout.
The encore is an interesting contrast of The Sound Of Muzak and possibly his best solo song, The Raven That Refused To Sing in all its mournful glory.
This Steven Wilson show was nothing short of perfect, an artist at the pinnacle but nowhere near the edge. The only way is up.
Words and photography: Anthony Firmin