Concert Review Archive

 

Porcupine Tree

Monday, 12th October 2009
Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Article By Edwin Roosjen, Ian Butler, Joris Donkel and Ed Sander
Live photos by Bart Jan van der Vorst

Edwin's Review

The Incident, Porcupine Tree's latest release, is doing well on all fronts, it is receiving many positive reviews and it is doing well in the charts all over the world. The Incident Tour has an intense schedule and they are playing in large venues. Looking at the list on Porcupine Tree's website I also saw that many gigs are sold out, the band is really taking off. Before hand I already knew that they were going to play The Incident entirely in the first part of the show. What I did not know was that nobody was allowed to take pictures, everybody had to turn in their camera. At the beginning of the show a tape was played saying again that nobody was allowed to take pictures because it was distracting to the band and other spectators. The addition of requesting other people who did try to take pictures to stop doing that was a bit childish in my opinion. The positive side to this was that there were no cameras or mobile phones in front when trying to get a glimpse of the stage. These days when something happens during a concert it is immediately captured by many screens. The negative side was the witch hunt for cameras at the entrance of the venue, this resulted in me missing the support act, Robert Fripp. When I stepped in I could hear three notes and a loud applause and then the lights turned on and the wait for Porcupine Tree began.

Now back to the music, the first part of the show indeed featured The Incident in its complete form. I started the gig without earplugs but the pounding chords of Occam's Razor made me grab in my bag to get my ear protection. The sound quality is allways debatable, Porcupine Tree can do better but for the Heineken music Hall is was pretty good. Just like on the album the highlights of the first part of the show were The Incident and Time Flies. During Octane Twisted the screen showed a brilliant video of a tin man and trains passing through picturesque scenery. All the images shown on the screen were magnificent. Responsible for the Porcupine Tree artwork is Lasse Hoile who was asked on stage and took a picture of the audience with everyone holding their hand in front of their face just like on the cover of The Incident. After the complete album there was a ten minute break with a clock on the screen showing how much time was left which resulted in a countdown as if it were new year.

The second part of the show contained the older stuff with many songs from In Absentia, four to be exact. To save time, or to be able to play more songs, some were not played completely but were melted into some sort of medley. Russia On Ice and Anesthetize were combined just like Strip The Soul and .3. The choice of songs is just as debatable as the sound quality/volume and sadly the songs played were not my favourite. Anesthetize is one of my favourite songs so I was happy to hear that one, especially the intense bit although I missed the stroboscope. The encore with The Sound Of Muzak and Trains can never be wrong.

Porcupine Tree played flawless and their performance of The Incident was brilliant. The second part I personally did not find very strong. The band appeared to be playing on autopilot and when there were no visual artworks there was not much spirit coming from the band. People were all shouting there favourite song and Steven Wilson replied with a joke. I will not tell the joke because he used the same one in England and I doubt if he has a different one for this tour. I went home with mixed feelings, a good show but I have seen them play better, more inspired. And still some mixed feelings about the camera thing. Nice to see a show without the many screens in front of you but still feel sorry I missed Robert Fripp.

Porcupine Tree

Ian's Review

Porcupine Tree have just released The Incident album as a follow up to Fear Of A Blank Planet. Here on DPRP you can read a selection of reviews offering varying opinions of this new work. Personally I enjoyed this album at home as it seems to be more PT-esque than FOABP. I was therefore really excited to see Porcupine Tree on tour again. First thing, oh no, not the Heineken Music Hall again, and to borrow a quote of mine, I find it "a very impersonal space for very personal music". I work next to the HMH so it's really stupid not to go.

Porcupine Tree I missed Robert Fripp as the support act, but hoped that Porcupine Tree would more than make up for this. The start of The Incident with Occam's Razor was a big and powerful as it should be, raw guitars and a big sound. The spacey keyboards in between filled the hall, but something felt like it was missing. It suddenly dawned on me that Gavin Harrisson's overall drum sound lacked a lot of clarity, that all of his carefully crafted intricacies of snare and cymbal work were masked. Lots of the timing revolves around these elements and carries the music. Other colleagues agreed with me (but not as strongly). The Incident was played in it entirety and to be honest I found it a bit too slow. There were even pauses between songs for Steven Wilson to talk which slowed it down more. If your going play the whole piece, don't stop! The crowd seemed very underwhelmed. I was wondering if Porcupine Tree had "outprogged themselves"?

This all sounds a bit negative so far, but things improve as the piece progressed. Drawing The Line and " I just want to be loved" lyrics are unforgettable. Eventually we got to what seems like the show piece, Time Flies. This was damn good, and injected life into the performance. The video projected images and shots were amazing all through the show and fitted the music so well. The Incident also contains heavier songs, like on FOABP, which I know are still hit and miss with some people. Steven Wilson definitely has been listening to alot of "Death Metal" I assume. ( SW- are those guitars in drop C tuning?? Obviously SW is a DPRP reader :-) ) Drive the Hearse was quite beautiful with the classic PT/SW mix of dreamy melodic lines juxtaposed with edgy guitars. The Incident closes to some good applause. I enjoyed my first live encounter of The Incident, but I wasn't left speechless. I do put this partially down to the bad sound which is so important to me.

The second half of the show was a mix of Porcupine Tree material. I really enjoyed Start Of Something Beautiful, with its spacey guitar sounds and bass intro. The medley of an incomplete Russia On Ice joined to the middle 9 minutes of Anesthetize was very bizarre, where they missed the best part of Russia On Ice. Hearing Anesthetize reminded again how the drums drive and drive these monster tracks and how good it sounded last time in Tilburg 013. Steven Wilson sang fantastically all night and seemed to have lost some of his "nasal whining" that sometimes plagues his vocals. The next series of songs like Lazarus, Strip The Soul/.3 and Normal were again well performed, but missed that final sparkle that I know Porcupine Tree have. I am not convinced by the medley approach either.

I have always written positive things about Porcupine Tree in previous reviews, but this gig left me disappointed. I admit to being (perhaps overly) critical over sound quality, but why shouldn't I be? It was way too loud, far too much bass and lacked real good clarity. I pay my money and expect quality. Why don't Porcupine Tree play two or three nights at Paradiso in Amsterdam and leave the HMH for Deep Purple, Radiohead and Texas? I am sure money and time is all a factor. Would I go see them again? Of course, no brainer as they are a talented bunch of musicians who put on a great show.

Additional remarks

Joris

I have the Porcupine Tree CD's and some of them I also fully enjoy, but they aren't high on my personal list. Actually, after three spins The Incident still does not appeal me. This was my first Porcupine Tree concert and at the moment I seriously consider that it also might be my last!

First of all the sound level was much too high for me (again) at the HMH; only after severe noise stopping measures I could actually enjoy the music. Secondly I thought they choose a set list with mainly heavier songs where I more prefer the a bit more tranquil songs with more keys. Thirdly some lights on the stage repeatedly shined directly into my eyes unpleasantly. Of course two of my three "complaints" where not caused by the band and I do think Porcupine Tree put up a terrific show, played very well and indeed had some great images on the big screen closely accompanying the music (but therefore leaving no room for improvisation), but I think I just realized that Porcupine Tree is less my cup of tea than I thought and that I should stick to the living room experience. It all was a bit too tidy and tightly produced for me for a live show; this was very well showcased when Steven explained to the audience how a rock concert works by showing the paper with the set list; I wonder if he ever saw a Bruce Springsteen concert.

So there you have the opinion from the other side of the appreciation scale. Surely you might all disagree with me, but my ears told me a different story.

Porcupine Tree

Ed

The Porcupine Tree gig started earlier than announced on the tickets. I didn't think getting into the HMH was any slower than normal, but it did take a while for the hall to fill up and probably a lot of people will have missed the news of the early start. Having said that, they won't have missed much because most people (including myself) were bored out of their skull by 30 minutes of soundscapes by Fripp. Probably nice stuff while you're lounging on the couch at home, but not as a support act!

The Incident was absolutely brilliant live. Rarely have I seen such a stunning start of a show as when the projection screen came alive during Occam's Razor. The projection screen was much bigger than any I've ever seen Porcupine Tree use, the use and the timings of the footages synced with the music were excellent. Lots of great new movies, among which a splendid one for The Incident (using animated drawings from the drawings book of the limited edition box set), a return of the "tin man" (Start of Something Beautiful, Sleep Together) in Octane Twisted and more great stuff. The first half of the gig was definitely the highlight for me. Only complaint: the bass in the mid section of Time Flies should have been much louder, like the one on the 5.1 mix that totally blows me away.

The second half was okayish. Chopping up both Russia On Ice and Anesthetize destroys both songs. But I liked the return of Strip The Soul flowing in to .3. I'm also one of those people that wants a gig to end with Trains. Oh, and Normal and Bonnie The Cat were nice as well. Could have done with something else than Start Of Something Beautiful, Sound Of Muzak and Lazarus though. Unfortunately they didn't play Remember Me Lover at this gig.


Setlist
Occam's Razor
The Blind House
Great Expectations
Kneel And Disconnect
Drawing The Line
The Incident
Your Unpleasant Family
The Yellow Windows Of The Evening Train
Time Flies
Degree Zero Of Liberty
Octane Twisted
The Sťance
Circle Of Manias
I Drive The Hearse

The Start Of Something Beautiful
Russia On Ice
Anesthetize
Lazarus
Strip The Soul
.3
Normal
Bonnie The Cat

The Sound Of Muzak
Trains

Links

Porcupine Tree Official Website
Porcupine Tree Myspace

Heineken Music Hall

DPRP Review: The Incident

 


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