with Steven Wilson (solo) and Anathema (Acoustic)
Friday 10th September 2004
Mean Fiddler, London, UK

By Charlie Farrell

Debut UK show by Porcupine Tree side-project

Blackfield is a project whose music has taken form over the course of the last few years, with Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) working with Israeli musician Aviv Geffen when time allowed. The result of this collaboration is a gem of an album, entitled Blackfield and I was keen to witness the outfit's UK debut, even more so, when it was announced that the band would be supported by Anathema performing an acoustic show and a further short solo set by Steven Wilson himself.

Earlier in the year, I had cursed the fact that I had been unable to travel to Liverpool to see Anathema perform an acoustic concert in company with a string quartet, so it was some small compensation that they were able to make a special guest appearance at this gig. I was nevertheless surprised, upon my arrival, to find that the line-up included the string quartet, since their involvement had not been advertised and for the early part of the set they struggled to be heard above the rest of the band. With much of the band's recent output being quite mellow, the acoustic setting was perfect for tunes such as Fragile Dreams and the set closer of Flying, by which time the sound problems had been ironed out. With the band also including a cover of Radiohead's Exit Music (For a Film), it was certainly a performance that I would like to see repeated.

As I am not a huge fan of Steven Wilson's side project No-Man, I was a bit disconcerted when informed (incorrectly as it turned out) that he would be performing mainly music from this project as part of his solo set. However, violinist and No-Man collaborator Ben Coleman appeared on stage alongside an acoustic guitar wielding Wilson and proceeded to give a fresh spin to Porcupine Tree staples likes Even less and the less frequently performed A Smart Kid. His electric violin carried the guitar and guitar solo parts very well and his flamboyant playing certainly entertained the audience.

Steven then announced quite nervously that he was intending to play the following number at the piano, evidently something he had never done before. Surprising though this was, his performance of How Is Your Life Today was excellent and he continued to play a second number at the keyboard. Returning to the acoustic guitar for a scintillating Trains, Steven was once again joined by Ben, who added strings and drones to the mix. Then, as a finale, Steven performed a number written by Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA fame. Entitled The day Before You Came, one sensed that it carried a lot of significance for Steven and though he slightly nervously forgot the lyrics to the second verse at one part, he seemed delighted at having the opportunity to perform the number live.

A short 10 minute break followed before Steven re-appeared in the company of Aviv and a band composed mainly of the same musicians who had taken part in the band's debut performance in Israel, earlier in the year. Only drummer Tomer Zidkiahu, replacing ex-Porcupine Tree skins man Chris Maitland was different.

The set kicked off with the title track of the band's debut album, which sounded equally magnificent live. From there they continued to play the remainder of the album, only in a slightly different order and with the addition of Where Is My Love? which appears on the album's bonus disk. The reproduction of the material was excellent and though some equipment problems did force a slight break in the set, the momentum was not lost.

Steven and Aviv both played guitar and sang, with Steven handling the lion's share of the vocal duties. Songs such as Blackfield, Pain and Cloudy Now, (originally a hit for Aviv, sung in Hebrew) really stood out, but all of the set was well received by the audience even if some sections of the audience were more excited by certain tunes than others were.

Steven in particular, looked relaxed, and his humour, sadly missing from the last Porcupine tree show that I saw, shone through once again. The rest of the band appeared to have enjoyed the experience of their first London show and the only disappointing thing was that, even after an encore of Feel So Low, the entire set was still less than one hour long. "Next time, we'll have more songs, I promise" offered Wilson as the band quite the stage for the final time.

Altogether an excellent evening's musical entertainment, if a little on the short side, but I for one, look forward to Blackfield's return, in the not too distant future, with a slightly longer set.

Anathema (Acoustic)
One Last Goodbye
Temporary peace
Fragile Dreams
A Natural Disaster
Exit Music (For a Film)

Steven Wilson
Even Less (With Ben Coleman)
A Smart Kid (With Ben Coleman)
How Is Your Life Today (at piano)
Moment I Lost (at piano)
Trains (With Ben Coleman)
The Day Before You Came

Open Mind
The Hole in Me
Where is My Love?
Cloudy Now

Feel So Low


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2004 DPRP