Porcupine Tree, May 8th 1999
Willem II, Den Bosch, The Netherlands
By Ed Sander


Tree Three

This was the first time I saw a band in the Willem II venue. This former cigar factory turned out to be a cross between 'regular' venues like Tivoli or De Pul and the lay-out of venues like 013 and the old Noorderligt with their gradually descending levels.

At 20.30 an intro tape/sound started playing. This monotonous synth chord went on for a loooooooong time while a roadie came on stage to tune the instruments. When the band still hadn't appeared after 15 minutes the whole thing got rather annoying and a slightly aggitated mood started to go round the hall. Fortunately the band appeared about 5 minutes later. I had expected them to use the intro chord as an opener for Even Less but instead the chord stopped and the band opened with the marvellous Tinto Brass, one of my favourites of the new album.
Besides the lights and the smoke machine the band had brought two projectors which were used to show moving figures and slides from the Signify and Coma Divine booklets on the backdrop.
Tinto Brass ended as abruptly as it does on the album (something I would have preferred differently, especially live). Steve Wilson, his usual skinny mystical self, picked up a piece of paper with 'Ssssssh !' written on it. He explained that he would hold that thing up whenever they would play a 'quiet one'.

The band went on with the single Piano Lessons during which they seemed to use some sampled vocals in the refrains. The next two songs were two oldies; Waiting (Phase I) and Up the Downstair. During the latter lots of stroboscopic effects were used, as they had also done in the heavier parts of Tinto Brass. The flickering lights returned throughout the gig, whenever the band played a loud part in a song. This really started to get on my nerves after a while. I'm obviously not a big fan of excessive use of stroboscopes; there must be other ways to accentuate the heavier parts in the music.
During Up the Downstairs two eyes were projected on the backdrop as well, which gave the stage quite a spooky look.

The next couple of songs were taken from the new album Stupid Dream. First the full length version of Even Less was presented to the audience. This version, which is three times as long as the album version, had developed into a tighter whole since last year's concerts. When the woman read out the numbers at the end of the song, they were also projected on the backdrop (does anybody know what these numbers mean ?). After finishing the song Steve Wilson told the audience that it had been far to long to be included on Stupid Dream and that they were planning to release the full version later in 1999, probably on an EP.
The next new song was Baby Dream in Cellophane and while they were playing this it suddenly hit me why it always sounded so familiar. The verses of the song are almost exactly the same as those of Pink Floyd's The Embryo (a great track which was played live a lot in the early seventies, but which never appeared on their studio albums). Steve played acoustic guitar on this track, as well as in the first half of the next song, A Smart Kid.

Slave Called Shiver worked quite well live, although the chorus which has a distorted megaphone sound on the album, was shouted into the microphone by Steve, which for me personally did not work as well.
After a good version of The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase I), which was almost messed up by keyboard player Barbieri in the closing section because he played something completely unrelated to the actual music.
After the ballad Stop Swimming another fine rendition of Voyage 34 closed the main set.

Steve Wilson came back on stage and asked the crowd to be quiet, while he picked up his acoustic guitar. Although not everybody had the decency to shut up, it seemed to be quiet enough for Steve. He played a great acoustic solo version of Nine Cats after which the rest of the band came back on stage for Dislocated Day. I really like the live version of this track, opposed to the rather lame album version.
After Chris ended the song with his drum sequence the band left the stage again, only to come back for one final encore: Radioactive Toy. After more than two hours, the concert ended.

It was a nice gig, although for some reason not as good as last year's performance in Uden. I can't really put my finger on the problem of this gig, maybe it was the stroboscopes, maybe the contrast between the 'classics' and new tracks, maybe the vocals, which didn't really come through very clearly during part of the performance, or maybe a combination of all of these. Nevertheless it was another great evening with a great band.

Setlist:

Tinto Brass
Piano Lessons
Waiting (Phase I)
Up the Downstair
Even Less (full length version)
Baby Dream in Cellophane
A Smart Kid
Slave Called Shiver
The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase I)
Stop Swimming
Voyage 34

Nine Cats (acoustic)
Dislocated Day

Radioactive Toy

 

 

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