Porcupine Tree @ Nokia Theatre Times Square (5/19/2007)

Porcupine Tree is a great Progressive Rock outfit that is led by Steven Wilson and it would be my first time ever catching them in concert. The sold out show was done at the Nokia Theater and would find the band Three as their openers. PiercingMetal’s Peter Parrella was in the audience and documented the show while I was in the photo pit trying to capture some great visual moments under difficult conditions. To see and learn more just scroll past the logo below.

Logo - Porcupine Tree

Artist: Porcupine Tree
Venue: Nokia Theatre (New York, NY)
Opener: Three
Date: 5/19/2007
Label: Atlantic Records

Returning to New York City a mere 6 months after they offered fans a pre-completion listen to music that would become their latest release “Fear of A Blank Planet”, Porcupine Tree hit the Nokia stage and launched into an airing of the now familiar songs. Amid video projections illustrating the album’s theme the band spun out the entire six-song cycle as the first part of the concert.

Touring “Fear’s” songs in advance of recording has had its advantages; in fact much of it works better on stage than in studio rendering. It’s a great pay-off for a band courageous enough to open their set with 60 minutes of new material. Whereas “Fear” plays as a nearly seamless musical block its nuances and musical nooks and crannies all lay within familiar Porcupine Tree territory. The brutality of the guitar riffs shared by Steven Wilson and John Wesley, tempered by the ethereal wash of Richard Barbieri’s keyboards are part of the galvanized-progressive style PT has cultivated over their last few albums. It’s always a treat to hear the tight, powerful, poly-rhythms supplied by drummer Gavin Harrison and bassist Colin Edwin in a live setting.

In performance the dissonant staccato acoustic riff that begins the titular track propels the band forward and makes for a great show opener. Lyrically it is a perfect distillation of what is to come. If Wilson had decided to explore FOBP’s theme in a single song this would have served quite effectively. Though melancholy in mood, “My Ashes” is a particular stand out on stage. The watery keyboard and guitar effects evoke the same creepy heath where Led Zep’s “No Quarter” dwells, a very appropriate musical setting for the scattering of remains. The 17-minute “Anesthetize” deftly builds to its strong “Only apathy from the pills in me” refrain and its reference to “eMpTV” never fails to give a chuckle. Harrison’s drum parts at the center of this song are a real treat when performed live and it is no surprise that Modern Drummer Magazine voted him Best Progressive Drummer of 2007. Unfortunately “Anesthetize” is not the sustained stunner that PT’s other epic “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” is and falls to bits (or what should have been another song entirely) about 5 minutes before its completion.

As a conceptual piece “Fear of A Blank Planet” joins a long line of ruminations on the disconnection and apathy of adolescent youth. In recent interviews Wilson has named author Brett Easton Ellis’s novel “Lunar Park” as a prime inspiration to write about the teenage “stranger in the house” but the theme is ageless in scope and is especially imprinted in the DNA of rock music. The Who’s “Quadrophenia”, with its look at England’s Mod movement through the eyes of a pill popping, split personality, protagonist could easily be “Fear’s” godfather. Cinematic progenitors include “River’s Edge”, “Kids”, the harrowing “Thirteen”, and even Ellis’s “Less Then Zero” but reach back to “Rebel Without A Cause”, “Blackboard Jungle” and “To Sir With Love”. In addition, where FOBP’s cover art may be a sly update of U2’s “Boy” and “War” album graphics, it also mirrors classic posters for “Village of the Damned” and “Children of the Damned”, Britain’s early 1960’s films about truly outsider ‘tweeners.

Realizing that much of the NYC audience had been at last October’s “unveiling” Wilson noted that this night was different because of the addition of the supporting videos. On stage, it’s to PT’s advantage that “Fear” is less a narrative or full-blown rock opera and more a thematic tone poem but it still requires the audience to connect with the words to make its point. This has always been a pitfall in live presentation where the visceral nature of rock music often obscures its lyrical content. If the clarity of the lyrics suffers to some extent in performance the overall idea is ably illustrated by director Lasse Hoile’s images of deserted playgrounds, gun toting teens, distraught Goth girls, and kaleidoscopes of multi-colored soporifics. The images aid the show and hopefully send you home to explore the actual lyrics closer.

The second section of the evening (following a few minute cool down) was more of a rummage through the attic and not surprisingly less focused. PT gave the general audience their share of favorites (“Halo”, “Blackest Eyes”), and decided to pull out a few obscurities (“Mother and Child”) and “road less traveled” tunes (“Gravity Eyelids”) making the die-hards ecstatic. Unfortunately “Lazarus” and the aforementioned “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” were missing this evening, cheating the “newbie’s” in the audience out of two great live tunes. It’s hard for a band with such a huge back catalog to showcase all the best work. I suspect that the shows second section is in constant flux, since the band brought “Trains” back into the set this particular night. That said, a little more attention might be paid to separating songs that share a similar feel. In retrospect, PT might do well to present “Fear of a Blank Planet” in its entirety after playing 4 or 5 older tunes at the top of the set and return with a healthy encore. Those are small gripes, the music is strong, performances solid, and kudos must go to the group for moving forward and offering their audience a new live experience this time out.

Three Set List:
1. My Divided Falling
2. Alien Angel
3. Monster
4. Dregs
5. Wake Pig
6. Bramfutura
7. Queen
8. The Last Day
9. Battlecry
10. Drumz
11. Amaze

Porcupine Tree Set List:
1. Fear Of A Blank Planet
2. My Ashes
3. Anesthetize
4. Sentimental
5. Way Out Of Here
6. Sleep Together
7. Interval – Decays
8. Lightbulb Sun
9. Open Car
10. Gravity Eyelids
11. Drown With Me
12. Blackest Eyes
13. Half Light
14. Sever
15. Trains
16. Mother & Child
17. Halo

Official Website: www.porcupinetree.com
Official Website: www.theband3.com

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