Porcupine Tree @ Nokia Theatre Times Square (10/6/2006)

Porcupine Tree was once again visiting NYC and while I would not be there personally, our esteemed colleague Skeleton Pete would be on point to let us all know how it went. This is one of the more interesting musical bands of our time and Wilson is an incredible composer, so the band is very worth catching. Peter’s report follows the logo.

Logo - Porcupine Tree

Artist: Porcupine Tree
Venue: Nokia Theatre Times Square (New York, NY)
Opener: ProjecKt Six
Date: 10/6/2006
Label: Roadrunner Records

If we take the word progressive in one of its oldest forms to mean, “Engaging in or constituting forward motion” then Porcupine Tree’s show at Nokia Theater in New York City on October 6, 2006 plants them firmly as the current epitome of a Progressive Rock band. While their current group of shows essentially supports the release of the DVD release documenting the “Deadwing” tour; the members of PT have chosen not to mimic that product but instead have taken the opportunity to open a door to their future by previewing as yet unrecorded material for their next CD (due in early 2007). Porcupine Tree are honing this material in an approximately ¾ hour long chunk opening their show.

To their credit, Porcupine Tree managed to not only hold the attention of their quite devoted audience but also elicit the kind of response you would expect to get for tried and true material. That’s certainly a great reaction for songs that apparently don’t even have names yet and a nice feat considering the packed house had already heard opening act ProjecKt Six (Robert Fripp & Adrian Belew) play a completely improvisational set. The new tunes themselves, at least at this point, do not vary greatly in style from the “In Absentia” and “Deadwing” mold. Comprised of heavy guitars, fluid single line leads, synthesizer pads and Steve Wilson’s plaintive, melodic vocals, the effect can be particularly Floydian, and whereas the agile rhythm section adds a more technical counterpoint to the sonic wash, it never goes to the extreme of becoming mathematical.

A bit of self-deprecating humor on the band’s part came when Wilson proclaimed to the audience at the beginning of a particularly epic new number, “This is the longest song we’ve ever tried, it’s very hard for us. It wouldn’t be hard for Dream Theater, but it’s hard for us.” Though the crowd was littered with approving folks in DT T-shirts, the young woman next me shouted to the barefoot, PRS wielding singer/guitarist “We love you Wilson” but had less complementary things to say about Dream Theater. There lies the line that Porcupine Tree so elegantly straddles – Dream Theater versus Dream Academy – respected by the “Prog/Metal males” and on the verge of idolization from their young female contingent. It’s a nice place to be, something akin to the Barrett led Pink Floyd in the earliest days of London’s UFO club.

What Porcupine Tree intends to make of it is hard to say, their recent signing with Roadrunner Records in the UK puts them in a stable with some of the heaviest bands on the planet and will draw attention to their more Progressive Metal leanings. The light show and new material played at Nokia suggests arenas in their future but Steve Wilson’s protean musicality often lures him off to side projects (Blackfield, NoMan, “Deadwing: The Movie”) or production for other bands (three Opeth albums), so it’s anyone’s guess. My humble opinion is that with the new label support and a major tour they have the potential to turn the next album into “Dark Side of the Moon” for the 21st Century. What’s not clear is if they’d consider becoming that big a good or bad thing.

The band took a short break after the new song section and returned with an hour of crowd pleasers like “Arriving Somewhere…”, and an encore comprised of “Halo” and “Blackest Eyes”, a tune which blueprinted PT’s chiaroscuro arrangements with it’s bludgeoning riffs, followed by pastoral acoustic guitar and back again.

Overall, it was a really enjoyable experience and an awesome opportunity to hear a great band in the process of creating new music.

Set 1:
Fear of a Blank Planet
My Ashes
Anesthetize
Sentimental
Cheating the Polygraph
Sleep Together

Set 2:
Open Car
The Sound of Muzak
Buying New Soul
Arriving Somewhere but Not Here

Set 3:
The Start of Something Beautiful
Trains

Encore:
Halo
Blackest Eyes

Official Web site: www.porcupinetree.com

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