Wednesday, September 16, 2009
How I mete Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree
On Tuesday, September 15th Porcupine Tree played the Moore Theatre in Seattle. It was the opening night of the tour. Since I'm a member of the elite commando squad of super-fans "Residents Of A Blank Planet" I had bought exclusive advance tickets months earlier. So after work I picked Karrin up and we headed to Seattle. We found reasonably priced parking right on the opposite corner from the theatre, then snapped a few shots of the theatre and the marquee announcing Porcupine Tree. After documenting the building and marquee, Karrin and I headed downhill to the waterfront and grabbed dinner at my favorite Seattle restaurant, Steamers. She had calamari and I had Alaskan cod. We then headed back uphill and picked up my tickets at the box office, along with blue wristbands which got us in before everybody else. We found our seats in the fifth row (row E, seats 7 and 8). Eventually everybody else was allowed in and the place began to fill. The opening act one a one-man-band called That One Guy. I had almost no expectations, but he was fantastic. His musical instrument was an interesting home-made looking essentially like lengths of steel pipe with lots of joints, plus a few buttons he used to trigger sounds. He first played the pipe by bowing it like a cello and controlling the pitch with a gentle touch at various locations. Soon he began also slapping it for percussion, and triggering samples with the two buttons. Two pedals on the floor allowed him to control bass drum samples. Overall his act was exceptionally physical from all the movement it required to play his unique instrument effectively. And listening to the music he made, nobody would have ever guessed it was all one person. After playing the first two tracks from their new album "The Incident" ("Occam's Razor" and "Blindhouse") they paused, and Steve Wilson announced that they were going to perform the entire 55-minute suite/album. He also mentioned that this was the first time they would ever play the new material for an audience. After that, they launched into the rest of the album, and played straight through to the end. I don't believe there were any more interruptions, and Steve didn't speak again until after the last track. As I expected, "Drawing the Line" rocked. "The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train" was accompanied by footage of flowers blooming and trees gently waving in a breeze, and then came "Time Flies", accompanied by the projections that are seen in the online video. "Octane Twisted" had a projection video in which we see the familiar little metal stick-man seen previously in the footage for "The Start of Something Beautiful" and "Sleep Together." The film depicted the unfortunate guy getting on a train, only to have the train run wild, hitting breakneck speeds, until it reaches a trestle bridge. The bridge breaks and cars go flying in a disaster. After the last song ("I Drive the Hearse") Steve again stepped up and announced the intermission. When they returned they went to their back catalogue, presenting (not in this order) "The Start of Something Beautiful", "The Sound of Muzak", "Russia On Ice", "Lazarus", "Normal", the heavy middle section of "Anesthetise", "Way Out of Here", and for the encore "Mother And Child Divided." Strangely, I can't recall whether they played "Blackest Eyes" or "Strip The Soul" but I'm pretty sure one of the two was in the set. I was stunned that "Fear of A Blank Planet" wasn't in the setlist; before the show I would have bet money that it would be played, I was so certain. Nothing from "Signify" was played during the show, and they didn't go back any further/deeper than "Russian On Ice" from the "Lightbulb Sun" album -- but that's to be expected these days. At one point early in the second set Steve spoke between songs saying (paraphrasing), "I have to admit, we were really nervous about playing all that new material for an audience for the first time." At another point -- I believe it was as Steve strapped on the acoustic guitar for "Lazarus" -- he said (paraphrasing again), "The metalheads in the room are all thinking, 'Oh great, he's going for the acoustic guitar again.'" That got laughs. After the last song of the encore, I pulled out the point-and-shoot camera and took a couple photos and shot a very short (maybe 5 seconds) video clip of the band waving at the end. Here is the video. After the show I waited outside at the front of the theatre and met my longtime Internet friend Johnny V. I've known from online for years and years, but this was the first time we actually got to meet. Johnny told me he had been talking to Porcupine Tree's tour manager in the last few days, and that the band might possibly come out to greet a few fans. Something like 40 minutes later, as roadies loaded black tour cases onto the bus behind us, Steve Wilson came out. He looked completely exhausted, spent, but he stopped to sign autographs for about 25 fans. He signed a sticker for "The Incident" album for me. I would have brought something better to sign if I'd known, but I had no clue I might meet him until Johnny mentioned it after the show.