Concert Review: Porcupine Tree live in Brisbane, 5 February 2010

18 Feb

February, fairly unsurprisingly, is concert season down here in Australia as overseas bands flee the Northern Hemisphere for our summery shores. Since my last concert review, I’ve been to seven more gigs and some more are coming up, so I better get my arse into gear and review them, huh?

First up, my favourite band: the one and only Porcupine Tree visited Australia for the second time in their history. Back in 2008, they hit Melbourne, then Sydney and finally Brisbane. This time around, they played exactly the same venues, but in reverse, and like last time, I was at all three. The 2008 visit was a bit of a foray to gauge demand, and given the strong response the band received, I was a bit disappointed they did not expand into other markets such as Adelaide, Perth, and New Zealand, but beggars can’t be choosers.

The pick of the 2008 concerts was probably the Brisbane show at the Tivoli Theatre. Melbourne was the most consistent, but Brisbane reached the highest peaks, especially during the face-melting second part of Anesthetize and the sole Australian performance to date of Even Less. Could 2010 compare?

Yes and no. 2010 compares well to 2008, but in this particular instance, 2008 comes out ahead (but wait for my Melbourne review!).

Porcupine Tree were in Australia supporting their latest album, The Incident – a sprawling 55 minute “song cycle” on one disc, and four unrelated tracks on another. It sounded ludicrously, shark-jumpingly ambitious whenever Steven Wilson talked about it to the media, yet it somehow works. It ranges from sombre, ambient passages to crushing metal riffs to focused songwriting that hearks back to the almost-pop/rock days of Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun. And the entire first half of the concert was devoted to performing it in full.

So much for those bands that try to assert relevance by opening with three or four new songs. It was a bold move, and it certainly seemed to alienate some in the crowd who came for the older stuff, but in general, it went down well. That was in part because the band just play the album that bloody powerfully you don’t need to know it beforehand (though that certainly helps). In the small confines of the Tivoli, Drawing The Line became a particularly massive number – the chorus was emphatic, the riffing was thunderous, and it’s a wonder my neck survived the headbanging. None of the subsequent Australian performances could equal this version of Drawing The Line.

The softer songs, such as Great Expectations, Kneel And Disconnect, and I Drive The Hearse were stunning. Indeed, Hearse was the song of the night both in Brisbane and on subsequent nights. Little can match it for sheer emotional impact. Even the sections of the album that you might not expect to work live did; The Yellow Windows Of The Evening Train, an ambient interlude, took on an eerie atmosphere as keyboardist/air-traffic-controller Richard Barbieri worked his magic. The trainspotter in me rather enjoyed the accompanying video too, though due to the Tivoli’s smallness, the projection was rather small. In Steven Wilson’s words, it was a “postage stamp”.

The second set and the encore encmpassed the band’s past work, except for a brief return to The Incident in the case of the second disc’s Bonnie The Cat – a song much improved live. It was not until this concert that I realised I’ve spent the last five years humming along to the chorus of The Start Of Something Beautiful without knowing all the lyrics. The earliest the band went in their selections was Russia On Ice from 2000’s Lightbulb Sun, a track that gave bassist – and token Australian – Colin Edwin a chance to shine. It segued into Anesthetize’s second part, one of the night’s highlights but alas not quite as face-meltingly good as in 2008. It was indeed the song for the metalheads in the audience, and the band never fail to tear the place down when they perform it.

Last tour, I expected that the band would finally play Normal from Nil Recurring live … of course, my prophecy proved to be complete bollocks. But only by two years! Normal has been in this tour’s setlist, and it made it into the band’s Australian selections. A tricky song to play by anybody’s standards, the band have done their homework and pull it off flawlessly. Perhaps my only complaint was that John Wesley’s backing vocals were not sufficiently loud in the mix. Otherwise, the song was all I expected.

But enough of my tidbits. I will refrain from discussing every song, since I have two more Porcupine Tree concert reviews to go. In some ways, I felt the Brisbane setlist was a bit “hitsy” in the second half, especially given that songs such as Stars Die, Buying New Soul, and Remember Me Lover have been in rotation overseas. However, that is only a small quibble, and be in no doubt: I thoroughly enjoyed every track the band played.

The full setlist was:

1-14. The Incident

15. The Start Of Something Beautiful
16. Russia On Ice –>
17. Anesthetize (second part)
18. Lazarus
19. Way Out Of Here
20. Normal
21. Bonnie The Cat

22. The Sound Of Muzak
23. Trains

Up next: a day later and a good few hundred kilometres to the south – what would change in Sydney?

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2 Responses to “Concert Review: Porcupine Tree live in Brisbane, 5 February 2010”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Concert Review: Porcupine Tree live in Sydney, 6 February 2010 « An Ocean of Noise - 20/02/2010

    […] place in Sydney on the 6th of February at the Enmore Theatre. After the Brisbane concert that I reviewed yesterday, my girlfriend and I, as well as a number of other avid Porcupine Tree fans, shot down to Sydney to […]

  2. Concert Review: Porcupine Tree live in Melbourne, 7 February 2010 « An Ocean of Noise - 20/02/2010

    […] by Axver After performing high quality sets in Brisbane and Sydney, I was finally able to welcome Porcupine Tree to my home city, and the first city they […]

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