Concert Review: Porcupine Tree live in Melbourne, 7 February 2010

20 Feb

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 ever played in Australia back in 2008, marvellous Melbourne. It had been something of a stressful day for us and some of the other familiar faces that had come to make up the majority of the front row each night. Flights from Sydney to Melbourne had been cancelled, including mine; in a panicked flurry of activity far before any time I’d like to be awake, my girlfriend and I were lucky enough to make an earlier departure. In the queue outside the venue, The Palace (formerly The Metro) on Bourke Street in the CBD, we found out others had been affected, some arriving later than planned.

In the end, it seemed nobody had been too disadvantaged, and as the usual group formed at the head of the queue, I don’t think any of us quite realised what sort of a performance the band were about to give us …

I kept my clean record of being front row at every Porcupine Tree gig I’ve attended, as we staked out a spot on the rail in front of guitarist John Wesley’s position. Before the gig began, rumours did the rounds that Steven Wilson was suffering from some sort of illness. Well, if he was, it made utterly no impact on the quality of his performance, as was evident from the minute the band took the stage and busted out a particularly intense rendition of Blind House to open their performance of The Incident for Melbourne. It was a cut above the performances in Brisbane and Sydney, especially the finale of I Drive The Hearse. Every night, Hearse was the best song from The Incident, but in Melbourne it was something truly special; affecting and beautiful.

If the first half of the show was a cut above the preceding gigs, the second half was a further cut above the first half. We knew that the third song of the set, Anesthetize, would be intense. Its performance in 2008 in Brisbane was pretty much the headbanging moment of my life. But I never knew it could be quite as intense as it was in Melbourne. With John Wesley and Steven Wilson both playing pummelling riffs in front of us, the energy was off the charts. It was truly the most extraordinary performance of the band’s three shows.

For the entire show, my girlfriend and I were losing our minds in the front row, and with good cause. It didn’t even matter that the band returned to the Brisbane setlist that I was not entirely in love with. Russia On Ice was brooding; Way Out Of Here was huge; Normal lifted the roof and had gorgeous vocal harmonisation; The Sound Of Muzak has never sounded so good. The band could not put a step wrong, and threw so much energy into each song that there was not a single dull moment, or any instance when I did not feel totally engrossed in an astonishing musical experience. I would not be lying when I say this was the best gig I have seen thus far. To cap it off, John Wesley made a point of handing me his pick at the end of the set. Watching the show in front of Wes was a pure joy – not only is he an incredible guitarist with a beautiful voice that perfectly complements Steven Wilson’s, but he is also humble and generous and clearly loves performing. I rarely see musicians playing with the same unadulterated thrill as Wes.

I can only take away two complaints from the night, neither relating to the band in the slightest. Firstly, what a shame there is a bar so close to the stage at The Palace – best to keep the drunk bogans to the back, as amusing as it was when one began yelling “THE SUN IS A LIGHTBULB! UP THE DOWNSTAIRS! [sic]” Secondly, and much more significantly, despite the law requiring venues to provide free water, security point-blank rejected the pleas of those of us dying of thirst in the heat of the front row until Porcupine Tree’s stage manager threatened to end the show if water was not provided. The conduct of the security employed by The Palace was a disgrace, and a far cry from the staff in 2008 who happily gave out plentiful amounts of free water at Opeth. Other Melbourne venues, such as the Corner Hotel and East Brunswick Club, have no problem freely providing water. What’s the deal, Palace? You’re such a nice venue otherwise.

Dodgy security practices could not take away from an extraordinary night, however, and the band’s Australian jaunt finished on an emphatic high note. The full setlist in Melbourne was:

1-14. The Incident

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

22. The Sound Of Muzak
23. Trains

After six Porcupine Tree concerts, the only songs I have heard at all six are Trains, The Sound Of Muzak, and the second part of Anesthetize. I think that’s a pretty good record. At every concert, the band has been warmly, even emphatically, received, and I can only hope that on their next tour, they expand to other markets, namely Adelaide, Perth, and New Zealand. For now, to wrap up my reviews of PT’s visit to the Antipodes, I would rank their six concerts here thusly:

1. Melbourne, 7 February 2010 (5/5)
2. Brisbane, 27 April 2008 (5/5)
3. Sydney, 6 February 2010 (4.75/5)
4. Melbourne, 25 April 2008 (4.75/5)
5. Sydney, 26 April 2008 (4.5/5)
6. Brisbane, 5 February 2010 (4.5/5)

Undeniably one of the best live bands going around, and a true thrill to witness in full flight.

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One Response to “Concert Review: Porcupine Tree live in Melbourne, 7 February 2010”

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

    […] tell the full story. The performance may have been a step above that in Brisbane, but the next day, the band were hitting Melbourne … Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Weekly Round Up 2Porcupine Tree’s […]

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