Concert Review: Porcupine Tree live in Sydney, 6 February 2010

20 Feb

Porcupine Tree’s second of three Australian concerts for 2010 took 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 see the band again.

As we sat on the pavement in Newtown waiting for doors to open, we pondered the possibilities for the gig, anticipating at least some change to the setlist. In Brisbane, we thought we heard Fadeaway soundchecked – alas, it was not to be; my favourite Porcupine Tree song (with Piano Lessons) from 1993’s Up The Downstair was simply being played from CD for purposes we don’t fully know. However, some other changes were in store …

The concert, as per usual, began with the first half dedicated to a full performance of The Incident. With more room to expand, Drawing The Line’s chorus did not quite achieve the intensity it found in the confines of Brisbane’s Tivoli Theatre, but the performance of the album was in general superior. Live, The Incident takes on a kind of intense atmosphere it lacks in studio; some of the tracks come across more heavy and raw, especially exposing Blind House and the title track, while others become engrossing multi-faceted experiences, such as Time Flies.

I have always found Time Flies to be Pink Floyd’s Animals album for people lacking an attention span, but it grabs your attention live as the band weave deftly through its intricacies and breathe originality into it. Perhaps the highlight, however, is the gorgeous harmonisation in Octane Twisted and the emotive conclusion of I Drive The Hearse. One man just down the front row from us had never heard The Incident before this concert, and by the end looked as if he had had an epiphany, such was the strength of the band’s performance.

The second half of the concert, however, is where Sydney’s greatest peaks were reached. Like Brisbane and every other concert on the tour, the band returned from their ten minute intermission with The Start Of Something Beautiful – and this time I’d made a point of paying attention to the chorus’s lyrics. Still after five years of listening I remained mystified by the third line. The song itself is great live, and a bit of a surprise to hear; not at all what I would have expected from Deadwing, and very welcome. It was followed by Russia On Ice and the second part of Anesthetize, again respectively the time for bassist Colin Edwin to shine and the Metalhead Moment of the gig.

Then came one of the highlights of Porcupine Tree’s visit to Australia for me. Back in 1995, Porcupine Tree released the atmospheric, psychedelic album The Sky Moves Sideways, supported by the single Stars Die. To my immense delight, the band launched into this gorgeous number, a rousing sing-along for those of us in the audience who have been with the band a long time and know their back catalogue intimately. Unfortunately, it proved to be the sole pre-2000 song the band would play this time around (and only their third pre-2000 selection ever performed in Australia, following from A Smart Kid and Even Less at the 2008 concerts).

Following Stars Die was another surprise, another change from Brisbane – the dark tones of Strip The Soul. I’m not sure In Absentia’s darkest song felt quite as dark live, but it was certainly a thrill to hear, and it segued effortlessly into .3, also from In Absentia. I had been somewhat skeptical the band could execute .3’s atmosphere live, but my concerns were drowned by waves of eerie, beautiful, stunning bliss, underpinned by Richard Barbieri at the keyboards of air traffic control. Rounding out the main set, as in Brisbane, were Normal – more compelling in Sydney – and another surprisingly engrossing performance of Bonnie The Cat.

The encore remained The Sound Of Muzak and Trains, both received with much enthusiasm from the audience. However, it did not go quite the way the band desired. At the end of The Sound Of Muzak, technical problems struck the band, knocking out vocals and guitar. As techs scrambled and the band pondered what to do, the audience quickly began chanting for a drum solo from Gavin Harrison. When Colin Edwin played a few notes on his bass, the chant swiftly became one for a bass solo – and then a drum and bass solo. I couldn’t help myself and called for a spoon solo. In the end, we didn’t get any solos, drum, bass, spoon, theremin, or otherwise, for the problem was resolved and the band launched into Trains to cap off the night.

The full setlist was:

1-14. The Incident

15. The Start Of Something Beautiful
16. Russia On Ice –>
17. Anesthetize (part II)
18. Stars Die
19. Strip The Soul –>
20. .3
21. Normal
22. Bonnie The Cat

23. The Sound Of Muzak
24. Trains

This was to prove the best setlist of the three 2010 concerts. Setlists, however, don’t tell the full story. The performance may have been a step above that in Brisbane, but the next day, the band were hitting Melbourne

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3 Responses to “Concert Review: Porcupine Tree live in Sydney, 6 February 2010”

  1. Ben Trump 25/02/2010 at 10:28 #

    Looking at your interest in music, I would like to recommend the Cabbie-oke cabs doing the rounds this weekend in Sydney.. check them out.. in fact my frnds told me that voting on performances can get me a Nokia E71..hmm..nice I guess!!

  2. Winding Machine 03/12/2010 at 05:35 #

    it does not take too long to learn good piano playing if you have a good piano lesson ~-:

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  1. 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 ever played […]

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