Liquid Visions, RPWL & Porcupine Tree
1st Eclipsed Festival, March 31th, 2001
Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg, Germany

By Andreas Vogel


Although this review comes a little late, I didn't want to let this event pass without being captured in the DPRP chronicle.

It was in the year 1992 that four German Pink Floyd fans founded a fanzine called Eclipsed - cheaply produced, cobbled together, and of dilettante but passionate charm. Nine years later, the magazine's circulation has exploded from some fifty copies to a solid 20 000 pieces going on sale every two months. What once was a shabby pamphlet with a photocopy feel to it has turned into a high-gloss magazine with extensive reviews and reports, not only on Pink Floyd (one issue a year would do then, actually), but on everyone and everything that belongs to what is known as the progressive, psychedelic, and art rock scene. As a special bonbon, each issue of the magazine comes with a CD featuring samples from current releases. However, the before-mentioned dilettante charm hasn't disappeared altogether - many misprints, some badly edited and written texts here and there, embarrassing translations. But still, a very remarkable publication.

In 2001, Eclipsed set out for a new venture - a festival uniting three of the magazine's favourite bands: Liquid Visions, RPWL, and Porcupine Tree. The concept seemed to work very well, judging from the 700 or so fans who seeked admission to Aschaffenburg's Colos-Saal. Sold out! However, the effort of presenting three bands on one stage on one evening caused some organizational problems, and so the waiting crowd was let in only after some delay. The music then started after another bit of waiting. But nobody complained. After all, people saw their most wanted bands for the price of a CD. The succession of acts was well planned, so it seemed: one could say that it was ordered according to the degree of musicianship, the sound quality and the light show - each aspect improving with every step.

So, Liquid Visions started at a somewhat low level (my impression, that is). Frankly spoken, I had never heard of Liquid Visions before. Well, no, that's not quite right - I remember they contributed a (fairly passable) cover version of Interstellar Overdrive to the latest Pink Floyd tribute 'Signs of Life'. Being hailed as one of the figureheads of psychedelic music these days (according to the venue's programme), the Berlin band have obviously gathered a considerable flock of fans around them since they appeared first in 1994. Their back catalogue consists of several demo tapes and two LPs, the second of which was last year's 'Endless Plasmatic Childhood Overdose' (erm…what?). Especially for someone unfamiliar with their music, it was at times hard to hear any melody lines or subtle structures through all the jumble. On one occasion, an unidentifiable noise came in, and only by a glance at the stage could one realize that it was someone singing! Or, trying to sing, as a matter of fact. Don't get me wrong, the music wasn't actually bad. It sounded like reinforced Floyd, mixed with The Doors: beautiful soundscapes, dramatic changes, and some nice guitar playing. However, these qualities are presumably better appreciated (and recognized) on their recordings.

What added to a certain discomfort on my part was that the boys smoked on stage. When attending concerts, I just can't stand smoke - except it comes from a dry ice machine. Liquid Visions didn't use such a device, if I remember correctly. What they used was the typical psychedelic multicoloured slide show that was projected onto the stage - to the effect that the band merged into it somehow. Then, during one song, a girl appeared on stage, body-painted with luminous colours and patterns. She started to move about like a serpent, waving a glowing ribbon around, then crouching down abruptly to grab for other things to wave about. What she did wasn't as much professional as it was embarrassing, but it served as a nice change, at least. Later on, the girl supported the band instrumentally as well, operating what seemed to be a theremin. I liked that bit. All in all, Liquid Visions delivered a good performance (though flawed by their equipment) of music that's certainly apt to make people cheer who still crave for sixties' psychedelic rock. I do, every now and then.

The show took a step forward when RPWL entered the stage. Their brilliant opener Hole in the Sky kicked in with full energy, setting the scene for a fine performance, precisely played in a crisp and powerful sound. The band presented many songs from their celebrated debut album 'God has Failed', among them In your Dreams, Who do you think we are, It's alright and Fool. These are good songs, no doubt about that. But some people's rash comparisons with Pink Floyd ("their legitimate successors" and the like) seem to be grossly exaggerated. Of course, RPWL have previously been a Pink Floyd cover band, and their music consequently dwells in a Floydian vein. The atmosphere is similar here and there, snippets and bits seem to have sprung from the masters' hands (or are these just blunt copies...?). Still, the overall feel of their own songs is different. They are much more easy-listening, much more sing-along, and much more compact. What's missing here is some more subtle composition, some more daring arrangements - some more magic. But RPWL certainly have got what it takes to mature in that direction. If they want to.

The four of them are strongest when they get instrumental. Then, they are able to produce wonderful intros (What I need, Crazy Lane) and haunting interludes (the bass-ridden section of Spring of Freedom). These parts were among the most interesting in the set, along with what they played in accordance with their Floydian reputation: a good rendition of Welcome to the Machine (weakened a bit by some messed-up lyrics) and their outstanding version of Cymbaline (also included on the before-mentioned tribute album 'Signs of Life'). To sum it up, RPWL did not fail to arouse enthusiasm with the crowd; their undeniably well-composed music being convincing indeed, if slightly simple and poppy in places. They surely won many people over that evening. In terms of musicianship, the band displayed a great deal of proficiency, with an impressive guitar (Karlheinz Wallner) and a good bass, played by Chris Postl, whose physiognomy and squire-like behaviour made him the funniest figure on stage (though rather out-of-place at times). The vocals, handled by Yogi Lang, were energetic and yes, interspersed with traces of Gilmour. Phil Paul Rissettio's drums completed the favourable impression the band made.

With Porcupine Tree, a band appeared stage whom the people in the hall had presumably been waiting for most eagerly. Their set design was quite simple, consisting of three oversized light bulbs and one printed cloth. Just as thrifty was their light equipment, but its use was the more effective and stimulating. The show started off with - what else could you expect? - the now-classic opener Even Less, during which the band immediately made clear that they were in top form, charging the venue with that special Tree atmosphere. It is curious, in a way, how understated their on-stage behaviour is, on the one hand, and, on the other, how full of feeling and energy the music is that emanates from the speakers. Steven Wilson uses only little movement, and Barbieri's playing is similarly concentrated. Edwin treats his instrument in a matchlessly nonchalant way, while Maitland usually delivers the most intense performance on stage. The four as a team, however, are downright unbeatable.

Most of what they played was a cross-section of their two latest albums, 'Stupid Dream' and 'Lightbulb Sun', with only one excursion into older days (Up the Downstair). Although Wilson wasn't feeling too good - he announced that he had caught a flu - the Tree's performance flawlessly produced one gem after the other. If one set out to compile a list of the most outstanding pieces of the set, one would end up with a list of *all* the titles played. Shesmovedon, for example, is as fascinating as Tinto Brass is, even though the songs appeal on different levels. Come to that, it's obvious that Porcupine Tree's music is much too multifarious to be crammed into a category labelled 'Prog Rock'. The band have relentlessly been pushing against the boundaries of the scene in which they have grown up. Now more than ever, they refuse to be pinned down to a certain kind of music. The Tree evolves, it naturally grows, sprouting new blossoms all the time. This, in a sense, is what should truly be called 'progressive'.

While the band performed their acoustic fireworks, the audience responded accordingly - boundless enthusiasm spread among the fans, they celebrated each and every note, the vibes were flowing. Well, due to some unwritten law, there has to be at least one troublemaker in the audience. Unfortunately, that person stood right next to me this time - a smoking bloke who sported a rather weird relation to the music. He seemed to be addicted to sound at full blast, and grew impatient with every quiet interlude or one of Wilson's announcements. He would then gesture wildly at the stage and loudly call for another bone-crunching gush of sound. While I managed to ignore that guy most of the time, he nonetheless got what he wanted: Porcupine Tree's sound develops much more pressure when played live. The band sounds much harder in comparison to their recordings, owing largely to the more prominent and powerful drum part of Chris Maitland, whose performance was literally breathtaking that evening.

The encore section then took the audience on a trip back in time. 1992's Voyage 34 wouldn't have failed to ensnare those who weren't yet captivated by the show (of course, there was no one in the hall anymore who'd fit that description). With its spoken parts, driving rhythms and instrumental textures, this piece creates an out-of-this-world experience (no wonder, if one considers what it is supposed to illustrate…). The audience was fetched back to hard-rocking reality when the band played the more earth-bound Signify - but only to have them lift off again with their third encore: the heavenly Radioactive Toy. This song concluded Porcupine Tree's outstanding performance and, above that, a successful evening of roughly five hours of fine music. Congratulations to Eclipsed. Just go on like that!

...and yes, I am told that the second Eclipsed festival is already being planned. Look out for autumn this year.

Setlist Porcupine Tree:


Even Less
Slave Called Shiver
Shesmovedon
Up The Downstair
Lightbulb Sun
Last Chance To Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled
Russia On Ice
Pure Narcotic
Where We Would Be
Hatesong
Tinto Brass

Voyage 34
Signify
Radioactive Toy

 

 

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2001 DPRP