18 months is a long time to be on tour with any album and for Porcupine Tree
it represents probably the longest period over which they have toured and promoted
a single album. After several visits to the USA, where the tour originally kicked
off, and two tours of Europe, the trek came to an end at the Astoria in London
in front of a large and enthusiastic audience, a large number of whom appeared
to be wearing the band's merchandise.
This being the end of the tour there were members of Marillion in the audience
and two support acts, neither of whom I was aware we playing before I arrived at
the venue. Had I know in advance that the first act was to be the duo of Tim
Bowness and Pete Chilvers, I'd have made more effort to have arrived in time
to hear their set of predominantly No-Man material. However I didn't feel too
bad about missing Adom, a band whose first album was produced by Porcupine
Tree's keyboard player Richard Barbeieri, as I had seen them supporting Porcupine
Tree earlier in the year.
The Porcupine Tree set began with a video projection on the screen at the
back of the stage. I presumed that it must be a new single, since it wasn't
a song that I recognized. Then, as that faded from the screen, the five
musicians arrived on stage (the four members of Porcupine Tree have been
supplemented throughout this tour by ex-Fish axeman John Wesley) and went
straight into a crunchingly heavy Wedding Nails. Not many bands
would open up with an instrumental, but then this is no ordinary band.
Indeed they are a band who does like to move on and to experiment, so
quite a few of the
In Absentia songs have already undergone some modification over the
course of this touring cycle. No doubt part of the change in sound is
due to the tighter integration of John Wesley into the band. He is an
excellent foil for Steven Wilson in both regard to his guitar playing
and in the extra dimension that his backing vocals provide.
While this enables the band to reproduce some of the layers of sound
that are found on their studio albums, the additional guitar also means
that the band has a much 'heavier' feel. While this approach was
successful on tunes like Gravity Eyelids, I felt that the
enchanting 'She's Moved On' from 'Lightbulb Sun' didn't work quite
The heavier sound was accompanied with the video projection of
sometimes quite disturbing images, creating a much darker atmosphere
than that which was evoked during the
tour a few years ago. The use of visual effects have played a part in the
band's live concerts for a number of years, but this certainly was the most
professional audio/visual presentation I'd seen in some time.
The majority of material in the set was culled from the band's 3
most recent studio albums,
and Stupid Dream.
However there were still one or two extracts from the band's large
back catalogue, namely The Moon Touches Your Shoulder from
The Sky Moves Sideways
and the older Fadeaway, for which John Wesley sung lead vocal.
All the same, Steven also asked the older fans to understand the band's
need to move forward and explained that they "can't keep playing
Radioactive Toy for the next 10 years".
It being the last night of the tour, Steven took the opportunity,
just before the final number, to thank the tour crew and management.
He also expressed his satisfaction at the size of the crowd,
acknowledging in particular that most of those present would have
only heard about the band only through word of mouth (or, I presume,
The Internet). Strip The Soul brought the set to a close before
the band said their goodbyes and left the stage. Loud cheers from the
crowd brought them back on two occasions for a total of three
further songs, of which Even Less, was the clear highlight of
the almost 2 hour long set.