Porcupine Tree, No Brain
Principal Club Theater, Thessaloniki, Greece
It was the third time I was about to see the beloved Porcupine Tree. First after five long years of abscence. The first thing I took notice was the attendance, the fans really amazed me, as there were the least one thousand, something happening seldomly in such cases in Thessaloniki. Also, very good looking ladies knowing the songs and happy faces in general. The group that started the gig was No Brain Cell. As I was later informed, as I never had the luck to see them before, they are a Porcupine Tree tribute band. They managed to gain the applause of the crowd with their bizzare heavy progressive tunes. They played for forty minutes three of their songs which were really interesting, but the high point were the four covers they made: ”My Twin” from Katatonia, ”Pain” and ”Blackfield” from Blackfield, the alter ego of Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree’s ”Deadwing”. I’d really like to see them again. One of the most unique bands out there. Well done guys.
Porcupine Tree entered the stage at half past ten. They started the show by presenting songs of their latest release, called ”The Incident”. First of all I have to say that the new songs work out much better on a live occasion and also, the visuals on the background created a special atmosphere, ideal to be connected with the musical concept. So, we heard in a row ”Occam’s Razor”, ”The Blind House”, ”Great Expectations”, ”Kneel And Disconnect” and ”Drawing The Line”. After thanking us in Greek saying ”efharisto poly Thessaloniki”, the gifted musician called Steven Wilson showed us why we have to always count on him, regarding to all aspects of pleasure connected to his musical vision. What followed is beyond any description and with the amazing sound as a strong ally, we witnessed a setlist made out of the best scenarios of our minds.
Next was ”Open Car”, with its groovy feeling being mostly better and even heavier. Followed by ”Lazarus”, with everyone singing along and Wilson really enjoying and jumping up and down. Without shoes of course, as he always does. And the first big surprise was the epic ”Russia On Ice”. One of the longest songs of the band, showcasing the special atmosphere of one of my favourite albums of the band, ”Lightbulb Sun”. Since there is such a balanced setlist, we can’t help but smiling eager to hear more and ”Anesthesize” makes us float in a sea of feelings. After all, ”Fear Of A Blank Planet” was a highly acclaimed album by all fans, and that’s why we heard three songs totally from it. Without understanding, there was time for the band to do a short ten minute break before coming to finish what they had started.
I dare saying that the second half of the show was even better and surely mostly unexpected, regarding which songs we managed to listen. Starting with the little opus called ”Time Flies” from the latest album, the band shows us that when musicians enjoy what they do and respect their fans, they don’t have to overreact or getting expendable by saying common phrases that everyone wants to listen. Just a look on the keyboard player Richard Barbieri, getting lost within the atmospheres to the gaps he filled, or the big smile of the very stylish Colin Edwin on bass, shows all of the above in the best possible way. To speak about the monster behind the drum kit called Gavin Harrison would be the least naive and would make me feel stupid. Simply amazing and with immeasurable fantasy in his playing. Food for the eyes and the ears together.
The best part of the show was in my humble opinion the divine ”Even Less”. Played in its long version, as it appears on the ”Recordings” compilation and not its initial form in ”Stupid Dream”, meaning fifteen minutes of pure feeling and emotions coming one after the other. It was something I didn’t expect (as most of us I believe). Finishing the song in total yells and screams, the band goes forth without hesitation to ”The Sound Of Musak”. Again in my opinion, ”In Absentia” is the best album they have done so far, so it was more than a pleasure to listen to this one again. Followed by two more from ”Fear Of A Blank Planet”, played as in the album, ”Way Out Of Here” with its touching melodies and ”Sleep Together” with its heavy outbursts. That was the end of the normal set, and later on they returned for the encore.
Which encore, happened to be the cherry on a specially handled chocolate cake, leaving us with the sweetest taste for the end. Wilson told us that ”Stars Die” was the first attempt of the band to be played on the radio, despite they never did. It was the first time to listen to this one in these three times, one of the best songs ever written by the band. And when it was over and Wilson told us they’re going to close with two songs from ”In Absentia”, everyone got happier. So, it was ”Blackest Eyes” that set the stage for some headbanging, with Wilson acting like an 18-year old metaller, giving all he had, and last but not least, ”Trains” put the end in the best show of Porcupine Tree in Greece so far.
Two hours of a great trip on the present and past of the band, with a very bright look on their future. Once they continue on like this, none of us must be afraid of being let down. There is not a simple chance. After all, the man who is responsible for saving Opeth’s career, knows best what to do with his band. Well done gentlemen. We’re taking for granted your promise of not waiting five more years to see you and we wait for it as soon as possible. And still the sky moves sideways…
Aggelos “Redneck” Katsouras.