As the creative genius behind arguably one of the greatest bands of all time, Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson has already achieved massive success (both critically and artistically); however, as a solo artist, well, he’s just getting started. Wilson recently completed his second solo record, Grace for Drowning, and he’s currently embarking on a tour in support of it. Last night, he stopped at the Temple Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, and fans were treated to fantastic renditions of select tracks from the aforementioned record, as well as its predecessor, Insurgentes.
Of the differences between the two albums, Wilson has said,
“The root of Insurgenteswas very much the 80s and the music that was around me as I was growing up. The interesting music was largely so-called “post-punk” and “new wave”…artists like Joy Division, The Cure, Cocteau Twins, and Talking Heads… The root of Grace for Drowningis 70s. That’s the music that I had to go back and discover as a teenager…I discovered this extraordinary period in music, particularly the first five years of the 1970s, and I think you can hear that in the record.”
Grace for Drowningcontinues Wilson’s signature blend of wonderful songwriting and mind-blowing complexity while also adding in a significant amount of jazz instruments, rhythms, and dynamics. In a way, it simultaneously pays homage to his influences (especially King Crimson) while also making a bold and original statement about his identity as a solo artist.
As for the performance, Wilson and his musicians were fantastic. Each member walked on stage sequentially, helping to build “No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun” into a full introduction for Wilson. They played the first few songs behind a net, allowing projected images of ghastly subjects (which are almost synonymous with Wilson) to display in front and behind them. Eventually, the screen dropped and the audience cheered. The rest of the performance went wonderfully, and Wilson ended the night by performing “No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun” while wearing a gas mask.
The visuals complemented the music greatly. Between the images on the screen (which were consistently macabre, moody, and appropriate) and the way the lights changed colors and varied oscillation, Wilson was shrouded in superb sights. The most interesting aspect, though, was the way one of Wilson’s guitars had glowing red frets and a digital body which constantly changed its images. Also, he conveyed an air of modesty and humility as he spoke about this being his first solo tour (as if he was more vulnerable to rejection because he didn’t have the backing of the ‘Tree behind him). There was no need to worry, though; the audience often gave standing ovations after songs.
Steven Wilson gave an incredible show last night; the songs were performed perfectly, the visuals were simple yet effective, and the audience loved ever second of it. It’s always nice to be surrounded by fellow fans (especially when the artist isn’t extremely well-known), and last night definitely had the vibe of an intimate gathering among an artist and his devotees. Well done, Steven, as always.
For the full set list, see below. Also, check out my review of Grace for Drowning and my relatively recent interview with Steven Wilson.
1. No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun
3. Deform to Form a Star
6. Remainder the Black Dog
7. Harmony Korine
9. Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye
10. No Part of Me
11. Veneno Para Las Hadas
12. Raider II
13. No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun