Steven Wilson

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author LF date 13/04/15 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

When I first encountered Steven Wilson it was because of his role in the progressive rock band Porcupine Tree, like I imagine is the case with many of his other fans. Since then I've seen him once fronting said band, and once as a solo act on a tour in support of his amazing album from 2013, "The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)". He very recently followed up on this with his fourth solo album, "Hand. Cannot. Erase.", and the show tonight is, therefore, a part of a tour in support of it. Tonight is my first time seeing him in Copenhagen and based on my previous experiences with him, there is every reason to expect an amazing show and I have been jittery with excitement all day when I finally arrive at Amager Bio just before the show's about to begin.

More pictures at Nikola Majkic's website

Steven Wilson

First and foremost, the "Hand.Cannot.Erase." tour is exactly what it announces itself to be. Just as Wilson played his last album in its entirety last time he was here with a new tour, he plays every song but a 2-minute piece from his new record this evening. Thus the show moves forward from softer and more pop-oriented compositions into more heavy and progressive territory, just as the album does, and with a few injections of older solo material and Porcupine Tree songs here and there, the build-up works very well for this live situation indeed. The entire backdrop is a huge screen tonight and as is also typical for Wilson, the show becomes an audiovisual experience as videos that are timed to the music accompany many of the songs. The songs from the new album tell a story of loneliness, loss and isolation in modern, digital society and are accompanied by videos that follow a black-haired, young woman as she wanders the big city.

Wilson tends to work with the same talented bunch of musicians for his recordings as well as live and thus we're truly in for a treat tonight with Marco Minnemann on drums, Adam Holzman on piano, synthesizer and organs, Nick Beggs on bass and Chapman Stick, and last but not least Guthrie Govan on guitar who provides just the right amount of mind-bending solos through the set. The audience definitely knows how lucky they are, and the applause when the various band members enter the stage, and when Wilson presents them by name later on, is loud and long. Wilson is quick to remark on and thank us for our enthusiasm and he seems to really enjoy himself for the duration of the evening, as do the rest of the band. Even as they start by playing five new songs in a row, most people in the audience seem to approve and many are nodding along whilst taking in everything from the stage where there are things to watch in abundance, as it is just as exciting to follow the developments in the videos as it is to just watch these talented musicians at work. The new album material is suddenly interrupted by a show highlight in the form of the ominous "Index" from Wilson's second solo album "Grace For Drowning", and from there the set begins to move in an altogether heavier and more jazzy direction.

"Home Invasion", one of my favorites from Wilson's new record, follows with its rhythmic organ groove and lyrics that simply and precisely communicate one of Wilson's recurring themes of isolation in the modern age with mocking lyrics like "Download sex and download God / Download the funds to meet the cost / Download a dream home and a wife / Download the ocean and the sky". The next highlight, and the most magical moment for me personally, turns up promptly in the form of the very song that got me into Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson in the first place, namely "Lazarus" which Wilson introduces shortly to us as one of the many, many songs he has written that he is still very proud of today. Before they return again to the newer songs, we also get the heavy hitting "Harmony Korine" from Wilson's very first solo album "Insurgentes", introduced as the one he thinks of as his shoegazer-song. When we get to the encore, another element typical for Wilson is introduced as a big, see-through curtain is lowered in front of the stage for the silhouettes of the musicians to decorate for the duration of "The Watchmaker", one out of two tracks played from his 2013 album, and "Sleep Together", the second and final Porcupine Tree song to be featured this evening. The curtain finally drops to make way for the music video of the very last song tonight, a beautiful rendition of the immense sadness and hope of "The Raven That Refused To Sing".

All in all, there is no denying that Steven Wilson is a skillful showman and a talented artist. While I personally enjoy the melancholy and darkness of his previous album a lot, the show we get tonight shows Wilson from many different musical angles and the set is thus a very varied one. He still manages to present all this to us as an evolving, unified expression bound together by certain recurring themes and by a visual component that supports and makes these explicit. His music and his stories capture huge and universal emotions that are communicated to us through compositions that can be simple or complex, optimistic or melancholic, but are always delivered by Wilson and his band with a very plain and relatable human frailty. This impressive way of delivery in combination with the complexity of the music itself quite simply makes Steven Wilson one of my favorite songwriters and artists in the world right now and the show at Amager Bio tonight only serves to ascertain this.

9

Setlist:

  • 1. First Regret
  • 2. 3 Years Older
  • 3. Hand Cannot Erase
  • 4. Perfect Life
  • 5. Routine
  • 6. Index
  • 7. Home Invasion
  • 8. Regret #9
  • 9. Lazarus (Porcupine Tree song)
  • 10. Harmony Korine
  • 11. Ancestral
  • 12. Happy Returns
  • 13. Ascendant Here On...

- Encore

  • 14. The Watchmaker
  • 15. Sleep Together (Porcupine Tree song)

- Encore 2

  • 16. The Raven That Refused To Sing

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