Steven Wilson

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author LF date 05/02/16 venue DR Koncerthuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Going to a Steven Wilson show has never once been a disappointment to me but of course, it's something out of the ordinary in itself to get to experience his music and visuals in as impressive a venue as DR's concert hall. Thus, there was no chance I was going to miss out on tonight's sold out concert with 2015's crowned king of prog, even though I have already seen him once in this tour cycle where he is concentrating mainly on his latest full-length "Hand. Cannot. Erase.". Beforehand, the show has been announced to be expected to last for three hours and making my way there, I feel pretty satisfied that it's for once going to be a seated experience.

All pictures by Philip B. Hansen

Steven Wilson

While a big part of the audience is still pouring in the doors and finding their seats on the different balconies around the room, a video starts playing on stage with clips of different city scenes and buildings, almost entirely emptied of people. As on the beginning of the latest record, this is accompanied by the muffled, echoing sounds of playing children and the encompassing sound provided by the well-placed speakers in the concert hall mixes eerily with the general buzzing of the room. As always, Wilson, who also plays guitars and piano himself, has a group of extremely talented musicians with him, some of them recognizable for those of us who have seen him perform previously. Adam Holzman still handles piano, keyboards, and organ and is the first to enter the stage to play to us the introductory notes of the first song. The others follow shortly with Nick Beggs on bass and Chapman stick being another familiar face while guitarist David Kilminster and drummer Craig Blundell are new additions on this leg of the tour.

As Wilson soon explains to us, the evening is divided into two sets with a twenty-minute break in between, and the first set is his latest album in its entirety. Several of the songs flow into each other seamlessly and the usual visual backing with music videos telling the story of a woman and her lonely life in the city also help to weave the songs together to a grander conceptual narrative. Wilson, who is always great at curating his shows, also does an exceptional job of putting a red thread out for us through the concert tonight by diving a little deeper into his artistic and mental framework with especially two of his song introductions. First, before playing the powerful song "Routine" about a woman losing her husband and two children in a shooting, he spends some time explaining what he sees as the power and allure of what he self-mockingly comments that some people might describe as plain "miserable music" but what he prefers to call "the poetry of melancholy". Since we're all gathered here tonight to listen to his music, he argues, the appreciation of and understanding that this kind of music can also result in some of the most uplifting moments is something we probably all share. The resulting approving sounds that echo from around the room instantly make the huge venue feel a lot more intimate and communal.

The second set consists of a few of Wilson's older songs, as well as a couple of Porcupine Tree covers, and three songs from his newly released mini-album "4 ½". The other song introduction that really makes an impact tonight comes before the classic Porcupine Tree song "Lazarus", which is connected tonight to the recent death of David Bowie, which was announced on the very day Wilson's tour started. Coincidentally, as Wilson explains, they have both written a song called "Lazarus", and coincidentally, Wilson's song is about a character named David, and thus the song is obviously dedicated to Bowie for every show of the tour. He expands on this, providing a very humble tribute to one of his great artistic inspirations, by telling us that the one most inspiring notion he has taken to heart from the work and life of Bowie is to keep moving forward the same way he did. What signifies an artist, he says, is exactly the ability and the drive to keep making something new, and then to burn it no matter its success, to not look back but to keep striving ever forward. For the later encore, he revisits this by purposely defying his own explanation and playing a haunting cover of "Space Oddity" with a little help from David Kilminster, and once again the entire audience seems even more delicately connected through a communal appreciation of the same great artist. While Wilson also laments how Bowie signified an age where experimental music could be at the top of the mainstream and how this is no longer the case, this packed concert hall is, at least, full of fans who deeply appreciate his experimental prog music. Many of his songs receive standing applauses from most of the audience on the ground floor, most notably the heavier, longer and more solo-induced songs such as "Home Invasion" and "Ancestral". On some of the balconies, a few people are standing up for most of the show, banging their heads and singing along to several of these songs as well.

The only regrettable thing about the show is the lack of the Israelian vocalist Ninet Tayeb who also sings on Wilson's latest releases and has been with him on this very tour. As he explains early on, she has her own shows to do as well, but his repeated mention of her absence on songs that she has been there for previously makes me feel like we're not getting the very, very best versions of the songs that we could have. Still, it's hard to complain about anything when the surrounding and loud sound of the concert hall makes every one of his songs play out absolutely beautifully tonight. Especially the huge-sounding and emotional songs "Routine" and the very last song tonight "The Raven That Refused to Sing" hit us with an unprecedented impact, and I would definitely mark this as the most impressive show of Wilson's that I have been to so far, both in terms of sound and showmanship.

Setlist:

- Set 1 (Hand. Cannot. Erase)

  • 1. First Regret
  • 2. 3 Years Older
  • 3. Hand Cannot Erase
  • 4. Perfect Life
  • 5. Routine
  • 6. Home Invasion
  • 7. Regret #9
  • 8. Transcience
  • 9. Ancestral
  • 10. Happy Returns
  • 11. Ascendant Here On...

- Set 2

  • 12. Dark Matter (Porcupine Tree cover)
  • 13. Harmony Korine
  • 14. My Book of Regrets
  • 15. Index
  • 16. Lazarus (Porcupine Tree cover)
  • 17. Don't Hate Me
  • 18. Vermillioncore
  • 19. Sleep Together (Porcupine Tree cover)

- Encore

  • 20. Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
  • 21. The Sound of Muzak (Porcupine Tree cover)
  • 22. The Raven That Refused to Sing

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