“Creators of feelings, creators of songs?”
Before the show
We´ve had to wait too many years but, at last, one of the greatest progressive bands nowadays visited us with “In Absentia”, a brand new album released by a major.
Firstly I would like to admit that I was a fan of Wilson and co. from 1993 until “Signify”… and with “In Absentia” my faith in the band came back again. But I won´t compare an album and the magic of a live show.. and, sincerely, I didn´t like the band. From a global point of view the show was good. The band creates atmospheres, pressured and relaxed ambient's, and they give the people what they want, but… is Wilson´s experience so metaphysical?. Not enough. Later on I´ll write about the show.
The promoters, great prog lovers named Paco and Luis, haven´t reasons to be nervous: the show was nearly sold-out with 500 boys and girls hungry for Porcupine. There were lots of urban tribes.. proggers, heavies tired of guitar heroes (that night Malmsteen also played in Madrid), snobs (dozens!!), hippies smoking hash as if it was the end of the world,...
After having some beers with Carlos Plaza a.k.a. Kotebel, Gerardo (drummer of Témpano) and Jesús Filardi (Galadriel), Raúl Núñez (the guy of the photos) and I went to the venue for a short and unexpected press conference with Wilson. Few media (four, one of them from Argentina) and great questions like: "do you like Madrid?” or “When are you going to play in Argentina?”. As I supposed, Wilson didn´t answer “No, I hate Madrid” or “I´ll play in Argentina or Iceland if they pay me for”, so I won´t write anymore. I only could ask a question about the exchange of influences between Opeth and Porcupine Tree. Steve said that there is more P.Tree in Opeth´s music but there are also Opeth´s influences when he writes music.
The moment of the truth. Again John Wesley, the band´s new guitar player, opened a show in Spain with a acoustic set (he did the same in “Brave´s” tour). He plays acoustic guitar very well and the crowd gave him some applause. You have to be a man without fear to play acoustic songs before a Porcupine or Marillion´s show.
After some (long) minutes the dream appeared. Wilson with dark glasses and barefoot over a carpet along with a great Wesley playing rhythm guitar; Richard Barbieri and his keyboards; Colin Edwin with a funny hat; and the surprise: Gavin Harrison, a wonderful drummer who was the biggest surprise of the night.
And the set-list?. As you can imagine the show focused on “In Absentia” and the band´s latest albums. The first song, "Blackest Eyes", was a bomb. The sound was perfect and the band played as a swiss clock. Other songs taken from the last album were "Gravity Eyelids", "Wedding Nails", "Strip the Soul", "The Sound of Muzzak" and "Heart Attack in a Lay By", and the crowd went wild with each song. As I wrote, the rest of the set-list was taken from the band´s last stage. "Even Less" and "Tinto Brass" (second encore introducing Edwin´s electric T-shirt) from “Stupid Dream”, and "Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth before it´s Recycled" and "Shesmovedon" from “Lightbulb Sun”. The golden age of the band was represented by "Waiting (Phase I)" from “Signify” and the first encore "Dark Matter" from “Sky Moves Sideways”.
The crowd was in a cloud and followed the astral journey proposed by Wilson. To be honest, and other fans agreed, that “journey” seemed a “walk”. The band created hypnotic atmospheres and a certain psych feeling, but the ship was never really launched. In fact, when Wilson asked for absolute silence before "Heart Attack in a Lay By" the scene was funny because he hasn´t Roger Waters charisma and the song wasn´t “Shine on you Crazy Diamond”. One of the highlights was, of course, the guitar work with a great Wesley supporting Wilson with imagination and skill. Barbieri didn´t shine at all and he only filled the spaces between the guitars. And if the drummer wasn´t Gavin Harrison, I´d have seen the tasteless rhythm section of my life. Colin Edwin is, undoubtedly, the worst bass player I´ve ever listened to on stage. Without imagination and playing mediocre atmospheric bass lines. A loop was enough. As for Gavin, he was the surprise.. he not only had to do his job but also had to pour some salt on Colin´s bass.
And the show was over. I met Wesley (a really nice guy) and I had the chance to talk to Wilson. He´s very polite and we talked about his musical tastes, about Messugah, about Opeth´s new album, about his work producing the last album of Jan Garbarek´s daughter (a jazz album just two days after finishing Opeth´s “Deliverance” !) and even he wanted to write the set-list for me himself.. the pity was that the manager-babysitter took him out without a word. I suppose that´s the price you have to pay when you are in a major.
An anecdote: Wilson can´t mention the word “progressive” in his interviews. It´s really funny how he tries to explain the music as "Globally composed albums and not a collection of songs, with influences from the 70´s". Well, it´s ok for me. He has to do his best in order to promote his work.
Well, that´s all.. I hope you´ll understand the difference. The show was good but that wasn´t what I´ve been waiting for.. on stage the band is far from a progressive band. A great band playing intelligent art rock ready to be followed by NME´s readers. The sky won´t move anymore.