If you weren’t lucky enough to make it down to the premiere special screening in May at the Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square, the wait is over, you too can now experience the visual feast that is a Porcupine Tree live and from the comfort of your sofa or bed no less!
Anesthetize follows the band’s latest album ‘The Incident’ which was released last year and received top notch reviews pretty much universally. The 130 minute film, Directed by long time collaborator Lasse Hoile, features tracks that span the bands illustrious career filmed via high definition on multiple cameras over two concerts held at the 013 venue in Tilburg, in 2008.
My ears are relatively naive to the progressive sound of Porcupine Tree so I was interested to see whether a DVD capture of their renowned live show would be enough to win me over.
In a scene that is not dissimilar to Wayne Isham video for Muse single ‘Resistance’, the intro of the DVD shows images of queuing fans, shuffling feet, soundtracked by a haunting amalgamation of noises where only the fans cheering and whistling are decipherable. It leads onto images of the band heading through the tunnels of the backstage area, tinted and in slow motion to add drama and intrigue.The Camera finally focuses on the stage where we see a trio of large screens where three sets of defiant yet vulnerable young eyes stare back at us. Within a short moment the band step on stage, their figures silhouetted against the blue tinted visual displays, singer and group founder Steven Wilson standing strong at the front.
To accompany the first track ‘Fear of a Blank Planet’ images of Council flats, childish hands pressing buttons on console controls,and teenagers participating in hyper speed head-banging engage the audience. For Dvd title track ‘Anesthetiize’ we get some natty close up shots of the impressive drum kit, an unusual perspective taken from underneath Gavin Harrisons drums where you see the shadow of the stick through the translucent skin and reverberation as it hits. The songs perfectly harmonizing vocals are positively spine tingling and seem effortless for the frontman, the only sign of tax being the movement of his hair as the exhaled air penetrates his flopping fringe. A mightily impressive guitar solo follows and shots of the crowd capture a hypnotized state, they look measured and composed in their reaction but in fact the crowd is at complete mercy of the boys. For ‘Way Out of Here’ the screen features a teenage girl standing on a train station ‘dreaming of escape’, quite appropriate as an angst ridden teen seems to be the perspective of the lyrics throughout this track, something which is repeated during ‘Sleep of No Dreaming’ where Wilson speaks of looking back at age 16.
‘Cheating the Polygraph’ has a hippy, transient feel to it, and it’s a journey of a song which during its duration darts between hard rocking and moments where you really hear the guitar sing. The DVD highlight for me is B side favourite ‘Half Light’ which begins with Richard Barbieri opting for the emotive sounds of the organ synth. What already seems like an otherworldly song is compounded with a guitar that glows and changes colour throughout the song. It catches you unawares with its dreamy and heart tugging melody, dare I say a bit a tearjerker and the perfect accompaniment to watching the sun rise with a loved one! After the serenity and beauty of the previous, ‘Sever’ rears its feisty head and delivers a definite change of mood.‘Wedding Nails’ is another belting track, this time with some funky riffs, the combinations allowing for full power head banging to commence in the front row. As well as some extremely fancy finger work on the guitar, the drummers speedy footwork is showcased with some more extreme close ups, this time of the pedals, which are flanked by much needed bottles of water. Throughout the DVD all members of the band get their moment in the spotlight and for the start of ‘Strip the Soul/Dot Three’ the bassline starts and Colin Edwin is lit in by a golden hue, this is his time.
Special mention should go to non official band member John Wesley who not only adds another layer with his guitaring, both electric and acoustic, his skill at pitch perfect harmonizing with the frontman, as well as standout solo vocal contributions make him more than a vital cog in the machine.
The show concludes with a powerful statement, with large text mirroring the rather ballsy lyrics of ‘Halo’. Controversial/tongue in cheek phrases relating to God, that wouldn’t look out of place on t- shirts that frequent stands in Camden, fill the screens and the show reaches its climax in gutsy style.
As their time on stage draws to a close they dismount from their separate performing areas, pointing and clapping back at their adoring crowd and soaking up the appreciation with bows, drummer Gavin mopping the evidence of success off his brow . Every audience member in the pit has raised their arms to clap above their heads with all fans in the gods on their feet. With that , the band depart and we are once again back in the sepia maze of corridors backstage.
It’s obvious why they repeatedly choose to collaborate with Danish born Hoile. Having previously directed videos ‘Blackfield’ and ‘Time Flies’ as well as the ‘Blackfield Live in NY’ DVD they clearly share a vision, the images chosen, created and manipulated to appear on the large screens complement the bands unique sound perfectly. The manner in which the show has been put on, whilst being spectacular is by no means overindulgent or extravagant like many other concerts with a budget for stage enhancement. With this particular live experience, as a viewer you feel more as though you are part of an art installation, just one that takes place in a rather grand gallery space!!
For fans this is an absolute essential for the collection, and for Porcupine Tree virgins and Video Art fanatics alike I would similarly recommend a viewing. Whether you end up finding a new favourite band or not, you are at last sure to witness, via the screen of your TV or laptop, a band who are unfaltering in their ability to put on a flawless and inspiring show.
The DVD is available on Kscope as either a 2 Disc set (DVD or Blue Ray) or a single DVD release. A Limited 4 Disc (DVD,Blue-Ray +2CD) Special Edition version will also be available exclusively through the bands website ( www.Porcupinetree.com). The Special Edition will take the form of a cloth bound hard back 120 page book featuring live photography of the band taken over 5 years. The CDS also include a bonus track not featured in the film.