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Porcupine Tree - Royal Albert Hall, London - Oct 14th 2010 (Live Review)

Friday, 15 October 2010 Written by Matt Hamm
Porcupine Tree @ the Royal Albert Hall

In their biggest UK gig to date, Grammy nominated prog rockers Porcupine Tree took to the Royal Albert Hall stage to prove their worth amongst musical royalty this week. Ending a long tour promoting their 2009 album ‘The Incident’, Steve Wilson and the gang promised something a little different for their loyal fans in a whopping three hour gig.

But what could have been a spectacular celebration of more than 15 years of music, revealed itself as a slightly disappointing shove in the face of a golden opportunity. Revelling in their self called ‘Perverse Porcupine Tree way’, Wilson decided to play tracks that they rarely have in their long tour. Where this falls down, is that those songs are rarely played for one reason; because they aren’t the same quality.

Having been a fan of this great band for awhile, it’s always interesting to see how a group of talented musicians grow as their support spreads wider. Steven Wilson as a frontman has always been an ‘individual’, doing things his own way and has proved as one of the hardest working guys in the business with many musical finger, in many a pie. But what prevailed this week, is that this appreciation for his genius has gone to his head. Where before on stage, he was assured, calm and often charismatic; his demeanour at the Royal Albert Hall was more bravado and posing, than his usual modest brilliance. And so the set rather followed to suit this style.

Broken into 3 segments, the gig featured a stripped down opening made up of more obscure tracks (aside from the great ‘Pure Narcotic’); a middle segment of ‘heavier’ tracks, that rather dragged the audience through long stints of self indulgent instrumental guitar solos, teasing with the inclusion of popular tracks in ‘Even Less’, ‘Open Car’ & ‘Lazarus’; before quickly switching back to another average shrug of an unknown. The third and final chunk, was introduced as the final time they would play tracks from ‘The Incident’ for some time and so the excitement in the audience buzzed and slowly built as the countdown clock neared the end of the break. But aside from the excellent ‘Time Flies’; the band again rather disappointingly leant on the lesser known.

So herein lies the problem; for a band like Porcupine Tree, commercial success isn’t necessarily an object of desire. They have a loyal, large and dedicated fanbase, who follow them worldwide. But you can’t help but feel what a terrible shame that is, that so many people may miss out on their eclectic work. The Royal Albert Hall provided this opportunity. In producing a hit based show, the band would’ve impressed reviewers, fans and everyone they need to create a bit of buzz to snare in a few more PT fans. In turning their back on this opportunity, they kick the pedestal from beneath themselves and crawl back to the relative success they already have gained. And where this might be fine for Steve Wilson and his need to be different, their fans would relish seeing such a different style of band achieve success in the public eye. As their encore suggested in a final bow of ‘Arriving Somewhere…’ and the fantastic ‘Trains’, there is something superb in this prog rock 5 piece; they just need to tear the leash and let it run wild on the wider public.
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