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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Porcupine Tree

Live at the Grove of Anaheim May, 2007

Review by Michael Bader

Touring in support of their April 2007 release, Fear of a Blank Planet, Porcupine Tree rolled into Southern California for two nights, this stop being the Grove of Anaheim which sports one of the better sound systems for a 1,000 seat venue.
Lead guitarist / lead singer Steve Wilson, bassist Colin Edwin, drummer Gavin Harrison, John Wesley (guitar and backing vocals) and keyboards Richard Barbieri followed up their Los Angeles show with a dramatically strong and driving 2 hour appearance.

I love going to shows where a group will perform any one of their albums in its entirety. Also beloved by this writer are renditions that offer a taste of the studio performance mixed with variations, improvisations or jams that differ from the studio version. There was no disappointment when the first set featured Fear of a Blank Planet from start to finish.
     
The stream of consciousness that appears in and out of the video backdrop of the Fear... set of the show is how exploration breaks adolescent boredom. Traveling to less visited places and popping pills appeared throughout the six song set as a means for young girls and boys to find some meaning in a confusing world of endless choices. The performance led me to examine the album’s lyrics. “Fear,” “Anesthetize,” “Way Out of Here” and “Sleep Together” reaffirmed the message.

Fear of a Blank Planet finds contributions from veteran artists, Robert Fripp of King Crimson/Fripp & Eno fame and Rush’s Alex Lifeson. Steve Wilson considers Robert Fripp one of the most important musicians, if not the most important musician in his life and Alex Lifeson as one of the most underrated guitarists.
     
Having not heard the new album prior to the show, my impression was that Steve Wilson’s writing and sound style was evident throughout the six song album. The blend of driving rock and roll, heavy metal bass lines mixed into progressive guitar solos fulfilled the anticipations of the sold out crowd of loyal Porcupine Tree lovers. The pre-show buzz in the lobby was spurred by the many fans who had seen the show at Avalon in Hollywood the night before.

The second set of the night's performance offered a slightly different song selection than the previous night. In other cities on this tour, songs like “Sever” and “Half Light” were performed. The Anaheim show was void of these songs but included an emotionally charged performance of “Trains” and a stirring rendition of “.3,” both from the 2002 release, In Absentia. This gig included other In Absentia classics “Gravity Eyelids,” “Drown with Me” and “Blackest Eyes” which have consistently appeared on this tour’s setlists. The 2005 release, Deadwing's, contribution to the show was “Open Car” and the encore of “Halo,” which followed “Mother and Child Divided”.
     
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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