It’s a dangerous business starting a tour to promote your new album before the album in question has actually hit the record shop shelves, especially if the majority of the set-list consists of this new material.
Yet this is exactly what Porcupine Tree did as they premiered material from their Deadwing album, released two days after the gig. They were so nervous about doing so even front man Steven Wilson admitted it early on, going on to ask the audience (with fingers crossed behind his back), “but you’ve heard it anyway haven’t you?”.
The fact was that the majority of them probably had, such is the power of the internet and that it was released one week earlier in parts of Europe. Despite this, their reaction to the new heavier material was one of unsure applause rather than the full-on cheers reserved for the tried and tested tunes they knew and had come to hear.
The band’s appearance on stage was perhaps another sign of the new direction they have been heading in, both with Deadwing and on its predecessor, In Absentia. All five musicians were dressed in black as they presented some spiky new tracks wrapped in barbed wire.
Using visual effects on a screen at the rear of the stage to add extra depth to the music, ranging from old home movies to menacing bald men with no eyes, of the new material the melodic Lazarus and the ten-minute plus tour de force, Arriving Somewhere But Not Here, were highlights.
There was more crunching guitar evident at this Porcupine Tree gig than any before, yet Wilson still provided some of the more controlled, screeching solos that are his forte as he stood wearing circular black spectacles on an especially laid square of carpet.
An unexpected surprise came with two consecutive tracks from the band’s 1993 album, Up The Downstair. Preceding a rocked up version of the blistering instrumental title track, John Wesley, helping out on guitar for the second tour in a row, lent his voice to the spacey Fadeaway. It would be fair to say that he should have stuck to playing the guitar and left Wilson to the vocal duties!
The main set was rounded off with what has these days replaced Radioactive Toy as the one certainty at a Porcupine Tree gig, Even Less. However, a shorter than usual version of the guitar-drenched fans favourite was a tad disappointing.
For the encore the band showed once more why the tag of ‘prog rock band’ is not an accurate one, with two of their more commercial songs of recent years, She’s Moved On and Trains. The latter included the wonderful sight and sound of what seemed like every member of the audience clapping along in perfect time to a Spanish-style segment of the song.
It was a fine finale, but looking down at your watch and seeing it was only 9.40 you felt as though there had to be at least another half an hour to come. Alas no, but don’t be surprised if the band tour again later this year when the reception for their new material may well include a few more of those cheers.