What do you get when you put Steven Wilson and his world class musicians on one of the biggest musical stages of the world?
Last week I went to London with my Significant Other. Our goal for this trip was to end up in Royal Albert Hall to see and hear Steven Wilson in action. You find yourself sitting in the big round historical building, and thinking, well, that was it, I'm here...but then the music starts, and you forget time and place. I am proud to say that I have been in musical heaven, a heaven where the visual plays just as big a part of the whole picture as the audio does.
Steven Wilson can go on stage and play whatever he wants, and I will be at the tip of my chair, drawn into his sometimes quite dark world. But it is not a world without hope. His latest album, Hand. Cannot. Erase. made most of the Monday night's concert, and it was raw musical power, presented by this humble human standing barefoot on stage. The song that moved me most from the first night was Routine. I was completely blown away by the hard to watch video running in the back, and the amazing voice of Ninet Tayeb, in divine union with the band. It was like entering another universe, where only music and images existed. At that moment it didn't matter where we were, as the scene disappeared, and all that was, was the story. How can a song feel cathartic? I don't know how Steven Wilson did it, but he did. I felt cleansed after Routine, born again...if that makes sense at all?
I have heard a lot of people saying they love Steven Wilson, but they miss Porcupine Tree... I cannot agree with them. I feel that him being in charge of all the creative decisions have brought out the truly magnificent musician that he is. And being who he is, he can work with the best of the best. When I go to concerts, I speak of trust...weird, I know. But I have trust the musicians to be able to play their instruments, to be able to sing, and to be able to give me an as strong experience as the albums do. And you would think that this went without saying, but it doesn't always in this age of auto tune and cheating... But there is nothing fake about the talents of Steven Wilson. His voice is even, from what I can hear, getting better and better. And it was a pleasure to see him playing my favourite part on Drive Home, and the solo on Dark Matter. He is what I would call a whole musician. He doesn't just make music, he is music. And I trusted both him and his band completely.
He doesn't always make easy to listen music, and that is ok. I don't think music should be easy accessible all the time. The music you have to work on to understand ends up being the music that stays with you for a life time. I didn't understand Watchmaker to begin with, but now it is one of my favourite songs of his. And what they did with it in Royal Albert Hall was just beyond anything I have ever seen. They rolled down a see through screen, so that we could still see them (the musicians), but on the screen they showed a horror movie. I felt like entering into a gothic novel where the monster is hunting us down sublime mountains... and just when you really can't read another word, because it has scared you to your core, you still read on.
I am so happy to have been in Royal Albert Hall for both nights, even the songs I didn't know too well made an impression. Grace for Drowning is a difficult album, but as I said earlier, difficult is good. It means you have to make an effort, it isn't digested before it reaches you, it means that the artist trusts his fans to be intelligent enough to make that effort. Though, I must admit I had to look away for the last part of Raider II. It was 'the Beast' as he referred to it, and I see that now.
Steven Wilson said he was humbled to be on the Royal Albert Hall stage, and I can understand his feelings. But what he should never doubt is that he belongs in this hall of legends.
I am sure all the great musicians through the ages were sitting on the circle barrier, dangling their feet, with shimmering wings moving softly to the rhythm, and rejoicing in the genius music of this humble man. May he create a lot of music still, and many more shows, and may I be lucky enough to be in the audience again.
So what do you get when you put Steven Wilson and his world class musicians on one of the biggest musical stages of the world?
You get a sublime experience earthly words cannot describe. The soul transcends to a higher plane of existence, and for those two days it might see a glimmer of a higher truth only the real legislators of the world can convey...Steven Wilson, you amaze me.