Steven Wilson – New York Times Live review

By on April 30, 2013

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By STEVE SMITH

“I think it’s fair to say that I’m probably not really known for my three-minute pop songs,” the English singer and multi-instrumentalist Steven Wilson said from the stage of the Best Buy Theater during his concert there on Friday night. “However, very occasionally, I can write something that clocks in at under 15 minutes that I think, you know what?, that’s not bad,” he continued as preface to “Postcard,” a four-and-a-half-minute ballad.

Mr. Wilson, who performs in Pittsburgh on Tuesday as part of aNorth American tour that runs through May 14, is best known as the leader of Porcupine Tree, among the foremost modern standard-bearers for the progressive-rock movement initiated in the late 1960s and early ’70s by bands like King Crimson, Yes and Genesis. Since 1987, when Mr. Wilson started Porcupine Tree as a one-man lark with a fictitious history, he has embraced the genre’s penchant for weighty themes and audiophile integrity, with well-crafted songs — whatever their duration — offsetting florid display.

Even before he put the increasingly metal-infused Porcupine Tree on hiatus in 2010, Mr. Wilson was exploring disparate styles in various enduring side projects and working with other artists as a producer and sideman. In 2008 he released the moody, arty “Insurgentes,” the first album issued under his own name.

A decisive catalyst for the direction Mr. Wilson has pursued in his solo career was an assignment to remix the King Crimson back catalog in 2009. The idiosyncratic blend of dense textures, lurching riffs and jazzy improvisation found on early King Crimson efforts like “Lizard” and “Islands” saturated Mr. Wilson’s second solo album, “Grace for Drowning,” melding with wistful pop melodies and a languid melancholy reminiscent of Pink Floyd.

While touring behind “Grace” with a group of hyper-proficient rock and fusion journeymen, Mr. Wilson conceived his third and latest album, “The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories).” Unabashedly a throwback in notion and execution, this new disc comprises six modern-day ghost stories, swaddled in rich, harmonically sophisticated arrangements and adorned with woodwinds and vintage keyboards.

Amid the gothic trappings, “Raven” mythologizes the contemporary concerns Mr. Wilson has consistently addressed: loneliness, alienation and estrangement from a transitory, disposable world. On Friday he and his band — the woodwind player Theo Travis, the guitarist Guthrie Govan, the keyboardist Adam Holzman, the bassist Nick Beggs and the drummer Marco Minnemann — played “Raven” in full, accompanied by spooky video clips and interspersed with selections from the album’s two precursors. (The encore, “Radioactive Toy,” was from a primordial Porcupine Tree tape, thus qualifying as solo material.)

Like a child conducting his bedroom stereo, Mr. Wilson careered around the stage barefoot, flapping his hands to marshal Mr. Travis’s airy flute and saxophone lines, Mr. Guthrie’s aqueous solos, Mr. Holzman’s shimmering embellishments, and machine-gun bursts from Mr. Beggs and Mr. Minnemann. However recently it came together, the band has impressive chemistry, and plainly enjoys its exertions.

A string of self-deprecating asides indicated how little Mr. Wilson is concerned with being unfashionable. His audience absorbed each new musing and meter raptly, approving with a roar.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 29, 2013

An earlier version of this review misstated the day Mr. Wilson plays in Pittsburgh. It is Tuesday, not Monday.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/29/arts/music/steven-wilson-at-the-best-buy-theater.html?_r=0

DaveHHM

Author: DaveHHM

Dave Luttrull: Owner/Editor in Chief of Hellhound Music. Star Wars nerd, Gamer, Destiny homer, blogger, writer and lover of all things music.

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