The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Live: Steven Wilson

The Porcupine Tree man brought his solo show to the Academy – with mixed results


1st March 2013

Academy 1

It’s hardly surprising if you haven’t heard of Steven Wilson, but this is a man who has been a mainstay of progressive rock’s rehabilitation through the 90s and 00s with Porcupine Tree, who sold out a gig at the Royal Albert Hall at the end of their last tour. Wilson’s solo project, which began in 2008, is now onto its third album, which was written specifically for the touring band.

The group reads as a who’s who of progressive rock, with guitar virtuoso Guthrie Govan and drummer Marco Minneman lending the metal expertise in contrast to the jazz backgrounds of Adam Holzman, keyboards, and Manchester University graduate Theo Travis on woodwinds. Playing bass and Chapman Stick was former Kajagoogoo member Nick Beggs, no longer playing songs like ‘Too Shy’.

The performance was set up in the same way that Wilson makes his recordings, that being the whole musical experience should be concentrated upon, hence the decision for it to be seated and the taking of pictures forbidden. The complexity of the structures of many of the songs, such as the 25 minute epic ‘Raider II’, and the deep emotional connotations of ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’ benefited from this perfectionist approach, however harder edged numbers such as ‘Remainder The Black Dog’ and ‘Harmony Korine’ begged for the opportunity for audience members to express themselves physically.

The suitability of Academy 1, or lack of, was a major problem for the performance. Wilson’s only previous venue for this project was Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, and one feels that the theatricality and immersiveness of the performance, with accompanying videos on a back-screen which got partially washed out by the stage lighting, would have benefited from a similar venue.