GIG REVIEW: An Evening With STEVEN WILSON Live At Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane
I want to preface this by saying that I guess I was incredibly lucky to attend this gig. Having only heard very few of Steven Wilson’s solo songs by proxy, and only knowing of a few Porcupine Tree tracks, yet recognizing how much of a brilliant composer and musician that he is was actually probably the only way I could have experienced the full potential of this show. Sunday nights in Brisbane are always hit and miss – especially when a show is held at Eatons Hill Hotel which is situated 12 kilometers- out of the city center. So you can imagine my surprise when rocking up to the show that the line was all the way out the front door and into the car park. Tonight was always going it be pretty special as we were being treated to not one set, but two.
Beginning the first of his two sets of the night by playing his album ‘Hand Cannot Erase’ in full. With the exception of some minor technical issues with his electric guitar (which seemed to be remedied at the conclusion of the first song), there was very little you could falter. The ambience was quite impressive and was far more enjoyable than I would have thought for this type of concert.
Opening the night by stating “We play melancholic music but we do it with a smile on our faces so it makes everyone happy” framed the mindset for the night, and I have to admit, it was really enjoyable. The melancholic undertones in Wilson’s music really do shine through in a live sense, but so do those introspective pieces that give a fleeting sense of uplifting. This perhaps shone through greatest in his ‘Hand Cannot Erase’ set, but was also quite prevalent in the second set of the night.
Musically Wilson’s band was quite remarkable and while there wasn’t any particular moments where my mind was completely blown, there were several times I was amazed at what I saw. There was obviously going to be some limitations to the work of the night, with one main one being the absence of singer Ninet Tayeb for vocals on the track Perfect Life. Wilson charismatically addressed this before the songs commencement stating “I’m using this piece of Apple technology and know that I am cheating, but at least I am honest about it” remarking about the Apple Mac on stage.
The evening followed a pretty systemic pattern of song followed by crowd engagement, but it was done in a way that made the whole show just seem ‘personal’. Wilson was ever the statesman and his touch just made every ounce of the night that much more intimate. He may have been playing to a crowd of several hundred people, but it did feel like every single song was personal and directed towards you.
After finishing ‘Hand Cannot Erase’, the band took a brief break and then returned for a second set which consisted of his solo project material and also some of his work through Porcupine Tree. This set seemed to garner the greatest response from the crowd and you could tell that the songs were carefully picked to give the fans the greatest show. Offering tribute songs to both David Bowie and Prince throughout the set was another point which seemed to heighten the crowd reaction.
Not knowing what I was getting myself into at the beginning of the night, I ended up leaving this show with a great sense of enlightenment and Steven Wilson had made another fan. This wasn’t a show you attended for the band, this was a show that you attended for the performance – and everything was cultivated in a way that made it impossible for you not to be drawn into Wilson’s melancholic world of sadness and beauty. There are very few contemporary musicians/composers that can stand atop a stage and put on a visual and aural display like Wilson did, and few more that can move a crowd while doing it – but that’s exactly what Wilson and his music did, and is exactly why the Brisbane crowd turned out in force like they did.