One of the things I really love is live DVDs. And one thing that Steven Wilson has demonstrated many times is that he puts out excellent live DVDs. Whether it be with Porcupine Tree or as a solo artist, his live mixes sound every bit as good as the picture looks. Now he is set to drop his newest concert video, ‘Home Invasion: In Concert At The Royal Albert Hall.’ Shot in support of his ‘To The Bone’ album, this is a show any fan of his will not want to miss.
The Royal Albert Hall has of course been an exclusive and high profile venue for well over a century and is a stunningly beautiful concert space and one that Wilson makes good use of. The show begins with a brief video and shots of the band getting ready to go on before starting up with “Nowhere Now” and it becomes readily apparent that the band is in fine form. He is next joined on stage by Ninet Teyeb for a beautiful rendition of “Pariah,” which was one of the singles from the ‘To The Bone’ album.
Wilson changes things up a bit and, rather than another song from that album, we are instead treated to one of his longer prog classics in the form of “Home Invasion/Regret #9” from the ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’ album. The newer members of his band do a fine job with the older material, and more than hold their own throughout. The crowd then witnesses a true treat by getting an older PT song with “The Creator Had a Mastertape.” It is the first of six PT tracks we are given, which was a very pleasant surprise and very unexpected.
Moving ahead Ninet joins the band again for a slightly reworked version of “People Who Eat Darkness.” She takes on lead vocals for the beginning of the song while Steven joins in later. The true highlight of this song is the shots of the video screen behind them. The song, which despite its very upbeat sound, tells the dark reality of living next door to a terrorist and never suspecting it. In the video he is transformed into a dark, twisted, tentacle mouthed monster and turns an already disturbing topic into a true horror story.
After several more tracks (including a fiery rendition of the PT classic “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here”) we come at last to “Permenanting,” the upbeat pop song that will undoubtedly go down as the most divisive and controversial song of Wilson’s career. And this is a fact that he seems gleefully aware of as before the song he takes the time to tell the crowd that pop music is awesome, and if you don’t like pop music you’re nothing but a music snob. I’ll give you a minute to think upon the irony of him calling anyone a snob before continuing. Love the song, or hate it, the band obviously loves playing it and it’s certainly a notable part of the evening. To turn it up to 11 he bring out the dancers from the music video who enthusiastically spin and dance their way through the song. A bit over the top perhaps, but it IS fun.
This is followed by the final single from the album, the dark synth pop “Song Of I.” The female vocalist on the song does not come onstage, but the band is joined by a large, and at times colorful, hologram of the female dancer that over time grows in number. It’s very effective; a visual highlight for sure and a prime example of his excellent use of the space provided. The heavy ending section is also heavier and more intense in a live setting, which is only proper.
As the concert runs for just over two and a half hours, I am clearly not going to go into every song performed, but a couple more should be mentioned. PT fans will be happy to hear “Lazarus” again, and needless to say it’s as beautiful a piece as ever. And for the first song of the encore, Steven does a solo version of “Even Less” for those of us who’ve actually been listening to him since that song came out. The final song of the evening is fittingly one of his best and most well known, “The Raven That Refused To Sing,” and it’s the perfect closing for the show. His current band lacks a woodwinds player, so that element of the song is missing, but otherwise it is a spot on performance. And a few words should be written about the current live band, and by this I mean the new guitarist and drummer (the rest of the band has stayed the same). They are excellent throughout, and while they don’t bring the pedigree and technical perfection of their predecessors, they do an admirable job on the older, more progressive material, and they seem to be a good fit with the rest of the band. The performance from them, and everyone else, cannot be complained about.
As for the more technical aspects of the show, the concert is exquisitely shot. The colors and lighting are clear and bright, and at no point does the lighting wash out the performers, something that all too often has marred other live DVDs. Of course with Steven mixing the sound it sounds perfect. Rich and textured, you can hear everything clearly and in proper balance. The direction and editing is also the way I at least think it should be, meaning there are not constant camera cuts, and the camera hold still on the performers and on their instruments so you can actually see their hands while they play. The crowd is highly active throughout, but never to distraction. This is really an example of a concert DVD where I can’t think of a thing to change that would make it any better than it already is. The physical release comes in several elaborate packages and includes a documentary and several other songs performed during the sound check in the empty auditorium.
As is to be expected Steven Wilson has put out another fantastic live release, and one that highlights the best of his new material, along with some gems from his long past career. ‘Home Invasion: In Concert At The Royal Albert Hall’ is another highlight for the artist, and certainly one of his strongest live releases and one of the best of the year as well. Purchasing this should be a no brainer for any fan of his, and if you watch it with some people who have never heard him before, will likely make a few new fans as well. Highly recommended.