GIG REVIEW: An Evening With STEVEN WILSON Live at The Enmore Theatre, Sydney
There are two consistent factors to Steven Wilson’s music, conceptual rock albums that take listeners on extraordinary musical journeys and live show performances that raise the bar set amongst arresting multimedia visuals and seismic quadraphonic sound. A seriously delayed start to the show meant the Sydney audience who were eager to witness Wilson’s ‘ ‘To The Bone’ tour had to queue right around the block of the Enmore Theatre. This was a largely all seated affair with the exception of a group of people right at the back. Wilson proclaimed this as “very high brow” yet no one would be excluded from getting the full and very eclectic live show experience that was advertised.
When the lights dimmed down, the audience was presented with a selection of images superimposed with a singular word, the Scientology church covered with the word fiction, Richard Nixon with the word lie, someone lending a hand to a refugee and the word compassion, The Ku Klux Klan and the word hate and a smartphone with social media apps superimposed by the word disinformation, which then scrambled amongst them suggesting many different alternative realities. These ideas are part of what constitutes someone’s perspective of truth and the conceptual premise of ‘To The Bone’. Wilson’s music at its core has always been philosophical but with his latest album and tour it is now literally at the front and center of the stage.
The show was divided into two sets with a short intermission as well as a set list comprised of his current solo material and some Porcupine Tree crowd pleasers that are guaranteed to go down well in any live setting.
In the last 10 years Wilson’s musical evolution into jazz-fusion, trip hop and more accessible material has raised his profile significantly but it’s his exploration into pop/disco songwriting that has really polarized his older male fans, who have always considered him as an artist that remained creatively authentic and never compromised artistically throughout his career. Wilson however never intended to be a cult hero to a few, he has always wished to reach out to fans that may not be you typical progressive rock/metal enthusiasts.
Wilson jokingly schooled the small number of under 25 spectators, who were apparently too young to know what an electric guitar is, while the rest of the crowd were asked to sit during the first half of the show but then allowed to stand up for the second half which implied Wilson had planned to make people dance to his self described joyous pop music when he played his contentious song “Permenating”. It was an indulgence received with cheerful grace by an audience that knew his sonic admiration for Abba and The Bee Gees would be short with the rest of the show having plenty more musical range to offer.
The members of Wilson’s band are some of the finest musicians in show business and demonstrated their brilliance. The line up has changed a few times in guitars and drums but bassist Nick Beggs and keyboardist Adam Holzman are now in their fourth world tour with Steven Wilson’s band and are very much a part of the fabric and DNA of his music.
Matching music with visuals has always been the vision behind many touring bands and Wilson’s ambition is to certainly give his audience a stellar backdrop to accompany his music. Unfortunately the multimedia presentation and the quadrophonic sound didn’t make the show outstanding or even unusually different to his previous tours even though he is now playing in slightly bigger theatres and seems to have more money to spend on production, however it didn’t drastically enhance the quality of the music.
His back catalogue is without question quite remarkable; his musical legacy with Porcupine Tree was unleashed on the night with heavy compositions like “The Creator Has a Master Tape” and “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here”. Live renditions from his solo catalogue that stood out included the epic “Home Invasion”, the dark brooding “Ancestral” The mesmerizing “Detonating” and the hopeful and uplifting encore song “Song of Unborn”.
A packed Enmore Theatre showcased a genuine interest from Sydney siders for ambitious and provoking music. Steven Wilson has certainly gained new fans that are outsiders to the musical world he has always inhabited yet he still manages to hold onto his devoted fans who have either frowned upon or respected but largely embraced his decision to go into a more pop direction. It hasn’t tarnished his standing in modern art rock music but time will tell if he chooses to continue down this new musical path or if he will again completely reinvent himself.