More than any other artist, Steven Wilson has been at the forefront of modern prog rock for the last 20 years, first as the leader of the band Porcupine Tree and more recently as a solo artist, and remixer of classic genre albums (his work on releases by artists such as King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and Yes is famous in its own right). Though he has tried to eschew the prog label, preferring the term “conceptual music,” it’s hard to deny his roots – long, multi-part songs; complicated time and key signatures and changes; concepts and stories which span entire albums. His latest solo release, Hand. Cannot. Erase., based on the story of a woman in New York City who died in her apartment and went unnoticed for three years, came out in February, and on Tuesday night he brought it to the 9:30 Club in all of its bombastic, mind-blowing glory.
While the setlist centered around most of the new album (ten of the eleven tracks) being played in order to keep the story intact, Wilson mixed in several tracks from his previous releases, including “Index” from Grace for Drowning and “Lazarus” from Porcupine Tree’s 2005 album Deadwing. He introduced “Harmony Korine” from the album Insurgentes as his “shoegaze” song, noting that he had grown up in the 80s and was as influenced by the music of that era as he was by the progressive rock of the previous decade that most people associate him with. Wilson’s songs are complex, but his band – David Kilminster on guitar, Adam Holzman on keyboards, Nick Beggs (of Kajagoogoo, for that 80s cred) on bass and Chapman Stick, and Craig Blundell on drums – were more than up to the task. By halfway through the show, the seated audience was on their feet and remained that way for the rest of the night.
A Steven Wilson show isn’t simply a performance, it’s a multi-media experience. In addition to constantly shifting and moving lights setting the mood, nearly every song was accompanied by a video or other visuals on a large screen that filled the entire back of the stage. Particularly striking on the large screen was artist Jess Cope’s animated video for “The Raven That Refused to Sing,” the title track of Wilson’s previous album, which closed out the encore.
All photos by Matt Condon. Click to embiggen