Porcupine Tree & Bigelf: Live, May 2nd 2010
Last Sunday I had the opportunity to see Porcupine Tree in Detroit. The beauty of this was twofold. First, bands like this don’t come to my area very often. Second, I was able to get a Sunday night off during U of M graduation weekend (very busy, especially when the President gives the commencement address).
The opening act Was Bigelf. I was unfamiliar with them, so I didn’t know what to expect. What a treat they were. It’s keyboard laden retro heavy rock all the way, with a bit of stage theatrics. The best description is a cross between Deep Purple and Alice Cooper.
Impresario (or Damon Fox) is the lead singer, keyboard player, and front man. He has long dark hair, a beard, wears eyeliner, and dons a top hat. All the guys sported some kind of goth influence in their fashion choices. Impresario has his equipment (including a Mellotron) positioned at each side, so he can play two boards while facing the audience. It gives a lot a room for stage antics, while still jamming on the keys.
The music itself was just about what you would expect. Solid retro, Ian Gillan style vocals, blistering guitar, and no surprises. It’s a lot of fun at a show, and these guys pull it off very well. My friend who was with me thought that the compositions might not hold up as well on a studio recording, and it made me wonder as well (I have since found he was correct). But it didn’t matter, because we were having a great time, and the band is a great live act. Not everybody shared this opinion (especially the guy behind me, who was bitching about them to no end), but I would definitely go see Bigelf again.
During the break between acts, there was announcement about Porcupine Tree’s live performance of “The Incident.” I guess I hadn’t researched this tour fully enough, but it was a bit of a disappointment for my buddy and I. It’s a completely reasonable choice, but neither of us are huge fans of the last three albums. Be that as it may, we still expected a good concert.
Porcupine Tree did not let us down. It is an ambitious thing to perform an album long opus, and the band did it masterfully. Of course the multimedia projections added quite a bit to the experience. The second half provided an eclectic mix of Porcupine Tree songs. “Anesthetize” was absolutely stunning, and “Blackest Eyes” drove the crowd into a frenzy. They did go back to “Lightbulb Sun” for the first two numbers, but nothing else before “In Absentia.” “Hatesong” and “Russia on Ice” are good, but I would rather have heard something like the title track from that album, or “How is your Life Today?”
They didn’t really stray from the studio recordings, but their compositions generally don’t leave much room for improvisation. The difference is the energy, and watching the musicians perform. Gavin Harrison is especially great to see as he throws together his combinations. This I already knew, as I had seen him with King Crimson in 2008.
My only issue was the set list. For many of us this was our first opportunity to see Porcupine Tree. It would have been nice for them to throw out a few more things for fans of the earlier albums. But, you can’t have everything. The bottom line is that it was a really good show. I would definitely recommend catching a show if you can.