Porcupine Tree at The Roxy on May 25

A review of Porcupine Tree at The Roxy on May 25, 2007

, Staff

If there was one thing Porcupine Tree proved at their Roxy show on Friday night, it was that attempting to fit this British band into one genre would be quite complicated. The theme of the night was, most certainly, ‘variety’. From the eclectically heterogeneous mix of young and old amongst the audience, Porcupine Tree’s musical style, diversity ruled.&

The band kick-started their performance with the title track to their latest release, Fear of a Blank Planet, in which lead singer Steven Wilson blanketed a menacingly oscillating guitar riff with a vocal style reminiscent of Kurt Cobain.&

Generally, the music from Fear of a Blank Planet can best be described as something that directly mirrored the images, incessantly shown on the video screen throughout the songs, of pill-popping, gun carrying, children zombies, trudging through the world numbed and apathetic. They were dark, heavy, and dreamy pieces that gently nudged the audience members themselves into the type of psychological no-man’s land the children on-screen experienced. “My Ashes,” the third song of the night, had deep Pink Floydian resonations with its ethereal, synthesized sampling and ghostly but impeccable high-pitched vocal harmonies.

& “Way Out of Here,” another track off the new album, also stayed true to the complex layers of synthesized sampling present in the recording, emitting sounds suggestive of guitar feedback and angelic stringed instrumentation. Gavin Harrison’s tribal drumming snuck beneath screaming guitar solos and created the illusion that the audience had just stepped into a jungle, propelling the raw energy of the song to levels even beyond the realm of the recording.

“Anesthetize,” a seven-minute epic quest of a song, navigated the musical genre spectrum with electrifying liquidity. The song coordinates the album’s characteristically trippy vocal harmonies and droning chants with dirty, growling riff breakdowns and sixteenth note heaves. However, the clichéd video images that depicted traffic, city lights and the wonders of time-lapse photography shown during the song live, was less than necessary for the creative whirlwind of sound it accompanied.

As Steve Wilson, in his politely reserved British manner, assured the audience at the beginning of the show, the group played a fair amount of older material. In the old tunes, the band’s metal muscles were more prominently flexed. Wilson finally had the chance to step back and head-bang to the growling, rhythmic, punches and heaves of low-end distortion euphoria. A surge of electric energy permeated the crowd when fan favorite, “Blackest Eye," off In Absentia was played. Like most of Porcupine Tree’s tunes, the song features hard metallic mayhem immediately followed by the rush of a catchy, liberating, anthem of a chorus. It also boasts a particularly stellar metal riff that consists of two and three note palm-muted figures sandwiched between pauses that begged everyone in the vicinity to raise a fist and head-bang to the down beats.

Not for long however, because songs like “Open Car” and “Twilight” featured the sweet, transcending lullaby of John Wesley’s backing harmonies and vocal solos. In fact the audience was left with this impression, as the show ended with an encore performance that included the mellow, alt. rock fan favorite, “Trains.”&

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