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As stated when Hand.Cannot.Erase came out earlier this year, Steven Wilson is my biggest musical inspiration. He is more than just a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. He is an artist in the true sense of the word, as his albums are conceptual and he does everything in his power to give each album a world of their own, or their very own life force if you will. You don’t just listen to his albums… you immerse yourself in them. So of course when a tour was announced for the new album, I couldn’t wait. Having previously seen Steven 5 times (twice in Porcupine Tree, once in Blackfield, and twice solo), I knew to expect the very best live show.

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I have been to The Grove many times for heavy metal shows, but never for a show like this. The venue has many different tiers or levels, and I was used to rushing to the front to secure a spot. However, the venue was seated for this show, and there was no rush to get to my seat. Me and two other members of Aeonic Impulse got there 30 minutes before he started, and enjoyed looking at the exclusive tour only items at the merch booth, including the deluxe version of the new album and a tour program. The tour program reminded me of the many plays I have grown up seeing, and gave me the idea that this was going to be more than a concert, but a theatrical experience. In addition to that, there were signs everywhere that said pictures of the show would not be allowed during the performance under any circumstances (something that Steven did on the previous two tours as well).

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The times said Steven was supposed to start at 8 PM, but it was around 8:15 PM when something started to happen. A video started playing behind the instruments, and showed birds, grass, trees, buildings, cars, and people. All the things you would see in a big metropolis. The presentation had begun. Already it was tying into the story of Hand.Cannot.Erase, an album based on the real life events of Joyce Carol Vincent (a young, popular, attractive woman who lived in the heart of a big metropolis, chose to isolate herself from her family and friends, and was not discovered for three years after her actual death). A repeated note was played over and over throughout.

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Finally, keyboardist Adam Holzman came up on stage and began to play the intro song to the new album, “First Regret”. The image on the screen focused on a beautiful girl, who it was safe to assume was going to be the character the album focused on. The rest of the band came out on stage, to extremely loud cheers, and the band joined in on the epic track, “3 Years Older”. Steven’s band was rounded out by Nick Beggs on bass, who has been with Steven since his first solo tour, as well as newcomers Dave Kilminster on guitar and Craig Blundell on drums, filling in for Guthrie Govan and Marco Minnemann. Immediately it was easy to see the technical proficiency of each member, as well as the chemistry amongst every one on that stage. From the great solos at the end of song, the album continued with the straight forward title track, the electronic based “Perfect Life”, and the incredibly emotional “Routine”. These songs helped enhance the show in different ways. “Hand Cannot Erase” got the crowd singing along, the drum beats and repetitive nature of “Perfect Life” created an amazing ambience, and “Routine” was heavily fueled by the animated images on the screen.

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From there, Steven stepped outside of the album to revisit “Index” from Grace For Drowning. However, it was a revamped version of the song that started with Steven talking the lyrics over the snaps of all the band members before the instruments joined in. It was a creative take that showed a lot of imagination on the band’s part. They continued with the heavy/funky “Home Invasion” and “Regret #9”, which is a jam song that focuses on keyboard and guitar solos. The band stepped away from the album again, and Steven explained how he was not a nostalgic guy when it came to playing his old songs, but certain songs he’s done has stood out. The band then played “Lazarus”, my favorite Porcupine Tree song. It was an emotional moment that made a lot of older Steven Wilson fans happy. Next was a song that was written for Hand.Cannot.Erase but did not make it onto the final tracklist. He explained that it might be recorded and released later this year. The setlist identified the song as “Song X”. It was around 10 minutes long and was a very enjoyable track from start to finish. Before returning to the songs on the album, he continued with “Harmony Korine”, which he has played on every one of his solo tours so far, and remains a favorite.

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He finished the rest of the album (skipping “Transience”) with the extremely progressive “Ancestral” and the emotional ballad “Happy Returns”, which was my favorite song from the album. It was a fitting closer, and the crowd cheered loudly as the band walked off stage to the sound of “Ascendant Here On…” over the speaker. A see through curtain was put in place as the crowd cheered, and images where projected on it. Anyone who saw the last Steven Wilson tour would remember it is the intro video to “The Watchmaker”. The video lasted tour minutes and consisted of surreal images and drone sounds before the band tackled the highly progressive track. Even though I had seen “The Watchmaker before”, it was still one of the highlights of the night thanks to the images of clocks synced up to the images. It reminded me of the videos Pink Floyd used to have when they would play “Time” live. The end of the song went straight into the beginning of “Sleep Together”, another Porcupine Tree song. I had seen Porcupine Tree play this one live on their tour with Coheed and Cambria, and knew how great it was live. It is a very dark and heavy song, and the crowd seemed to love it. Finally, the set was finished off with “The Raven That Refused to Sing”, which was the closer of the last tour. It is an emotional track in a live setting because of Steven’s excellent vocal delivery, the music video being played behind the band, and the post rock guitar tone that happens during the climax of the song.

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Overall, the concert could not have gone better. Aside from the excellent setlist, musical technicality, and visuals, the band was obviously in high spirits. Steven took many breaks to talk to the crowd, and it was the most personable he has ever been. He talked about how cheering during the concert was highly encouraged. He explained why he tends to focus on dark topics in his music and told a funny story about how his manager thought that “Routine” was the darkest song Steven has ever written. He took time to talk about his new signature model acoustic guitar, which he played during the show, and how the simple songs he writes tends to be his favorites. And finally he talked about his love of music from the 1980s, especially shoeguaze. He would keep saying how he knew he was talking a lot and promised that he would be quiet. The two hour set was an incredible experience, and I couldn’t wait to relive it again.

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Setlist:

Intro (First Regret Loop Intro)

  1. First Regret
  2. 3 Years Older
  3. Hand Cannot Erase
  4. Perfect Life
  5. Routine
  6. Index
  7. Home Invasion
  8. Regret #9
  9. Lazarus (Porcupine Tree Song)

  10. Song X
  11. Harmony Korine
  12. Ancestral
  13. Happy Returns
  14. Ascendant Here On…
    Temporal (Bass Communion Song) (Watchmaker Intro Video)
     
  15. The Watchmaker
  16. Sleep Together (Porcupine Tree Song)

    Encore:

  17. The Raven That Refused to Sing
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