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Concert review: Steven Wilson & Band, Hand. Cannot. Erase.-tour, Tivoli/Vredenburg, Utrecht 24/03/15

April 3rd, 2015 (03:14 am)

Well... why not. Another concert review.
It's been a while, I know.
Not that I haven't been to too many concerts lately, I just didn't bother writing about them, lately - there's been quite a lot on my mind the past couple of months - or perhaps, even the past couple of years - so. what.

So there. Mastermind/composer/multi-instrumentalist Mr. SW and his band hit my city with his appearance lately.
And here are my impressions. As usual - yes, I am a fan, but not without criticism. So, you'll have to Bear. With. Me. on this matter.

Steven Wilson & Band, Hand. Cannot. Erase.-tour, Tivoli/Vredenburg, Utrecht, March 24th, 2015</lj>
Once upon a time, there was this fantastic low-key club venue called "Tivoli" in my hometown Utrecht.
Unfortunately - it is no more. The Suits ordered it to be closed down a couple of years ago. Don't ask me *why*.
Unfortunately, I know more than you might want (me) to know about this.

To cut a long story short, PTB forced underground hippie concert hall Tivoli to team up with the classical theatre "Vredenburg", joining into a new concert venue 'Tivoli/Vredenburg'. Fortunately the 'old' "Vredenburg" concert hall, built in the 1980's for so-called 'classic music' eventually remained preserved. And guess where Mr. SW cum suis were about to perform this evening?
Yep. You got that right. The guy has some sense of taste.

So, after a nice early evening stuffing ourselves up at the local pizzeria, we - Birdman, DeHuiz, Emilio and me - entered the old, lovely, classical Vredenburg hall. Never mind it's a part of the Tivoli-venue nowadays. The NEW Tivoli-venue, if that wasn't yet clear.

Hey! Pluche chairs!
High above the below 'sardine can' - as appears to be usual nowadays - venues selling out FAR too many tickets to be able to stay comfortable over there. That's commercialism for you, I'm afraid. Fortunately, despite being high up in a genuine theatre, it was pretty easy to sneak out to order some drinks and/of have a smoke at times. The latter I will relate to further - don't mind me on this, please.


This time, fortunately, no completely unasked-for/superfluous "support act", nor the horrible, never-ending Bass Communion/Incredible Mind F*ck-intro tape. Yes I know, Mr. SW, you like that stuff, but (un)fortunately, most of your fans DO NOT. *wink*
Mr. SW and his band - alongside Mr. Mastermind SW himself, guitarist Guthrie Gowan, bass player Nick Beggs, keyboardist Adam Holzman and drummer Marco Minneman entered the stage right-on-time. That's one of huge bucket of TOP musicians being emptied there right on spot.

And still...
Immediately I felt there was someone *missing*, there. Mr. Theo Travis, clarinettist/flutist extraordinaire, who made the previous encounter with SW's 7 such a remarkably impressive encounter - both on the album as well as on stage with the fantastic "The Raven Who Refused To Sing"-tour. Yo, I know, he's not on "Hand. Cannot. Erase.", but I was hoping to see him add his flavours to the live versions of said songs anyways.

Well then, the Ubiquitous Computer (I daresay, Nr. 7) was of course present again.
Ubiquitous, as unfortunately there were a lot of samples necessary, if not totally *essential*, to be able to reproduce the music live properly. For this matter, most of all, the gorgeous voice of soprano Ninet Tayeb on one of "Hand. Cannot. Erase."'s best songs - 'Routine'. Samples had to take care of her absence, on which SW apologized, saying she couldn't join in on the tour as she'd just had a baby. Well that sounds like a decent excuse indeed. Unfortunately, no word on the absence of Mr. Theo Travis. Well, okay. He wasn't on the latest album, so I guess that should be the explanation. Not to say I dearly missed his input.

As to be expected the band immediately kicked off with SW's latest masterpiece "Hand. Cannot. Erase."
Yes, another masterpiece it is. Apparently SW isn't capable of lowering his quality levels, even if he'd be forced to try and do so.

But still... I cannot as of yet claim that "Hand. Cannot. Erase." is as majestic as SW's former masterpiece "The Raven Refused To Sing And Other Stories". Of course, it's a great album - SW just isn't capable of producing anything lower than top level - but still, as I said. "H.C.E."'s concept story is as dark and gloomy as SW's work ever was (and hopefully, will ever be) - but according to me, it seems something's very much missing.

I have not been able to point the finger at it, but I'll give it a try, here - SW's trademark BLACK HUMOUR in his texts? As an example his 'Your Unpleasant Family - smashed up my car... perfectly uncalled for...' from SW's/Porcupine Tree's "The Incident". Oh man, it's a horror story, but somehow, one just cannot stop him/herself smiling when hearing that songtext. Call it a genuine Guilty Pleasure, and that's one of the elements of writing that Mr. SW is a true genious at.
In other words, telling a truly horrible vile story, with some kind of Beatle-esque music to accompany it.
Which only makes the message even more uncomfortable - and as such, more poignant.

"Hand. Cannot. Erase." just doesn't seem to be able to match that level of dark humour in text, as least not for me. The music is FANTASTIC - easily accessible, but, as usual, very elaborate, even if one doesn't yet notice that on first hearing, but I'm missing out on something in the lyrics. The 'dark side', the 'black humour'? You tell me. Whatever it is, something is missing, here.
Might I just suggest that this whole concept of "poor 30-something found dead abandoned lonely woman" is just a bit too clichée?

In relation to the aforementioned, it was quite remarkable that after the fantastic "H.C.E."-song 'Routine', the venue quite *exploded* when the band continued with a close-to-perfect rendition of 'Index' ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UoKIiw-p2g ) - an old tune from SW's imho very underrated 2nd album "Grace For Drowning". A bit of a wake up-call, one might well say.
In all a fantastic concert... BUT:

Okay.
So now, my criticisms. Yeah, sorry about that.

Like I already said, we had seats quite high above.
Good seats they were, even the more when looking down on the overcrowded Sardine Can down below, like I already commented on.
HELL KNOWS I'd never want to be crammed up between tons of fans like the folks down there anymore!

But then there was a disadvantage being up as high as we were, too.
The VIDEO's.
POOR BORED 30+-WOMAN SMOKING ALL THE TIME BETWEEN BORING DEPRESSING BUILDING SITES.
DID I SAY *BORING*, again???
.

Yep, we got the message, SW!
She's a sad lady! Especially because she - oh heavens - smokes!
BORING!!!!

It wouldn't be as irritating as it was, if it weren't for the matter that up there from our seats, we could barely see what the MUSICIANS were actually doing down there below anymore. Those vids showed themselves to be one hell of a distraction. It wouldn't have mattered if those vids were actually good, but like I said - they were quite boring after having gone on for hours. With the same shots over and over again. Quite a let-down, I daresay.

And this while any a fan knows that most of the time, the vids during a SW-concert are no less than splendid. Who can ever forget the briljant vid to Porcupine Tree's “Way Out Of Here” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY5_nQAPGXY ) ?
Now THAT's the way to 'do it'.

Fortunately quite a few of former top songs came around, too - PT- "Deadwing"'s 'Lazarus' and "Insurgentes"'s 'Harmony Korine' - unfortunately, on the latter, Mr. Nick Beggs had left his Rickenbacker 4001 behind in de tour bus.

The encores:
“The Raven"'s prize song 'The Watchmaker', which wouldn't be a miss hit on any classic Genesis album. In other words, thanks SW! Unfortunately followed by the rather stupid heavy metal 'Sleep Together' from PT's "Fear of A Blank Planet" - don't get me wrong, I actually LIKE this song, but I do think SW would have had a lot better for us - okay, les connaisseurs dêpuis vingt ans - to offer.

Ultimate encore, the lovely title track from “The Raven That Refused To Sing”. And once again ... I missed Theo Travis.

Most of all - I missed this ultimate beauty of a song:



Deform to Form a Star... Now isn't that a lovely song about DEATH, or what?
It also shows very well why I missed Theo Travis so much this concert. Damn. He's fantastic!


BTW, didn't I already say I missed Theo Travis??? ;-)

Well, you just cannot have *everything*, no?

Score: 7.5/10