Porcupine Tree - 53 Degrees Preston - 20.4.07

Posh prog rockers Porcupine Tree have just released their ninth studio album "Fear Of A Blank Planet" and tonight they will play it in it's entirety interspersed in a thrilling two hour set.

The fans are a curious bunch. You've got relics from the seventies with beards, beer bellies, wearing ancient T-shirts of obscure prog rock bands. Then there are those younger admirers who are probably down to the bands heavy rock side and enjoy the thunderous metal riffs.

No expense is spared for a Porcupine Tree gig. The light show is spectacular, the sound is crisp and pitch perfect with visuals on a small cinema screen behind the band reflecting the themes of the songs, mostly with dramatic clarity. Frontman Stephen WIlson on lead vocals and guitar is joined by four other sterling musicians with keyboard player Richard Barbieri a former member of Japan.

Opening with "Blank Planet", an epic grandiose track which also manages to be quite heavy. Wilson's vocals recalls early 1970s Peter Gabriel when he fronted Genesis. On one of the rare occasions where he addresses the crowd, he announces that the band are to play the longest track off the album "Anaesthetize" and boy is he not kidding. This opus is so ambitious, just a tad pretentious, sombre, mysterious but thankfully weird and wonderful in the best possible way. By contrasts "Open Car" is pure unadulterated metal. It's a sweaty dirty song just dripping in malevolence. "Drown With Me", a track left off the album sounds remarkably like Doves with a new lead singer.

"Way Out Of Here" and "Sleep Together" are songs all about escape which are beautifully realized with a dramatic edge. When Porcupine Tree exit stage left it's uncertain whether this band will conform to the encore etiquette as musically their are one of the most adventurous bands around toady. That they do return and play another storming three songs is testament to the bands respect to their fan base. Finishing with "Halo" is a masterstroke, an excellent diatribe on religion and the media.

Everyone goes home soon afterwards and I doubt anyone was the slightest bit disappointed by a near perfect set

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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