Show Review: Porcupine Tree at The Warfield Theater, 9/18/09

by Gordon Elgart on September 19, 2009

All I could take was this ironic photo

All I could take was this ironic photo

I arrived at the Warfield tonight for the Porcupine Tree show, and Market Street was already packed with people waiting to get in.  Another night, another sold out show at the Warfield, and this time it’s a band with no “hits” to speak of.  This time, it’s the masters of modern British prog, Porcupine Tree.  I’m a huge fan, so I’m not the best person to judge whether this show was good or bad.  But I can tell you, if you’re also a fan, everything you need to know.

The no photo, no recording policy made me very happy.  I hate when people spend the entire show watching it through their 2-inch viewfinder.  It makes no sense to me.  Don’t you want to experience it for yourself?  Luckily, the band insisted that the crowd experience it.  The announcement given by the house said that they were asking people not to take photos because they find it’s distracting to both them and their audience.  May I just say, brilliant!  I wish every band would find a way to limit this behavior.  It truly is obnoxious.  Cheers to Porcupine Tree, and they haven’t even started!

That 1 Guy opened, and while he had the crowd going, I was busy working and I can’t tell you everything about his set.  Just that he played a pipe in all manner of interesting ways.  I’ll have to see him some time when I can pay attention.  Luckily, I was done at the beginning of Porcupine Tree’s set, so I could pay full attention.

First off, there’s the setlist for the first half of the show.  That’s Disc One of The Incident, played from beginning to end.  There was a screen behind the band playing some of their typical visuals.  These were mildly creepy, with some of the lyrics in a scratchy type on the screen from time to time.  They’re pretty unimpressive but they do add to the mood.  More impressive was the guitar Steven Wilson was playing early on in the set.  It had a screen of its own, and colorful visuals were being displayed on the screen in all sorts of funky patterns.  I wish he had brought it back later in the show so I could look at it more; it was really cool.

The whole band sounded incredible tonight.  They all lack flash.  They simply play their instruments better than most bands.  It’s all very proper and British.  Only the barefoot Mr. Wilson writhes around the stage at all, and it’s fairly mild, especially when put up against the music they play.  Now, I bring you the setlist of the second set.

First Set:

The Incident

(Ten minute break)

Second Set:

Start of Something Beautiful
Buying New Soul
Anesthetize (Excerpt, the awesome part from 4:56 to 12:10 of the track)
Lazarus
Strip the Soul
.3
Bonnie the Cat
—–Encore—–
Mother and Child Divided
Trains

This was a truly killer second half, as everything sounded fantastic, especially the bit from Anesthetize. Although I would have loved to have heard the whole song, the section they decided to play is my favorite part of it, so I was cool with their selection. Singing along to Lazarus with the crazy people on the floor in front of John Wesley was a highlight of the night. Wes seemed to really enjoy the nutty people in front of him, as I don’t think Porcupine Tree fans act like that a lot.

The show was about 2 hours long exactly as it ended a few minutes after midnight after an inspired take on the now traditional show closer, Trains. The audience participation during the clapping part was particularly hearty.

I don’t know what else to say about Porcupine Tree. Their material is fantastic, they sound fantastic live, and their fans are both polite and enthusiastic. It’s always a pleasure to spend an evening with a bunch of prog nerds all watching a favorite band of theirs. There’s nothing quite like it.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

shannon altschuler September 19, 2009 at 2:25 am

Sounds fantastic! I’m glad you had such a great time! =] PT fans are really cool and friendly =D I’m going to the Cleveland House of Blues show Monday and I am so psyched!!

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Laurie Griffith September 19, 2009 at 9:15 pm

I was at the show as well…Loved every minute of it! I agree that it was most refreshing to enjoy the show without the disruptive glow of surrounding cell phones and cameras. Good call! The band said they will be returning to the bay area next year and I am already looking forward to it!

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Amy Johnson September 21, 2009 at 8:49 am

Thanks for the review and the setlist. I was also in front of John Wesley. Perhaps I saw you? I do so wish they’d played Strip the Soul in its entirety. I’ve wanted to hear that one live now for years. Oh well…can’t complain too much as they put on another good show. The sad part is I never want it to end. Cheers!

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Gordon Elgart September 21, 2009 at 1:58 pm

You may have seen me there. White shirt, hat, glasses, singing “follow me down to the valley below” really loudly?

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Ben September 21, 2009 at 10:02 am

Weird, I just queued (or is that cued) up Lightbulb Sun as I was driving into work today.

I still remember seeing PT @ nearFest 2001. I think you can buy that as a live recording now.

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DJ Kuul A September 22, 2009 at 9:03 pm

No, Ben, the line is “I still remember eating breakfast at the table next to a totally zonked Steven Wilson at the hotel the morning after the PT show at NEARFest 2001.”

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Ben September 23, 2009 at 9:24 am

@ DJKA: I don’t remember the breakfast so much, but I do remember catching Wilson in the atrium outside the venue during some other act’s performance. The place was empty and I had asked him to sign one of his CDs for my little brother. A propos of nothing, I mentioned that my brother lived in Indiana and wished he could have made it to the show. Wilson stopped what he was signing and looked up at me, eyes full of some mixture of amazement and amusement. I wasn’t sure what to make of his manner, but I really appreciated how gracious he was with his time.

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