‘The Raven that Refused to Sing’, Australian Tour
The Metro Theatre, Sydney (3 October 2013)
Reverb Magazine’s Lilen Pautasso reviews Steve Wilson’s first Australian tour as a solo artist
As with any unique performance, it is difficult for words to truly encompass the diversity and eloquent originality of a show such as this. A master of many projects, modern prog-rock mastermind Steve Wilson premiered his first solo tour in Sydney in front of a welcoming and truly exuberant crowd.
With only an eerie projection of a moon glowing brightly in the background, the opening to Wilson’s show could only be described as a type of homage to his prog rock predecessors. Suspenseful and often painstakingly long, the moon portrayed subtle outlines of faces, similar to that on the cover of Wilson’s latest album The Raven that Refused to Sing. As images of clouds moved slowly across the screen the video faded and the band finally made their appearance.
What transpired over the next two hours was an electric musical exhibition that showcased the prowess of both Wilson and his incredibly talented supporting band. Kicking things off with the energetic jazz-like Luminol, the band performed unique and oddly matched soundscapes that felt like a fusion of heavy metal chaos and psychedelic irregularity. The energy and charisma of the band was a joy to witness, as they transgressed through Wilson’s latest album and earlier masterpieces. Guthrie Govan in particular was a magical addition to the band and an irrefutably talented musician to watch. Time was given to each musician as they played their instruments with energy and passion, communicated both musically and visually through interesting facial expressions and body movements.
Unlike his performances with Porcupine Tree, Wilson brought a very different on-stage personality not dissimilar to that of a classic rock ‘n’ roll front man. His body language and eccentric movements around the stage demonstrated a complete submission to the emotive power of his music. He portrayed a genuine affinity with each song and made sure that every sound communicated its purpose through timely and flawless execution. Fully engrossed in the music, Wilson even forgot the lyrics during The Holy Drinker and chose to fill the void with jazz-like scat and a bit of laughter.
In continuation of his charismatic persona, Wilson utilised the pauses between songs to share some great anecdotes and even ‘educate’ the audience about the various instruments on stage. The audience learned about two guitar melodies – the “lonely Swede” and “the lonely Swede who has just been left by his wife and kids and is running through the forest” – as well as how the Mellotron turns 50 this year. Never short of making a joke, Wilson also made snide remarks about the traditional “Free Bird” joke and asked that the audience respect “the pretentious elongated pauses” during each song, much to the crowd’s amusement.
As the show progressed, the band moved through songs from Wilson’s Grace for Drowning and Insurgentes records, every time taking the energy level further and further. Supported by visual projections and imagery relative to each song, the most interesting moment came around the middle of the set when a curtain fell in front of the stage and portrayed an abstract video to support the next song The Watchmaker. Like scenes right out of the movie ‘The Ring’, the band proceeded to play behind the curtain as weird (and sometimes scary) moving images were shown on the curtain before them. Silhouetted by blue and white lights, the band played three more songs, including the epic masterpiece Rader II, before the curtain fell and they exited the stage.
Only a few minutes went by before they reappeared for an encore amidst thunderous applause and whistling. Finishing with the famous Porcupine Tree song Radioactive Toy, the band gave everything they and concluded on a real high. In a wonderfully orchestrated move, the band converged at the front of the stage as each of the members were finally introduced by closing credits on the screen.
In one classic rock ‘n’ roll bow, the brilliantly talented and evidently euphoric band members stood before the crowd, absorbing their well-deserved applause and admiration. As the last to leave the stage, Wilson thanked the crowd, took a sip of his ‘white Russian’ and exited the stage. A powerful and uniquely theatrical performance that would easily be welcomed again by Wilson’s many adoring Sydney fans.