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Porcupine Tree Conquer Mumbai

British prog-psych rockers put on a spectacular audio-visual extravaganza on their first show in India

Deepti Unni Jan 10, 2010
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Bobin James

“Since it’s the first time we’re playing here, we thought we’d play you a mix of songs, some old ones, some newer ones”¦” said a smiling Steve Wilson, two songs into Porcupine Tree’s 100-minute set at their first ever performance in India, at IIT Bombay’s annual rock festival Livewire. If the cheer from the 5000-strong audience was not as loud as it should have been, it was only because the band had just dropped ”˜Occam’s Razor’ and ”˜The Blind House’ (from The Incident) on the unsuspecting crowd in all their visceral power ”“ crushing riffs, goosebump-inducing vocal harmonies, ethereal electronics and chaotic visuals blended into a sensory overload package like no other. The audience, at this point, hadn’t even begun to take it all in.

Arguably the most anticipated gig of the year, Porcupine Tree’s India trip followed in the wake of the spectacular and entirely unprecedented success of their 2009 album, The Incident. The set for this show, their 53rd in the tour, was to consist of The Incident played in its 55-minute entirety in the first half, to be followed by a few songs from their back catalogue. But unsure of Indian audience’s familiarity with the new album, the band played a mixed set of some well-known songs and some lesser heard ones. (”˜Hatesong’ from Lightbulb Sun was a particularly pleasant surprise.) The rest of the set was divided in equal parts between In Absentia, Deadwing, Fear of a Blank Planet and The Incident.

The show was ”“ to use one of Steven Wilson’s pet phrases ”“ an entirely immersive experience. The sound, strung through the band’s impressive Midas PRO6 FOH system, didn’t so much wash over the crowd as drown them in a towering tidal wave of atmosphere. Porcupine Tree are already a powerhouse on their studio albums, but live, the band is a force of nature. Every nuance of Wilson and sessions guitarist John Wesley’s playing, Richard Barbieri’s keyboard phrases and textures, and Gavin Harrison’s intricate polyrhythmic drum-work was felt rather than just heard. Danish photographer Lasse Hoile’s visuals of exploding galaxies, fire-breathing gargoyles, living puppets and ubiquitous trains freewheeling across three screens rounded off a concert experience unlike any seen in the country so far. Parallels will be drawn with Roger Waters’ extravagant stage productions that we’ve seen before, but the scale of this show made it infinitely more intimate and absorbing.

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The audience, in turn, lapped up every nuance of the performance, singing along to even the more obscure numbers, but loudest on ”˜Blackest Eyes’ and ”˜Trains’ from In Absentia. Wrapping up the set with an unexpected finisher ”“ ”˜Halo’ from Deadwing ”“ the band took their bows to thunderous applause and with promises to return soon. And for all those couldn’t get enough of the band, they have confirmed their plans to make India a regular pit-stop on their tour circuit, so expect to see a lot more of Porcupine Tree in the future.

Set List

”˜Occam’s Razor’
”˜Blind House’
”˜Sound of Muzak’
”˜Hatesong’
”˜Lazarus’
”˜Open Car’
”˜Time Flies’
”˜Blackest Eyes’
”˜Octane Twisted’
”˜This Séance’
”˜Circle of Manias’
”˜Russia on Ice/Anesthetize’
”˜Start of Something Beautiful’
”˜Way Out of Here’
”˜Trains’
”˜Halo’

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