Mini-review: Porcupine Tree’s “Octane Twisted”
Porcupine Tree’s new live album, “Octane Twisted” arrived in the mail today. It comes in several configurations – the one I ordered is a 2-cd and single dvd set of their April 30, 2010 concert in Chicago.
The first disc is a complete presentation of their 2010 album, “The Incident”. It’s an excellent performance, with the highlights being the Animals-era Floydian song “Time Flies”, and the album closer, “I Drive the Hearse”.
Because they perform the entire album without breaks, the audience is pretty much taken out of the picture. While watching the dvd of the show, it’s clear there is incredible chemistry between the band members, but I didn’t get much sense of rapport with the crowd. Gavin Harrison once more demonstrates he is one of the greats of prog percussion. He deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with Neil Peart and Nick D’Virgilio. Richard Barbieri is a master at creating evocative atmospherics, and Colin Edwin makes playing complicated bass runs look effortless. Once again, John Wesley joins the core PT members to play guitar and vocals.
Steven Wilson is the main attraction, and he doesn’t disappoint – playing both electric and acoustic guitar, and some piano. He pulls off some excellent solos in “The Incident”, “Time Flies”, and “Octane Twisted”. And, of course, he’s barefoot throughout the concert!
Disc 2 contains the rest of the Chicago concert, as well as three songs from an October 14 London show. The other Chicago songs are “Hatesong” (probably my least favorite PT song), “Russia On Ice/The Pills I’m Taking” (“Russia On Ice” drags, but “The Pills I’m Taking” picks up the pace nicely), “Stars Die” (from the early days!), and “Bonnie the Cat” from The Incident (odd choice for a concert closer). The London songs are “Even Less” (a perennial favorite, but this performance is a little lackluster), “Dislocated Day”, and “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” (a really good rendition of a beautiful song).
Overall, this a fine performance, and you get a lot of music for your money. “The Incident” is not one of my favorite Porcupine Tree albums, though, so unless you like it a lot, you could probably give this one a pass. I was very disappointed that the dvd is just the basics: no special features, and it only offers 2.1 audio, not a 5.1 mix. Also, the editing was much too jumpy for my tastes; the camera rarely stayed on one angle for more than 3 seconds, and I would have preferred to have longer shots of the entire band playing.
If you are trying to decide which dvd of Porcupine Tree to buy, I highly recommend “Anesthetize”. It’s an incredibly energetic performance of an excellent album, “Fear of a Blank Planet”. “Arriving Somewhere” is also very, very good, and features music primarily from “Deadwing” and “In Absentia”.