I am pleased to report that the Steven Wilson concert in Vancouver, BC, Canada, on Saturday, June 20, 2015, was nothing short of AMAZING. The integration of video images and musical showmanship was pure artistry at its finest.
The venue was the sweet Vogue Theatre, which has beer and wine and other drinks available at a bar downstairs as well as at a bar upstairs in the balcony area. You can take drinks to your seat. The seating was a bit tight, but once you settled in to the concert and got lost in the music, you forgot all about it. Except for my wife, who had a hardcore Wilson fan sitting next to her on her left doing annoying air drumming (I was on her right). Hey buddy, I know every fill too, but I keep it at home! Oh well, everybody stood up for the encore songs at Steven’s invitation, so that was great. Earlier, security had shut down anyone trying to stand up and dance. We did get to stand up and give standing ovations after instrumental extravaganzas like “Home Invasion / Regret #9” and “Ancestral”. As we should! They were amazing. So great to see live. I love watching top-flight musicians do their thing live.
Locally owned and operated, The Vogue is one of the last remaining theatres from the famed Theatre Row. Take state of the art sound and projection, mix it with phenomenal natural acoustics and a 1940’s art deco interior, and you have the Vogue, utterly romantic and completely unique. With a commitment to good old- fashioned hospitality.
Here’s the set list. I recommend turning it into a playlist, because it works really well, and I myself have been listening to it since the concert as a playlist, as I have been reliving that magic night in my mind and heart. I highlight in boldface the songs not on Hand. Cannot. Erase.:
3 Years Older
Hand Cannot Erase
Ascendant Here On…
The Raven That Refused to Sing
This show was Steven Wilson, with Nick “Blonde Bombshell” Beggs on bass guitar and stick, Adam Holzman on keyboards, Dave Kilminster on guitar, and Craig Blundell on drums/percussion. Steven paid tribute to them all after “Regret #9” and said they were all better musicians than himself.
Steven also had kind remarks about Vancouver, after they played “3 Years Older,” since he had never been here before. The audience was pretty restrained during the show, like typical polite Canadians, but then started totally freaking out during the encores which he seemed to like. The evening ended with multiple bows as the audience gave a standing ovation that went on and on with thunderous applause and stomping. I guess we saved the loudest appreciation for last and it was a great feeling between performers and the audience as it went on and on to close the night so that the musicians knew exactly how we felt. We loved it!
Steven gave a little speech before “Routine” on the theme “MISERABLE MUSIC MAKES ME HAPPY” (direct quote). If you’ve read interviews with him, you’ll get the idea and know what he said. Same stuff he usually does about the paradox: in such art, we can discover what we share in common, etc.
It was fun hearing “Index” as a set-up for “Home Invasion”. The crowd really went nuts for it and lapped it up. It’s musical theatre, really; I get why the masses go for it. But it’s a bit one-dimensional, lyrically.
“Lazarus” is a beautiful song and one of my favorites. It was a real treat to hear it live, which just made it all that much more powerful. We didn’t get to hear “Transience,” which is one of the loveliest moments on HCE, but that’s okay, we got “Lazarus.” Man, I love that song.
Steven gave a nice little chat before “Harmony Korine” about how it is his tribute to the “shoegazer” genre. It was amusing as he spent a lot of time listing obscure albums and artists he liked and trading this back and forth with audience members, asking who had heard of what. A nice little nerdy way of bonding with the audience: comparing notes on your favorite music.
As for nerdiness, I thought it was hilarious how Steven would walk around on stage and do all his dorky hand gestures as he got into the music; when I told my my wife later that I found this hilarious and endearing, she reminded me that I make the same stupid hand gestures whenever I listen to loud music and get into it!
As for shoe gazing, I felt like gazing at my shoes because of all the disturbing images (people with bird heads, gas masks, screams of anguish) during “Harmony Korine.” But the audience loved all this oogly-boogly scary-scarey stuff during songs like “Watchmaker” and “Index” and “Raven” and so on; I myself find it kind of boring and limited in scope, but it is true that it is all very artistically done, if you like that sort of thing. I guess my tastes are just more classical than modern — I prefer beauty! Thankfully, the music was beautiful enough. The video pizazz was just icing on the cake for people who like icing. I would prefer smaller doses; hey, did you notice all the dopey video gets shut off during the prog instrumentals? Exactly! Point proved… who needs it, really… just inflates the ticket price by giving us, not just a concert, but an “experience”… I’m not complaining, I’m all for it, and no one does it better than Wilson. This was one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever been to. The Steven Wilson Experience!
“Sectarian” is one of my absolutely favorite Wilson songs, and so I was thrilled to experience it live — in a much more metal version, to boot! Great stuff… it was meant to be metaled up this way. Well played, Steven, well played…
If I had to come up with some extra complaint (since here I am, playing the critic), it would be that the sound mix wasn’t as perfect as I would have liked. Man… they should get Steven Wilson to do the mix… haha, but he’s busy on stage, I guess. On the plus side of the ledger, it was excellent that the sound volume was at an absolutely perfect level, so no earplugs were required. That is the way rock concerts should be! It’s time to end the dumb convention of making the music too loud to bear. Why insist on inflicting hearing damage? Anyway, it is great that Steven is using his influence to be a force for good in this area, as in so many others. Bottom line: all the positives blow away any negatives I can think up. This was a supremely excellent concert!
If you get a chance to see Steven live, don’t miss it. He is not just Mr. Prog, he is a musical talent that transcends all genres. Yes, he’ll give you that dose of perfect prog that will make you very happy, but he is one of those rare breed true artists that only comes along once in a lifetime. He can do anything, and he is even utterly pure magic when it’s just his voice and an acoustic guitar. He’s the real deal.
Don’t miss seeing Steven Wilson in your lifetime. You won’t regret it.
So, what are you waiting for? To grow three years older?