Remembering the Genius of Porcupine Tree

2018 release
The 2018 release.  2 CD/1 Blu-ray from Kscope.

Porcupine Tree, ARRIVING SOMEWHERE. . . (Kscope, 2018).  2 CD/1 Blu-ray package.  A re-release of the 2007 title on DVD.

Though it originally came out over a decade ago, Porcupine Tree’s ARRIVING SOMEWHERE . . .–its live show from Chicago, October 11-12, 2005–has just been re-released by Kscope in a very nice 2 cd/1 blu-ray book.

When it first came out on DVD in 2007, I had purchased it immediately. Of all the concerts I own on varous forms of video, ARRIVING SOMEWHERE . . . has been in constant play, rivaling only Rush’s TIME MACHINE and Talk Talk’s LIVE IN MONTREUX for most played.

Now, having it on CD and blu-ray reminds me yet again how incredible Porcupine Tree was in the first decade of this millenium. Admittedly, between 2001 and 2010, I was rather obsessed with the band. To me–all pre-2009 and, thus, pre-UNDERFALL YARD–no other band had reached as far and as perceptively as had Porcupine Tree. The band seemed the perfect fusion of prog, pop, and psychedelia–in its music as well as in its lyrics.

To my mind, bands such as Big Big Train and Glass Hammer have pleasantly surpassed themselves and everyone else since 2005.  Prog as a whole, is far more complicated, diverse, and sophisticated (in the best sense of the word) now than it was in 2005.  When the world works right, 13 years are bound to see huge leaps in quality.

The 2007 DVD release from Snapper.

Don’t get me wrong, I very much like Steven Wilson’s “solo” music. But, honestly, it is cold and clinical compared to what he was doing with Porcupine Tree. Watching the 2005 Porcupine Tree Chicago concert, I can’t help but see a band of nothing less than perfection: tight, confident, happy, and radiantly so. Wilson is even warm and charismatic, really bringing the audience into the music.

Since the formation of Steven Wilson’s solo band, he remains as brilliant as ever, of course, but there’s a distance (sometimes, even visually, with curtains and screens on stage) from the audience as well as a clockwork precision to the execution of every note, word, and album release.

But, please don’t take this post as a lamentation. I’m thrilled for Wilson and his successes. Long may they continue. Perhaps it’s simply a bit of age or an anguished bit of nostalgia, but I really miss Porcupine Tree.

In 2005, the band sounded just as good on stage as they did in the studio–shocking, given how mercurial the tone and intent of the music could be.  The audience can headbang one moment and sway another, always in tune with the music itself.  The masterpiece of ARRIVING SOMEWHERE . . . is the title track, “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here,” the standard for all prog music until Big Big Train wrote and released “The Underfall Yard.”  The band even ends the concert beautifully, making the breaking of a guitar string during “Trains” not just a moment of humor, but actually incorporating that moment, seamlessly, into the show, as though it had been planned all along.

Yes, this was one very tight confident band.

So, once again, I really, really miss Porcupine Tree.  “A sixty-ton angel falls to the earth. . .”


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