Review of Porcupine Tree at Club Twilight, Tampa Florida, 8 July 2003.

Steven Wilson and crew played a red-hot set of great tunes last night in Tampa! This show was even better than when I saw them at the Knitting Factory for 'Stupid Dream' in 1999. The energy level was very high, the band was very tight, the set list included recent hits as well as some rarities, and the audience was very much in to the show. The overall sound was noticably heavier than the pre-In Absentia tours, but the wonderful melodies and vocals were never lost in the mix.

This band is perhaps in the best form they have ever been in. DO NOT MISS THIS TOUR!

The club Twilight is a two story club that claims to hold about a 1000. I estimated maybe 200 folks there, although that is not an accurate count and the place was pretty large. There was a mix of males aged 30s-40s, and some younger folks in their 20s, plus perhaps 5%-10% female attendance too. I saw t-shirts by Ozrics, Opeth, Spocks Beard, Nik Turner Space Ritual, and many many Pink Floyd shirts.

I didn't pay much attention to the two opening acts, but it was apparent that most folks were there for PT. The band came on just after 11pm. Colin was at far right, Wes at far left, Richard at center left, Gavin at center right, and SW front and center. The light show consisted mostly of colored spots and a smoke machine, plus an occasional white light blast from behind the stage.

The previously posted setlist is accurate. There were several copies of the set list posted for the band, and I saw at least two folks who retrieved these at the end of the show.

They started up around 11:05pm with 'The Creator Had a Mastertape', then 'Sound of Muzak', then 'Gravity Eyelids'. 'GE' had some nice keyboard moments courtesy of Richard Barbieri, who reminds me more and more of Pink Floyd's Richard Wright circa their 1975 tour when he lets loose during a song.

Next up was 'Even Less'. Wes left the stage towards the end of this song, and the band continued in to 'A Slave Called Shiver'. Following this there was a brief couple of moments while Steven straightened out a problem with his guitar, then into 'The Moon Touches Your Shoulder'.

Wes rejoined them onstage while Steven introduced 'Futile'. He described it as both a difficult song to play, and "..the closest thing to metal that Porcupine Tree have ever done". This was a harder edged song, with more fast percussive bass sounds and less melody, until midway through when a time change brought a rather pretty guitar lead by SW into the mix. From that section alone I would have instantly recognized the Porcupine Tree sound, even if the rest of the song drifted further from their past PT tunes.

This was followed with 'Russia On Ice', then 'Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth', then 'Blackest Eyes', then 'Waiting'. Next was 'Hatesong', which had some very interesting drumming by Gavin. Then 'Heartattack in a Layby', 'Strip the Soul', and the band left the stage.

After a short break during which the audience continued to clap and chant loudly, they returned for 'Fadeaway'. However, Wesley did the vocals for this track!!! Steven did not sing any lyrics for this song! Wes did a pretty good job so he gets credit where its due, although I have to say that Steven's singing voice is so pretty that really I missed it here.

Next was 'Tinto Brass', and SW really went nuts with his guitar pedals. Definitely the best version of this track that I have heard live. Finally, the band left the stage again.

More crowd clapping and even louder chanting of "We Want More!". An even shorter break, then they returned for the last song 'Trains'. SW was on accoustic and Wes on electric, and this song was very good but maybe not as clear as on some of the European shows from earlier this year. Finally, the show ended around 12:55am. That put this show at just under 2 hours, with 18 songs played.

The entire show was full of highlight after highlight. All songs were great, the band was really tight, and SW showed lots of energy on his guitar parts, and his vocals were perfect (as always!). Colin was great with that little smile on his face much of the time while playing his fretless bass, and Richard had at least 2 or 3 moments where his keyboards really came out from behind the music to be the center of attention. Gavin is also an excellent addition to the band. I had trouble at times deciding which guitar parts were being played by Steven and which by Wes, which means that Wes was fitting in pretty good also.

The sound at this venue was very good. There was only one moment where I thought the sound got distorted, which was during the final vocal line by Wes during 'Fadeaway' which was a bit shrill. There was only once or twice during the entire show that I caught any surplus feedback or hum, and at no time did it interfere with the show. I might have heard one single note played by Richard just a little slow, and maybe heard Colin hit a bass note just a little too loud once during another song, but these are nitpickings that only a trainspotter such as myself would have even imagined. This band is just so good, and so tight!

I did not record this show, and I did not see anyone recording it. I didn't really start scoping the crowd for tapers until the very end, but I can usually spot the stealth tapers much of the time and I didn't see anybody. One fellow I spoke to said he thought he had seen equipment on someone in the very back, but he didn't see the guy using it during the show, so...status unknown.

My favorite part was some audience banter with Steven, about an hour into the show. The crowd had regularly shouted out the names of songs they hoped would be played. SW did Not make his sometimes response about "sorry, we don't play requests", but rather at one point basically said "what do you want us to play?" After several more song names were yelled out at once, SW said "One at a time!" I took this opportunity to yell "Play everything you've ever written!", which got a chuckle from the audience. SW's response was "How do you know we we're not going to do that?". More laughter... :-)

SW announced at one point that the band was going to play some songs during this tour that had never been played in America before. He also said that they would be mixing up the setlists regularly during the tour, and (at least for the first few shows) would be playing longer sets. I wouldn't be surprised if he was listening to the various yelled-out song requests to help determine which songs showed up on future tour dates. However, as is obvious from the printed set lists that I saw after the show, they did not vary from their pre-planned set regardless of anything the audience yelled.

After the show I was able to meet Gavin and Richard and Wes, but Steven and Colin did not come out afterwards. SW had stated at one point that the band had arrived only three days prior and that it was past their bedtimes, so I imagine that he was worn out and tired after this energetic (and long) performance. I did see a few audience members who were individually invited up to meet privately with the band, but I wasn't able to join this group.

Wes spent quite a bit of time with the crowd afterwards, and I was able to ask him several questions. He said that he was getting along great with the band and really enjoyed playing with them. However, he had no permanent status from Steven, and wasn't even sure whether they would invite him to continue on when the tour moves to Europe following the US dates (I would certainly expect him to, since he's played live with PT for a year now). He also did not have any idea whether he would be invited to participate in the upcoming album. Porcupine Tree is definitely Steven's show, and he is playing his cards close to his vest here apparently.

In the merchandising booth there were a mix of CDs, vinyl, and t-shirts for sale. They had the new 2-CD 'Signify', although it was $25 so I had to pass on it. They had several other PT CDs (2CD Coma Divine, IA, Recordings, maybe UTD I think, etc) but just the main albums, nothing rare. They had the new No Man digipack 'Together We're Stranger', plus an Ex Wise Heads CD and a CD by Wesley (or was that Gavin?). The vinyl was YHD and something else, don't remember what. Most CDs (not Signify!) went for $20 each, and I think the vinyl was $30 each.

The new 'XM' (Transmission 1.1) digipack CD was there for $20 each. I didn't see any mad rush to buy these out, and I didn't see any "Ebay scalpers" buying 10 at a time. Maybe the demand will go up when Opeth joins the tour, but based on last night there should be copies available when PT comes to your town.

The 'XM' CD lists the following tracks:

01 Blackest Eyes (4:26)
02 The Sound of Muzak (5:02)
03 Gravity Eyelids (7:30)
04 Wedding Nails (5:17)
05 Even Less / Slave Called Shiver (11:38)
06 Heartattack in a Layby (4:16)
07 Strip the Soul (7:06)
08 Tinto Brass (6:38)

Total length: 52:12

For t-shirts, they had a black one with the cover from last year's Sampler, and a white one with the In Absentia cover, plus a girls' slim black one that just said "Porcupine Tree". T-shirts went for $25 each, although I don't remember if the girls' shirt was cheaper or not.

I've seen PT/Opeth tour posters on Ebay, but none were for sale at the show when I asked. Also (obviously) there were no 'Futile' copies for sale either.

I met several folks while hanging out after the show, but I didn't meet any listers.

Don't miss these guys! They are red hot!

Captain Cloud

Twilight Club postcard