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Porcupine Tree - Anesthetize CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.66 | 568 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars A lot of what follows might read like killjoy as usual, in other words. But only because of some nagging philosophical reservations about the nature of modern concert videos in general, as applied to a group like Porcupine Tree in particular.

The dormant PT has actually released more live albums now than studio recordings, most likely out of economic necessity. This wasn't primarily a live band, in the manner of King Crimson or Umphrey's McGee: groups that typically make their best musical statement on stage, in symbiotic union with a supportive audience. In concert The Tree was perfectly rehearsed and totally professional but, let's face it: they lacked a certain joie de vivre, to say the least.

Hardly surprising, given their trademark style of atmospheric Heavy Prog, and the subject matter at hand for this tour, supporting the "Fear of a Blank Planet" album. It's hard to tell if the quartet (plus guest John Wesley) was having any fun whatsoever, and we know what that means: all work, no play, so forth. The DVD then adds another level of detachment, by further removing an already static group performance behind the barrier of a television screen or computer monitor.

Witnessing the show firsthand and at high volume, with its elaborate stage lighting and mandatory (but in this case necessary) barrage of distracting back-screen video (on three huge screens!), might have been a thrilling experience. Re-living it from the comfort of your own living room, through someone else's spastic editing choices, doesn't have the same impact.

Too bad, because the camerawork itself is sharp and skillful, if a little too self-consciously agile, hardly pausing on each player for more than two seconds at any time, even during the slower passages. Did we really need so many inserts of adoring fans? Or a visual scheme cut to suit our damaged 21st century attention spans? It's as if Steve Wilson and company were pandering to the tech-ruined psyches of the same Blank Planet generation he critiques in the album. Maybe that was the point, but I doubt it; the hyperactive style is really just an aesthetic sign of our times.

Which is why the audio-only CD's in this package are so much more effective. Headphones give listeners the freedom to edit their own internal concert, absorbed within the music alone. Heard but not seen, the vitality of the playing is obvious, from a time when Porcupine Tree was still passionate about their jobs (unlike the later, valedictory "Octane Twisted" live set).

It's always exciting seeing good music brought to life in front of an enthusiastic crowd. But it's the music that should leave the strongest impression, not the cosmetic stagecraft designed (as here) to hold your wandering attention. Fortunately, that's more or less what happens throughout this set. In the end, the music is far more exciting than the musicians themselves.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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