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Porcupine Tree - Anesthetize CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree

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5 stars Wow! I thought seeing them live was great...This is just another fine example of musical perfection from Maestro Wilson and the Boys. An all-star cast of musicians at the top of their game plus brilliant lighting, directing, and editing from Lasse Hoile make this a remarkable concert DVD. The set list is all FOABP and Nil Recurring for the first half of the show. The second half is old favorites, plus some not heard live before, really rounds the night out. The transfer is from all HD cameras and pops with color and life. No visible noise to these eyes. The DTS master audio sound will just blow you away! This, along with the phenomenal mix by genius SW, has me aching to throw away another 2+ hours of my life. I did only plop down $12 for the DVD version, but now I will go full bore and order the Blu-ray version (with all the bonus material) as well. The wait for this one (2 yrs) was long, but WELL worth it!
Report this review (#283771)
Posted Thursday, May 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Just my first impressions...

In full disclosure this is an early review after just one viewing, but what the hell? I felt like sharing. I've been pretty pumped to see this. Being one of the rare bands my better half appreciates as much as me, I knew it was going to be a fun watch....thus Steven will have to forgive the fact that I got really lit up for this viewing, something pretty rare these days. It was a festive evening, as it was for the fans in Tilburg I'm sure. Long story short, it's fantastic. I really can't find deductions to make even though I feel physical pain when I have to give 5 stars. That's a joke. Kind of.

So, the show is broken into two sections, not officially, but in my mind. Part one is a complete performance of the FoaBP album and it is simply stunning. In fact I think it bested the rest of the show which contained selections from the past. From the dramatic opening guitar lines of Fear to the finale of Sleep it was mesmerizing. Throughout the album's tracks the songs are punctuated by the thematic video behind the band. The highlight without question was the long centerpiece Anesthetize which features an earth-shaking climax, the band hugely powerful to these intense strobe lights. Some of the fills Harrison was pulling out had my jaw on the floor, every bit as great as watching Peart in his prime. Wilson is animated and in great spirits, the entire band seems exceptionally "up" for this particular gig. The second part of the show brings in some obscure tracks, some great choices from Signify and Nil Recurring among others. As clichéd as it is to describe PT music as a Rush/Floyd cross, it occurs while watching that the description is not so far off. Power and crispness combined with moodiness, melody, and spacey ambiance. Everything attempted here is pulled off at the highest levels of quality and to maximum impact on the viewer.

As good as the music and performance are, this show is put over the top by presentation. A more gorgeously filmed show you will rarely see. The 6th band member on the stage is atmosphere. From the video projections behind the stage to the striking lighting show the band is bathed in an aura perfectly choreographed to the moods and sounds of the music. Streaming colors and shadow work together as in the opening of Way Out Of Here. The crew captures it all with ambitious camera work and immaculate editing later, it is clear and sharp with none of the gimmicky visual tricks that distract somewhat on Arriving Somewhere. This presentation is all about capturing the personalities of the players and the themes of the songs. Flawless work. The sound is also as good as it gets, clear and powerful at high volume---I pushed my system way beyond where I usually go, and while my ears lost some hit points, it was worth it. This is a "rock show" packed with immediacy and power and I suspect it may win over some of those PT skeptics who complain the band doesn't connect emotionally with them. Some feel the band's best days are behind them, but this document shows me a band still capable of great work, something I can't say about some of the other prog or rock giants when they were 20 years into their career. At that point in their journey, Yes were giving us "Love Will Find a Way." Ouch.

This is admittedly a pretty fluff review short on specifics, but I can't help gushing a bit about first impressions. I'll probably revisit and revise this to discuss the music more after repeated viewings, but I had to help get the word out that this is the video event of the summer. Some folks don't get into DVDs as much as albums but for those of us who love watching prog-rock in the living room, this is essential. I can only hope they do the same for The Incident tour. The only thing lacking perhaps is extras, the standard versions contains only the show. Does this title risk becoming one of the over-hyped releases fanboys will keep on the front page for a while? Sure, but if my first impression holds up, this one ain't hype.

Report this review (#284271)
Posted Sunday, May 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I really wish I had been there during the play of this. The Incident Tour was excellent, however this just blows everthing away. FOABP kicks things off, and to hear it in it's entirety live is just a stunning experience. The title track just makes your hairs stand on end and just grows and grows and grows until it finally explodes with the awsome riff 3/4 of the way through wit an energy that doesn't quite come across on the Studio version. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, I have never seen Wilson look more focused and moody than on here, there's definatley a feeling and energy like no other coming from him, he really means buisness. My Ashes. Wonderful stuff, although I do have a slight problem with this version. John Wesely's vocals in the chorus just aren't up to scratch, to the point of cringing. It comes across better with Steven doing it, it's more believable. Ok, ANESTHETIZE. AWSOME. Special mention to Wesely too, great job with the guitar solo in the first section, it's never going to be as good as Alex Lifeson's, but he puts a lot of soul into it. Gavin Harrison = WOW. You get a real feel that everyone, especially Barbreri, is enjoying themselves. Every now and then the camera cuts to him smiling when someone is playing a solo, very nice. Sentimental is excellent too, you have to admire the harmonies between Wilson and Wesley. Not much to add to Way Out Of Here. We have all witnessed it live and know how good it is. The album closer 'Sleep Together.' This song has always brought up mixed reviews,but I think it gets better with each listen, and I was always 100% certain that it was made to be played live, and I was right. Wilson growls away with brute force and the band just ooze class, feeding off his energy. 'What Happens Now' one of the highlights of Nil Reccuring. This has it's moments, but I don't feel it's quite as good as the studio version. I love the way it opens, it has an almost dance feel to it and it's very cool. It's not quite as good live because the guitars at the climax aren't crunchy enough for me. Normal - what a song this is. A ballad with a metal riff halfway through, and it works!!! Played to perfection, one slip up and it would all fall apart, that's how intricut the playing is. Love the vocals. Barberi's synths, like in every song, are amazing. Dark Matter. I didn't have the set list in front of me so had no idea this was up next, the inro by Barberi had me really scratching my head, then I nearly wet myself when I realised what it was. Superb, sounds awsome live. The ultimate moment of the gig is Wilson's guitar solo, watch the energy flowing from him. That's how to play guitar!!! Drown With Me is not quite as good live but it will make you smile. Cheating The Polygraph is really, really good live the atmosphere created by the sound is just unbelievable, I keep going on, but the playing is just top draw. Half Light is the one real dissapointment for me I'm afraid. It's just too 'Stadium Rock' with a glowing guitar and huge guitar solo at the end. It needs to be more intimate sounding. Sever. WOW. I'll talk about vocals later, this is excellent. Wedding Nails is a nice inclusion, and comes across very well here. Strip The Soul/Dot Three. There's something lacking that I can't quite put my finger on here, I was dissapointed. Sleep Of No Dreaming, see comments for Sever. Halo had to be on it because they didn't close with another song. The bonus track 'Prodigal' on the CD is very good, however the closing guitar solo is a let down, I much prefer the intense Floyd like solo on the studio version. So to sum up, this is a fantastic package, the gig is amazing. Even better than Arriving Somewhere, granted... Both have there highlights, making them both essential. Steven Wilson's vocals are magnificent, seriously, every song is sung to perfection, listen to Sever, Normal, ANESTHETIZE... listen to the whole thing if you don't believe me!!! Musically it is flawless. So, after all that I give this 5/5 for the entire package (I have the RED). The cloth book, the way the CD's/DVD's are packadged and the 128 page booklet make this the greatest Live Package I have ever seen, coupled with the performance. I can't comment on the standard edition, but it won't hold up to this, especially considering 1000 were printed, and a futher 4000 in GREY. Thanks Steven for this amazing special edition. I shall cherish this forever I am sure.
Report this review (#285471)
Posted Monday, June 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's official: this could very well be the best concert DVD (not to mention the greatest packaging and presentation) I have ever seen. The photo book is just lovely. Incredibly high quality snaps that are nearly as good (though not quite) as being there in the front row in person. Some of the pics seem to be from the Incident tour, rather than the Tour of a Blank Planet (i remember Steve wearing that t shirt with the screaming baby with 'LULU' written underneath, on their recent Aussie tour), but they're so lush, it really doesn't bother me. It almost makes up for me not being alive in the vinyl gatefold artwork days, having this extraordinarily well-thought-out packaging. PT give you the whole package. Not just the amazing music (that itself is worth the asking price alone), but the superlative visuals, and the stunning artwork, too.

The concert itself is pretty much flawless. Exquisite performances of many of my favourite PT songs, including Dark Matter, Sever, .3, Normal, Drown With Me, the list goes on and on. The setlist was perfect (although there's so much fantastic material in their catalogue that they could have played just about anything from their discography and I'd be happy), with the only disappointment being the omission of Stars Die . Even some songs which I didnt count as faves beforehand (Sleep Together, for one) sound so brilliant on this DVD. Wilson sings with a much more aggressive tone on this track than he does in the studio, and it really suits it. The harmonies between Wilson and Wesley are of course amazing. I loved John Wesley's version of the My Ashes chorus. Beautiful. I got goosebumps. And Half Light. Oh, Half Light. I had to hold back tears at that one.

Amazing DVD, and even better than Arriving Somewhere (itself a near flawless live DVD). Unfortunately, I have not watched the Bluray version yet (just the DVD on my laptop). I'll have to bung it into my PS3 and check that baby out.


Report this review (#285986)
Posted Friday, June 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars THE definitive live recording.

After having seen Porcupine Tree live earlier this year, my anticipations and expectations for this new DVD release were running absolutely off the charts, and they have been blown away in every sense by the quality of this release. As far as quality and care in production goes, Porcupine Tree seem to be the current headlining act - wonderful album presentation and artwork, brilliant production qualities in all their releases and perfect products all round. This package absolutely blows ANY thing I've ever owned away as far as the quality of the packaging and quality of recording go.

The edition I am reviewing is one of the Red DVD/Bluray/2CD special editions, limited to 1000 copies. Even though this came with a high price-tag, it was absolutely worth every sense for the overall quality and care that went into producing these wonderful products. To begin with, the physical book looks absolutely stunning from the outside, and the discs on the front and back cover are brilliantly presented. The photos inside the booklet are brilliant, high quality prints on high gloss paper - amazing photos composed of some album art from Fear Of A Blank Planet, several pages of the original art made for this package, and the rest is composed of live photos from Porcupine Tree from 2005 up until now. All the items are amazing, particularly the live photos - absolutely stunning stuff. My impressions were met before I even watched the concert!

Now, onto the Bluray of the concert. As was mentioned before, this is an absolutely stunningly produced live film - the lighting and filming is much cleaner than their previous DVD, 'Arriving Somewhere', and this recording also offers a much more genuine live sound than the previous. The lighting is amazing, and the live projections are fantastic accompaniment to the darkness (or lightness) of the tracks being played. The performances in the concert are also much more polished, providing a closer to studio, although still incredibly intense and real atmosphere. From the amazing ambiance of Half-Light, to the horrifying distorted vocals during Sleep Together and the eerie break in the middle of Wedding Nails, the meticulously rehearsed live performances absolutely complement their equally brilliant recording, mixing and production of the live film. It's worth noting that, like their previous DVD release, Steven Wilson did all the mixing and mastering for the audio component of this live film.

Onto the setlist - The epic title track from the band's 2007 metal masterpiece 'Fear Of A Blank Planet' opens the show up in dark ambiance, with SW playing the opening riff at breakneck speed. The fury and anger tossed around is unbelievable; and like all other PT live performances, it demolished the studio version as far as quality and performance are concerned. My Ashes is a highlight, with the band's backing vocalist and guitarist taking the main guitar and manning the vocals for the chorus, with Steven on the piano. John Wesley's vocals for the chorus are stunning; absolutely blows away the studio version. Of course the fan-favourite epic Anesthetize was going to be played, and rather perfectly in this reviewer's opinion. The performance is stunning and the overall mood changes and light shows couldn't have suited better. As mentioned before, Sleep Together has a truly frightening atmosphere. The second set, following Fear Of A Blank Planet, contains a fascinating setlist, spanning from Signify up until their most recent release at the time of this concert, ' Nil Recurring'. 3 out of 4 tracks from Nil Recurring are played, and 3 tracks from Signify are also played - it's great to have these live recordings, as the band rarely delves into their first 4 albums in live performances. Another particular highlight is on Half-Light, when Steven Wilson mans a guitar with an HD display built in, and this is the first every recording of the live use of such a guitar. The only small complaint I have with this setlist is the exclusion of Stars Die - a stunning track, although a shame we haven't got the recording.

The band are all on absolute fire during this show - Gavin's drumming is as nuanced and unpredictable as ever, offering small and tricky fills where they weren't on the studio recordings. From some tracks which I now have 5 recordings of (namely Halo), Gavin still manages to mix up the drumming every time, and on tracks like Normal, it's hard to believe such a drummer exists. Colin is a much larger stage presence than on their previous DVD and confers more wonderful bass lines and thumping originality than expected of most bass players. Steven Wilson is, as expected, the leading man of the show, with stunning solos and stage presence, although for me the two real stars are guest guitarist/vocalist John Wesley and full-time synth-star Richard Barbieri - the former offers brilliant guitar playing and a vocal range which challenges and compliments Steven, and Mr. Barbieri bring brilliant atmosphere AND confidence to the show, in one scene playing his keyboard with an empty water bottle!

The CD's and DVD are also fantastic, although not technically equal to the perfect bluray; the CD's offer the option of use on an iPod or in a car, which is a great compliment to the live show, and also contain the bonus track 'Prodigal'.

I really have 0 complaints for this entire package - unfortunately, the red and grey special edition books are long gone (unless you want to buy one on eBay for a horrendous price) so the Bluray/DVD or standalone DVD package is the current option, both of which still over the perfect live show.

Definitely not one you'd want to miss, and if my gushing fanboyism didn't make it obvious enough, this one is a definite 5* product in every department.

Report this review (#286706)
Posted Wednesday, June 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Phew! it was really worth the long awaiting, I must say the deluxe edition delayed a lot to be sent. Porcupine Tree emerges once again with one of their best live experiences ever to be recorded. The first set of songs, which consisted of the whole Fear of a Blank Planet performance (plus "Prodigal" from In Absentia in the audio CD), sounded even better by moments than the album itself. But it's the second portion of the DVD that makes it completely worthwhile, with a retrospective bunch of songs from Signify and In Absentia. A negative point here for me: I would have liked a more complete retrospective path, also gathering songs from the remaining albums, specially Up The Downstair, The Sky Moves Sideways, Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun which I think are as much representative of the band's career as the two before mentioned. Anyway though, it's very interesting to see how the band have reworked some parts and/or single details on the songs from Signify and In Absentia they performed, making them even more solid and stronger than the studio versions. The focus here was not so in the therefore video editing as it was in the filming technique and expertise, which for me makes a beat on the Arriving Somewhere... DVD. Wesley vocals contribute a nice color to some songs. I liked the new Steven's AlumniSonic Telecaster guitar a lot. Really impressive performance to a really impressive show.

Very recommended: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Report this review (#287320)
Posted Saturday, June 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars We've been waiting for this release for a long, long time but it's finally here!

I'm not a huge fan of DVD concerts, I own only a few and that's fine for me. When I heard that PT is going to release a DVD with the whole FoaBP album I knew I had to buy it. I've bought the DVD/BD edition with a very nice hard cover and a couple of photos inside. The disc menu is very ascetic and simple, there are not many options and features here - play the whole concert, select a song, audio options and that's preety much it. The Blu Ray disc contains four Lasse Holie's movies extra but i feel they could squeeze an interview or an additional gallery so that we could have a bit more fun.

On to the concert. Lasse Holie is a very strange man, apart form "Way Out Of Here" I find his videos rather chaotic and pointless. He did a good job on the previous PT DVD but I was still a bit concered about how this concert would turn out. But I can't complain on the visual side of this concert, the whole thing was filmed with HD cameras and it shows! The quality of the picture is superb and Lasse didn't experiment with it much, there is no black and white moments (well there is one) nor any facture changes during the concert, it's all very simple and energetic and I like that very much. That's the way live DVDs should look like. If you've ever been to a PT concert you know how it looks like and this will be no surprise to you - three screens and the whole light show do make this a memorable experience. As for the music, we all know that Wilson is a perfectionist and this is no exeption. All instruments sound great, you can hear every sound - Colin and Barberi finally get more spotlight. The thing that cought my ear is the great vocal form of SW himself! He sings like never before - the emotions in Anesthetize or Sleep Of No Dreaming (for example) are very well noticable and are really moving.

So we recieved a magnificent show with a great picture and an very interesting track list of a band that is clearly in the highlight of their career. Money well spent, I bet you'll enjoy this as much as I did.

A deserved 4,5 stars (I would be 5 if there would be an interview or a gallery or something on the disc or maybe I'm just spoiled)

Report this review (#288068)
Posted Thursday, June 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the wonderfull Arriving Somewhere DVD (which by my reckoning is the best music DVD out there) we have PT's latest release featuring a complete performance of Fear Of A Blank Planet.Although filmed in HD this is basically a no frills presentation. No black and white bits ,no grainy bits etc that were cleverly edited together on Arriving Somewhere.This is a bog standard concert performance shot with a professionalism that you would expect. Trouble is that PT are not the most flamboyant band there is! No humour ,not even much interaction with the audience.So really your enjoyment of this depends on whether you appreciate the Fear of A Blank Planet album and are desperate to see it performed live. For me its a solid 4 star release and not as good as Deadwing and In Absentia (both masterpeices in my book). Trouble is the rest of the concert avoids some of the best PT songs such as Trains and Arriving Somewhere. Halo is hardly a grandstanding closer. So my resevations about this is based on the set list and not the very high professional standard of the DVD.I can't comment on the extras as my Blue Ray player can't access them! Overall a 4 star release.
Report this review (#289906)
Posted Sunday, July 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Everything I said about "Arriving Somewhere..." applies here. But I must add a couple quick comments. First, the sound is more balanced, cleaner, and a little less bass heavy (sadly, as I like a good, thick punchy - but not muddy - bass). Second, Anesthetize is MUCH better visually. None of that artsy fartsy visual crap that IMHO was overdone in "Arriving Somewhere..." Also, the song choice is a bit better (to me anyway).

Anesthetize may not be the best starting point for a newbie looking to see what Porcupine Tree is about. It starts out quite heavy with Open Car and Blackest Eyes. That might be just enough to scare the faint of heart away before the band has a chance to show their variety. This is a band that changes its style every few albums. Even this DVD does not really give a full representation of their wide range.


If you are even a casual fan of the band and do not have this DVD, put you mind at ease, put aside your doubts, dig out your credit card and just be done with it. It is a musical treat from start to finish. This is a band of consummate musicians who love their craft. The music is heavy, delicate, dark, and often beautiful. At the risk of sounding pretentious it takes more than one listen to appreciate the subtlety amidst the heavy sounds coming at you from your speakers.

Report this review (#404753)
Posted Monday, February 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Okay, so Anesthetize is obviously pretty fantastic. Here's why:

The filming in this is much better than that in Arriving Somwhere... (I always felt that Arriving Somewhere...'s visual distracted from the actual performance), The drums in the intro of Anesthetize blow my mind every time I see them (mostly because I know how hard that camera work must have been). The stage lightwork is also of note. Half-Light especially has some really textured lighting. Anesthetize has an astonishing strobe at one of its climaxes. Also, Lasse Hoile's live videos take much more of a presence in this performance, and rightfully so. They're fine augmentations to the music. By the way, a lot of those you can download at, even some songs from the DVD are up there!

The music . Incredible. I saw these guys live last year, and they really captured their live performance well, outside of Wilson's crowd interaction (but I have a feeling he doesn't speak Dutch). Gavin Harrison, I feel, is the centerpiece of most of the DVD. This makes sense, as watching him play is downright enthralling. His drum work is delicious throughout the DVD, but the best of it can be seen in Anesthetize. Well, the best of everyone can be seen on Anesthetize. (Well, Barbieri probably shines a bit more on Sleep Together, but hey!). Anyways, they look comfortable up there, and they can have that privilege, with the music they're putting out.

So basically, this is a must have if you like music. The music is spectacular, and the filming captures everything the viewer wants.

Report this review (#457911)
Posted Tuesday, June 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Anesthetize' - Porcupine Tree (8/10)

It may not be 'essential', but it's essential for any fan of "Fear of a Blank Planet". It's not often I get to see one of my favourite performed live in full. When I saw Porcupine Tree in person at their Seattle gig in '09, they played all fifty five minutes of "The Incident" (the first time they ever performed it live). Although these album-sets that Porcupine Tree do aren't much of a far cry from the album itself, it's an incredible experience to see the music unfold before your very eyes. Of course, a DVD cannot hope to match the magic of actually being there, but it's not often I'm so drawn into a concert video. It does not strike me as a masterfully executed live film, but "Anesthetize" is a celebration of one of the best progressive rock albums of the new millennium, almost to the point where the second half of the concert feels like bonus material.

First off, let me say that "Anesthetize" is a step-up from the "Arriving Somewhere..." DVD, a release that I enjoyed, but felt bogged down by loads of superfluous visual effects. It's clear that Porcupine Tree learned from that blunder, because the picture is free of distractions. The quality of sound and video are both superb. 'High-definition' is the word to describe the technical quality here. Much like Porcupine Tree's studio material, "Anesthetize" is given the highest quality production.

"Fear of a Blank Planet" is one of my favourite records ever, so It's no surprise that I love the music here on "Anesthetize". They are able to recreate the album note-for-note, delivering the same energy and atmosphere of the album. The vocal work might even be better than the album; touring guitarist and supporting vocalist John Wesley is amazing here, providing a slightly higher register contrast to Wilson. Although I've always liked Wilson's voice, I was surprised to hear the amount of energy he's able to put into his vocal performance, particularly when the music gets heavier. The seventeen minute namesake to this DVD wins my vote as the highlight. Supporting the band's performance are some cinematic background visualizations, courtesy of visual madman Lasse Hoile. Unfortunately, Hoile's cinematography is never given much of a spotlight.

The second half of the album consists of songs from other albums, as early as their "Signify" record. Three quarters of "Fear"s companion EP "Nil Recurring" are represented in full, and "In Absentia" gets a couple of tracks' recognition. While I understand the decision to keep "Deadwing" mostly out of it- it was the primary focus of "Arriving Somewhere..."- only getting to hear "Halo" is a bit disappointing. The same precise musicianship and pristine recording crosses over to the second half of the concert, but- if only because I love "Fear..." so much, "Anesthetize" feels like it leaves off on a weaker note than it begins.

Although this Tilburg show has been released in several editions and formats, the standard edition of "Anesthetize" feels rather barebones. Barring the concert, there are no special features, interviews or documentary sections to give viewers a deeper insight into the band. I suppose that's what the Special Editions are for, but even so, the choice to leave out any non-concert footage out of the loop feels a little puritanical. The concert itself is fantastic, but somehow, it feels like there's something missing.

Overall, Porcupine Tree fans will definitely want to check this out if they haven't already. It may not be a 'definitive' look into the band, but it's a more tastefully executed concert film than most you're bound to come across.

Report this review (#786350)
Posted Tuesday, July 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
5 stars A great concert for a great band, that play progressive rock in their own way, adding some spacey sounds and metal parts, with sudden rhythm changes, turning acoustic to metal in a blink of a eye. Steven Wilson with his beautiful voice and his talented guitar playing is surrounded by some pretty talented players on guitar, bass, drums and keyboards.

After seeing this show, i was excited to get my hands on this DVD/BR. The DTS sound mix is as usual with Mr. Wilson amazing, with a clear separation of each instrument. But my only negative comment is the black levels on the Blu-Ray, who are washed out. The DVD don't have this problem. Must have been a encoding error when they did the Blu-Ray.

Report this review (#803559)
Posted Sunday, August 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I want to start by stressing the fact that I am a big Porcupine Tree fan, like most of my fellow reviewers here at Prog Archives. I think Steven Wilson is one of the best songwriters in progressive rock. The rest of the band, especially Gavin Harrison, are brilliant musicians. Gavin's playing reminds me of Bill Bruford's, and I think Bruford was the best drummer in rock history! I'm impressed with the Anesthetize DVD concert. Therefore, I'm going to give it 4 stars. It's definitely very good, but not a masterpiece I think.

I don't watch a lot of recordings of live concerts. The thing is, a live concert should be an interactive experience. The band does not enough of that on this DVD. On the VH1 cable network I recently watched a Live from the Download Festival 2009 special, where Iron Maiden were the headliners. The band stomped on most of the younger groups that preceded them. Bruce Dickinson, who is in his 50's like the other members, was running around the stage, talking to the audience, and getting them worked up. Steven Wilson is clearly emotionally involved with what he's playing here, but not addressing the audience beyond introducing the songs.

As for the set list, appreciation really depends on personal choice. This DVD contains some of my favorite PT songs, but "favorite" is an entirely subjective decision. I agree with many of my fellow reviewers that "Anesthetize" is better than "Arriving Somewhere". I too find the camera work on "Arriving Somewhere" a little distracting. The slide show in "Anesthetize" is cool, but I care more about the band. Since this is a Steven Wilson production, "Anesthetize" is impeccable from a technical standpoint. The band is beyond reproach. I just expect a little bit more from a live concert.

Report this review (#1226728)
Posted Thursday, July 31, 2014 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#1469985)
Posted Sunday, September 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Team
4 stars If you expect to watch this video and see Steven Wilson, Richard Barbieri, Colin Edwin, Gavin Harrison, and John Wesley dancing around, acting flamboyant, interacting with the crowd, or trying to dredge up excitement, just know that's not going to happen. If you expect to see tricky video enhancements or fancy camerawork, don't get your hopes up too high. This video and performance is all about the music, nothing distracting (except for a lot of shots of the audience). But, this is not necessary. These things are usually done (at least in most popular music) in recorded live performances, or even non-recorded, to either distract from the fact that the music is lacking. That's not to say it's the only time it is done, but on run of the mill pop music, it is a ploy to make you love the entertainer or the mediocre music, to get your excitement up for the experience. But many times, this distracts from what should be the real "star" of the show, and that is the music. Yes, it's fun to have all of that, and it's even great when the music is excellent. But on this particular video, it's about the music more than it is about the performers.

Other than the fact that there is not a lot of "action" in a Porcupine Tree performance, the actual performances are amazing, the music is excellent and there are no distractions. There are some nice changes here and there in this live performance , but for the most part, the music is pretty close to the originals. It's a nice experience to see the performers performing and that is the main reason for this. Wilson's vocals are top rate, but you can tell they are in a live setting without additional takes and studio polish, and I actually find that a good thing. It gives the experience that uniqueness and makes things just different enough to justify buying a live version. I also like the rawer sound of vocals in this type of setting.

Another thing that stands out here is Wesley's background vocals. He is an excellent singer and it's good to hear him stand out a little more here. His higher pitched singing is a nice touch added to support Wilson's vocals. And, of course, its amazing to watch this excellent music being performed. I usually don't write reviews on videos because I am not familiar with the workings of cinematography, camera work and etc. But I can say that I enjoy this immensely,

For some reason, the last paragraph of this review got cut off when I sent it. I just summed things up saying that it is enjoyable to watch musicianship of this high caliber. But, even after my lecture on distractions, I have to admit that I like seeing some of that in a concert, it adds to the experience, it's just annoying when it's done to cover up a lack of talent. Some surprises, interaction with the audience, and more uniqueness in the music would have made this a 5 star recording. Even with great music, it's okay to use distractions once in a while to help make an experience memorable. Just know that this particular recording is all about the music and even with that, it's still deserving of 4 stars.

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Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2018 | Review Permalink

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