Fans of the enduring contemporary progressive rock band Porcupine Tree, who may have believed their era had ended, now have cause for celebration. This expansive live CD/DVD, spanning two and a half hours and featuring 21 songs, encapsulates all the intricate time signatures, thunderous widescreen intensity, and drama one would anticipate from the Steven Wilson-led UK outfit.
As fans of prog-rock are aware, Wilson is a multifaceted artist with a flourishing solo career as a musician, renowned remixer (often reimagining Dolby Atmos versions of older progressive/art-rock compositions), and producer. Therefore, it came as a surprise when he resurrected Porcupine Tree, a popular project of his, to create the potent Closure/Continuation in 2022, ending the band’s dormancy since the release of their last original set, The Incident, in 2009. The subsequent live tour featured two other longtime PT members, drummer Gavin Harrison and keyboardist Richard Barbieri, along with a bassist and second guitarist added for the road.
The setlist includes seven tracks from C/C, interspersed with many of the band’s beloved works dating back to the mid-tempo, slide guitar-driven “Even Less” from 1999. The visuals and, especially, the audio (in Dolby Atmos, naturally) are stunning, capturing the essence of being present as Wilson and the band unravel their complex tunes with the added energy of the live stage.
The music, generally darker and often more intricate, occasionally louder than, say, Yes, features layers of guitar and keyboard interaction that drift, collide, and often explode in showers of sonic sparks. The tracks tend to be on the longer side, with the nearly 18-minute “Anesthetize,” a milestone from the pivotal 2007 release Fear of a Blank Planet, followed by the new album’s “Chimera’s Wreck,” clocking in at over 10 minutes.
Porcupine Tree’s musicians are world-class, and the magnificence of the show lies in how they modulate their approach, transitioning from the glistening classical piano opening of “Sentimental” to the almost Dream Theatre-styled gnarled, thumping, at times metal-inspired concentration of “Harridan,” the latter reminiscent of some of King Crimson’s work (which Wilson has remixed).
Song titles such as the expansive “Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before It’s Recycled” reflect Wilson’s overall dystopian vision evident in the music’s ominous overtones. Nothing here has the “hit single” potential, as Porcupine Tree avoids traditional chorus/verse/bridge forms for more intricate, multi-faceted compositions.
For those who believed prog-rock was in decline, this widescreen example proves otherwise. Push play anywhere on this mesmerizing and propulsive showcase, and experience it on a quality surround system to be convinced that Porcupine Tree is a remarkably talented band pushing their music to the edge and back again with precision, passion, and the determination to affirm that their genre is alive and thriving.