Nowadays, live performance DVD/CD packages are a dime a dozen, which is the exact reason why Steven Wilson, a titan of progressive rock, deigned to go down that path, despite having a rabid following developed through his solo career along with time spent in Porcupine Tree, No-Man, Bass Communion and Blackfield. For the man once dubbed “…the most successful British artist you’ve never heard of,” by the Daily Telegraph, the idea of putting out a live DVD/CD seemed anathema.
“I’ve always been slightly reluctant [to do something like that] because there’s something about filming a show like this, which is quite an audio/visual spectacular, at least from my point of view. It’s something inherently compromising about trying to capture something like that on film. It’s tough, you know, after getting that magical feeling you have when you’re in a venue watching a show, so I’ve kind of resisted that,” he explained.
“And also, I’ve got this thing in my head that there are too many live concert films coming out at the same time. When I was growing up, bands didn’t really release concert films. They might put out a live album for every four or five studio albums they put out. And nowadays, every band makes an album and then puts out a live concert release and then they put out another studio album. And I think there are too many of these. Why don’t people go and see the shows rather than buy the live album? So all of these things have been going around in my head the last few years.”
That all changed with Home Invasion: In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Not only was Wilson able to draw from a trio of solo shows he played in his hometown, but he was be able to make an artistic statement while performing in one of his favorite venues.
“I got to play at the Royal Albert Hall, which is not only my favorite venue in Europe, it’s also my hometown. Not only that, I was doing three nights, which means we could film on the third night, when hopefully we would be very well bedded in and used to the sound from the previous nights and understanding how the engagement with the audience is going. All those things help you to feel a bit more relaxed when you step out,” he said. “That was pretty much how it proved to be. We walked out on the third night and were barely aware that the cameras were running and that’s kind of what you want. It’s a show of which I’m very proud of and it became a no-brainer this time to pull the trigger and film this.”
Rather than have a look as if a bunch of roadies were shooting with iPhones, Wilson made sure that Home Invasion came across as more of a cinematic experience. Multiple camera angles are extensively used while the lighting and sound are pristine. Camera cuts are minimal, keeping the flow of the performance going at a perfect pace. The 51-year-old multi-instrumentalist also does a fine job juxtaposing Porcupine Tree classics like “Sleep Together,” “Even Less” and “The Sound of Muzak” with solo gems like the exquisite “Pariah,” a showcase for the gorgeous phrasing of vocalist Ninet Tayeb.
While Wilson’s prog-rock cred is never in question thanks to the fusion nuances of the ominous “Ancestral” and the more strident “Home Invasion/Reget #9,” he’s not afraid to indulge his love of pop via “Permanating,” the single off last year’s To The Bone studio effort. Not only does he admonish his fans by declaring that pop music rules and anyone who doesn’t agree is a snob, but he follows up with the aforementioned piano-driven ditty, going so far as to have the dancers who appear in the video come out on stage and accompany the band with some unfettered choreography. It all comes as no surprise, given that as a kid, Wilson cut his teeth indulging as much in Donna Summer and ABBA as he did Pink Floyd.
“When I was growing up, my mom was listening to the great Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder records and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and a lot of classic soul records. My dad was buying stuff like Tubular Bells and Dark Side of the Moon. The both of them loved ABBA, so I would quite often hear ABBA’s Greatest Hits and The Carpenters. And the thing that all of these albums have in common is that they are phenomenal pop records and they are beautifully produced,” Wilson recalled. “Sonically, they are right up there with the very best productions ever made. Even as a very young kid, not aware of liking or disliking something, I was being kind of brainwashed to be someone who would be interested in production, sonic excellence and the album as a musical continuum or journey. This idea that you can take the listener on a journey across an album, that was kind of beaten into me from a very young age, from stuff like Dark Side of the Moon and those Donna Summer records.”
Fans coming out to catch Wilson on the concert trail can expect that kind of creative attention to detail as can be found on Home Invasion.
“The To The Bone show took a lot of planning, pre-production and a lot of preparation. Now that I’ve got it up running, I really want to share it with as many people as I can and take it to as many cities as I can,” he said. “And it’s a great show. It’s the version of the To The Bone show that’s in the movie, albeit I’m not playing the Royal Albert Hall every night. It has to be a bit of a movable feast, and it is.”
Steven Wilson will be appearing on Dec. 4 at The Paramount, 370 New York Ave. Huntington. For more information, visit www.theparamountny.com or call 631-673-7300.