Porcupine Tree And Kings X Energize The House Of Blues

House Of Blues; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; September 27, 2009

by Bruce Rusk

The rain let up over Boston just in time to spare the fans queuing up for a night of great music. The House Of Blues sits in the shadow of Fenway Park, and happy rockers lined up noshing bratwurst from street vendors, extolling the virtues of the Sox, and waiting for one of the rare U.S. performances of Porcupine Tree, one of only 12 North American shows on this tour. (This was a sold-out show so the venue was packed, a testament to their growing popularity).

Opening the show were veteran rockers Kings X (Doug Pinnick – bass/vocals, Ty Tabor – guitar, Jerry Gaskill – drums), a band I had not explored beyond a couple of their early releases. I knew I liked what I heard, but hadn’t given them more than casual attention. Boy, was I missing out. The best way to describe them is power. They’re a supercharged hard rock band with a strong sense of melody. They blazed through a short but excellent set that had the audience fired up.  Pinnick was in great voice, Gaskill delivers thundering power, and Tabor is a grossly unrecognized talent.  His solos are amazingly fluid and crisp and his rhythm work is impeccable.

porcupinetree_250I can’t give enough props to these guys; the power trio is a dying breed, and these three carry the torch with pride, offering up a no-frills set of tasty hard rock. Pinnick got the crowd fired up with his energetic stage presence, calling for hands of any musicians in the audience during the closer “Over My Head,” exclaiming, “If you love music then make music. It doesn’t matter if you never get famous or make it on MTV, or even make it out of your basement, don’t ever give up the music!” I’m a fan now and will be looking forward to my next chance to see them live.

A brief break and then Porcupine Tree (Steven Wilson – vocals/guitar/keys, Colin Edwin – bass, Richard Barbieri – keys, Gavin Harrison – drums, John Wesley – guitar) took the stage. On a personal note, anyone who knows me knows what a fanatic I am for PT. I’d been waiting for almost ten years to see them live, but their scant touring in the U.S. had made it impossible. All I can say is that it was worth the wait. If I have to wait another decade, it’ll still be worth the wait for next show. I’m hoping that’s not the case, though.

The band’s set kicked off with the fifty-minute title suite from their new album The Incident. Pretty daring, but the audience ate it up, which is a testament to the strength of the music since it was likely the first exposure to these songs for many. Accompanying this piece (and most of the show) were eerily beautiful visuals projected behind the band. Longtime PT collaborator Lasse Hoile is legendary for his artistic contributions to the band’s image, and the short films created for the PT videos and live shows add a lot of dimension to the live performance.

After a short break, they returned to deliver a stunning set drawing largely from their recent albums, but with a few older pieces included as well. My spies reported that they are mixing up the setlist each night, so some surprises were in store. Gotta love a band that doesn’t put on a cookie-cutter show. One of my favorites, “Russia On Ice,” was the highlight for me, a blast of angst and melancholia featuring Wilson’s searing guitar work. The rarely played “Strip The Soul” and “.3” from the In Abstentia album were fan favorites, as was a surprise from the Nil Recurring EP, “Normal” which segued into the blazing “Mother And Child Divided” to end the set.

For the encore, the audience was treated to “The Sound of Muzak” and their signature closer “Trains.” With a lot of material available, they did great job of offering up a good mix of old and new, with a couple of songs I never really expected to hear. For the long wait, I was completely satisfied with the exhilarating show that left me hungry for more.

Sadly for us here in the States, they are headed back across the pond. But our European friends can see them all across the continent, where they’ll be touring extensively through the end of the year. Get a ticket – you won’t be disappointed.

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