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Blu-ray Music Review: Porcupine Tree – Anesthetize

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After releasing what was arguably their best and most cohesive album to date, Fear Of A Blank Planet, in early 2007, Porcupine Tree embarked on an extended world tour where they would feature the entire album, from start to finish, for most of the 100-plus shows they would play. In October of 2008, near the end of that tour, the band played two nights at the famous 013 club in Tilburg, the Netherlands, where they recorded both shows for this concert DVD.

Anesthetize, taken from the name of their epic, 18-minute, FOABP track, was finally released in June of 2010 on DVD and Blu-ray + DVD set. The fact that quickly ran out of copies of the Blu-ray version while it was still in the pre-order stage, shows you just how much fan anticipation there was for this release. And it does not disappoint!

I, and plenty of audiophiles out there, have already commented numerous times about how Porcupine Tree mastermind, Steve Wilson, has become one of the best CD/DVD audio mixers in the business, and Anesthetize is certainly no exception. This baby should now be considered the new reference Blu-ray/DVD for those $50K surround sound systems you all have set up in those man-caves of yours – yeah…we all wish right? All of the CD + DVD audio re-releases of the classic PT albums are some of the best sounding audio discs you will ever hear as well.

I am not a huge fan of the whole “playing a new album from start to finish in concert” thing, because so few newer bands and albums are worthy enough to justify it. It’s one thing to see Pink Floyd play The Wall in its entirety, or Rush play Moving Pictures from start to finish this summer (I’m there baby!), but to play a new album that most people have not even heard yet takes a whole lot of gall. And these arrogant bastards just did it again with their latest, two-disc, The Incident, album during their most recent tour! This is also precisely why Porcupine Tree are my favorite band.

I saw Porcupine Tree in Baltimore, in 2007, during the first leg of their Tour Of A Blank Planet where they also opened with the entire FOABP album. During the tour, and at the Tilburg shows, they also played a lot of their “hits,” like “The Sound of Muzak,” “Open Car,” and “Trains,” but for whatever reason they didn’t include them on this DVD. It is quite impressive that there is only one song in common, “Halo,” between this and their previous DVD, Arriving Somewhere…, and they are both still so incredible, but it makes no sense to leave off all of these other great songs that were recorded, especially on the nice and roomy Blu-ray version.

My only minor gripe with this DVD is with the setlist. The best way to describe it is that this setlist is probably good enough to have those of you who are still unfamiliar with this band saying, “damn, these guys are an awesome band,” but if I were to put together a best-of setlist for you, you just might have found yourself calling these guys the greatest band in the world!

Along with FOABP, they also performed three of the four songs from the Nil Recurring EP, which is essentially leftover songs from the FOABP sessions, as well as a couple of B-sides from the In Absentia and Deadwing sessions. I was disappointed that they left off key In Absentia tracks like “Blackest Eyes,” “Trains,” and “The Sound of Muzak” in favor of lesser tracks like “Wedding Nails,” and “Strip The Soul/Dot Three,” but I can certainly respect them for not wanting to repeat themselves.

All setlist gripes aside, Porcupine Tree have once again captured another mesmerizing concert performance on DVD. This one will be hard to knock off my best of 2010 list. Special thanks goes out to director/editor Lasse Hoile who refrained from interjecting his artistic vision all over this video like he did with the last one, which nearly ruined it for me. Here he simply lets the performance do the talking, and saves the special effects crap for his song videos – which is where it belongs. His knowledge of the band’s music also made for some perfectly timed camera cuts to capture those essential guitar licks, keyboard riffs, and drum fills the moment they occur. I could have used less frequent camera cuts and more longer shots of the entire stage to better capture how the video screens and moody stage lighting really added to the performance.

Gavin Harrison may be the best drummer on the planet right now, and Hoile positions cameras at every vantage point around his kit. If you are a Harrison fan, or a fan of great drumming in general, you’ll be drooling over some of the shots you get to witness here. This DVD cries out for one of those “drum-cam only” options to let you focus just on him when you want.

Unsung hero, John Wesley, lends his amazing guitar and vocal skills to the band once again, and I am mystified as to why he is still given the Daryl Stuermer (Genesis) treatment, and has not been given full band member status yet. I could not imaging seeing Porcupine Tree without him. Treat this guy right Steve!

The production quality of the Blu-ray disc was pretty much flawless to my eyes and ears. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is so good, it may actually sound better than being at the show. Wow! There were nine camera operators listed in the credits, so I’ll assume that there were at least nine Hi-Def cameras in play these nights, and the results look spectacular. And don’t fret if you can only get a hold of the DVD version, as it is damn near as impressive, with only minimal differences in video definition and audio quality.

The Blu-ray disc comes with the following live films directed by Lasse Hoile: “Way Out Of Here,” My Ashes,” “Wedding Nails,” “Strip The Soul/Dot Three,” and “Nil Recurring.” The DVD does not include these or any other special features. A 14-page color booklet is also included with the package.

Don’t hesitate to get yourself a copy of this excellent Blu-ray or DVD and discover one of the best bands in the business. Better yet, catch them while they are still out on tour in support of The Incident. You won’t be disappointed.

01. Intro
02. Fear of a Blank Planet
03. My Ashes
04. Anesthetize

05. Sentimental
06. Way Out of Here
07. Sleep Together
08. What Happens Now?
09. Normal
10. Dark Matter
11. Drown With Me
12. Cheating the Polygraph
13. Half-Light
14. Sever
15. Wedding Nails
16. Strip the Soul / Dot Three
17. Sleep of No Dreaming
18. Halo
19. Outro

Performance – 9/10
Production – 10/10

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About Paul Roy

  • Glen Boyd

    Great review, Paul. One minor point though…PT are not performing the entire two discs of “The Incident” on tour, but rather all of disc one. This was actually a minor disappointment for me when they played Seattle last year, as some of my favorite music on the album (“Black Dahlia”, “Flicker”) is from the second disc.

    But I do agree with you, if PT play anywhere near you they are not be missed.


  • Paul Roy

    You are correct about The Incident tour Glen. I should have clarified that. They did play “Bonnie The Cat,” from disc two, when I saw them and during most of the tour though. Thanks

  • Mike Wilhide

    Welcome to my world! I’ve been raving about this band for the better part of eleven years. And they thing is, if any of the recordings blow your doors off, the live performances always up the ante. Not no be missed indeed! EVER.
    PS Paul, you will LOVE The Time Machine Tour!
    And IMHO, PT are the heir apparent to Rush…
    (Being a band that does it their way and succeeds without radio help.)

  • Paul Roy
  • Glen Boyd

    They’re usually pretty good about that Paul (PT’s website). They’ve linked a few of my reviews too.