September 26th, 2005
9:30 Club, Washington, DC
If you mention the name Porcupine Tree to anyone but the most sophisticated prog-rock connoisseur, you will most likely be greeted with the standard Porcupine WHAT? They have simply just not caught on here in the U.S. like they deserve to, although the success of 2002's In Absentia and this year's Deadwing albums, along with some relentless North American touring are working to cure that travesty. Even though some of their more accessible songs such as "Trains", "The Sound Of Muzak", and "Lazarus" would have easily embarrassed most of the current top-forty slosh, you're more likely to see James Taylor play Ozzfest before you hear a Porcupine Tree song on the radio. This is why I haven't listened to FM radio in about ten years.
Porcupine Tree are now at the top of my "must buy/must see" list. They are that good. Their sound is as progressive, moody, and complex as Pink Floyd, yet as tight and powerful as Led Zeppelin in their prime. The best of both worlds. As I immersed myself in their music, marveling at the complex arrangements and Steve Wilson's brilliant production work, I often wondered if they could really pull this stuff off live. On a rainy Monday night in my nation's capital two weeks ago, I finally got the chance to see. All of my questions were answered.
Legendary guitarist Robert Fripp opened the show and performed a 45-minute set worth of material from his latest collaboration with Brian Eno. I will admit that I am totally unfamiliar with Fripp's work outside of King Crimson, so I had no idea what to expect. What we were treated to sounded like one continuous fusion of incredibly sustained guitar notes and harmonics played over a broad synthesizer landscape, which Fripp would pause to adjust every few minutes. This may have been a fascinating performance for die-hard Fripp fans, but I found it more appropriate for an intimate Fripp headlining gig. I though it made for a terrible warm up for a band like Porcupine Tree. While most in the audience were quietly respectful of his performance, others were not so polite and openly voiced their displeasure. I took the opportunity to show my 18-year old daughter around the club (there is no minimum age at the 9:30), as this was her first time in the club, and her first ever concert.