At The Sage, Gateshead, U.K., March 25, 2018

STEVEN WILSON (Live at The Sage, Gateshead, U.K., March 25, 2018)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Until recently Steven Wilson has been music’s little secret. Hidden from the mainstream media to all but his fiercely loyal fans, despite an astonishing body of work across a myriad of genres from the modern atmospheric Rock of Porcupine Tree, the Pop melodies of Blackfield, the Ambient tones of Bass Communion and the more Metal influenced Storm Corrosion and that’s just scratching the surface of the creativity of a musical genius.

There’s a real feeling that Wilson’s moment has now come with his latest release, To The Bone, a Top 3 album, only kept off the top by a combination of Elvis and Ed Sheeran, along with a sell out tour including an incredible three nights at the Royal Albert Hall, show an artist at the crest of a wave.

The Sage, unsurprisingly was packed for a very early 7.30pm start and for the first two songs Wilson performed behind a transparent screen onto which videos were projected including the images of Ninet Tayeb for the stunning duet she performed with Wilson during Pariah. Very effective.

The show was split into two halves with the first heavily weighted towards his last two solo albums bar the inclusion of Porcupine Tree’s, The Creator Has A Mastertape.

Backed by a band at the very top of their game including Nick Beggs, former bassist of Popsters Kajagoogoo, who displayed an extraordinary dexterity on the Chapman stick bass and showed why he is one of the most in demand bass players around. With Craig Blundell adding the complex rhythms on drums and Alex Hutchings on guitar along with Adam Hozlman adding some stunning atmospherics on keyboards, this was one formidable band. Wilson himself was the jack of all trades and master of all as he not only sang lead vocals, but played guitar, bass and keyboards as well, albeit, not all at the same time.

Wilson’s vocals throughout were exceptional, crystal clear, warm and melodic with a real sense of dynamics and expression bringing the likes of Refuge and People Who Eat Darkness to glorious life, with the latter featuring a startlingly compulsive video projection.

Set 2 opened with the multi-faceted epic Arriving Somewhere, a Porcupine Tree song that veered between beautiful multi layered vocal harmonies right across to some serious Metal riffing as Beggs and Blundell’s rhythm section telepathy kicked into gear.

The glorious uplifting pure Pop of Permanating had The Sage up on their feet as billows of smoke and coloured lights brought a genuine party feel to the show.

With tunnels of light enveloping each musician and an effective front projection adding to the ambience for Song Of I, this was a visual feast with Hutchings adding some intense atmospherics using a bow on his guitar.

With the sweet melody of Lazarus and the drama of Detonation, that built up layer upon layer creating a real sonic soundscape, Wilson was hitting top gear and when Sleep Together entered the fray, the sense of drama built on a sinister bubbling synth line could quite easily have provided the soundtrack to a Kubrick horror.

The sign of a great song is one that can be stripped down to its core components and still sound incredible. On album, Even Less is a dramatic tour de force but Wilson broke it down to a single voice and his Telecaster, played through a small amp and it sounded fantastic.

Strangely enough, Sound of Muzak, a song bemoaning the banality of constant background music, had a chorus so catchy and uplifting in complete contrast to the subject matter of the song, that Wilson even had the crowd singing along.

Most artists end their show end by sending their fans home on a high. Not Wilson, he was in a more melancholic mood for The Raven That Refused To Sing, a song so moody and atmospheric with a video so stark and compelling that the crowd were utterly transfixed. When the music stopped, there was silence for one brief moment before the whole place rose to its feet with rapturous applause.

Wilson’s performance was an absolute triumph both sonically, musically and visually. This was top class stuff and you’ll be hard pushed to see a better show this year.

Review and Photos By Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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