Porcupine Tree: Live in Mumbai
Photographs by Bobin James (Flickr)
Date: December 21, 2009 | Venue: Open Air Amphitheater, IIT Bombay
A few years ago, if I were to tell you that an acclaimed British progressive rock band would be performing at a Mumbai college festival, you would have laughed in my face. But it’s a testament to how far the rock scene has progressed in the last couple of years, combined with the efforts of the festival organisers, Aaron D’Souza and Co., that we were treated to Porcupine Tree at this year’s Livewire, the crown jewel of IIT Bombay’s cultural festival, Mood Indigo.
This isn’t the first time an international act has graced the main event of a college rock show either, with Ensiferum performing at the same location last year, and Opeth at IIT-Madras.
The new trend of colleges getting international bands to perform at their festivals is picking up real quick, and I’m pretty sure we’ll see more such acts in the near future as well, seeing as colleges will want to get one over their ‘rivals’. Even though not all colleges have the budget of an IIT for their festival, it will be pretty interesting to see what comes through the pipeline next.
Getting to the gig now. It goes without saying that the ridiculously large line of disgruntled fans which is the mainstay of any Livewire gig was bigger and badder than ever, with a crowd of several thousands. It was more peaceful than the years before, however, with lathi-charging by the trigger happy ‘Pandus’ kept to a minimum.
Parikrama, the perennial ‘opening band’ did just that, playing out the same old set with a few new songs here and there, while the crowd steadily filtered in. The event was held as usual, in the IIT-Bombay amphitheatre, which was pretty much filled to the brim, but not to the extent of being claustrophobic.
After a bit of crowd management and unnecessary cheering and jeering at hapless technicians, the lights went out on stage, with the visualisations taking over, as Porcupine Tree played the instrumental first track of the new album, ‘The Incident’, titled “Occam’s Razor”. This was seamlessly followed by “The Blind House”, performed to perfection, and you would really expect nothing less from a band that has Steven Wilson in it.
The standard set list for the current Porcupine Tree tour has generally involved the band playing out the entire first disc of ‘The Incident’, followed by a second segment with a few classic songs. However, since this was the first time the band was playing in India, they decided to give us a taste of some of their best, and man, oh, man, it just was something else.
The new trend of colleges getting international bands to perform at their festivals is picking up real quick, and I’m pretty sure we’ll see more such acts in the near future as well, seeing as colleges will want to get one over their ‘rivals’.
The band resumed with “The Sound of Muzak” from ‘In Absentia’, followed by the eternal crowd pleasers, “Open Car”, “Blackest Eyes”, and “Lazarus”. The crowd really got into the music, and the energy of the band was great, in addition to them being very, very tight. There wasn’t a misplaced note anywhere.
Colin Edwin and Gavin Harrison ripped up the the stage next with the intro to “Hatesong”, with Wilson joining in with the controlled randomness of his wah-wah pedal. Guitarist John Wesley may not be a permanent part of the band, so to speak, but he adds so much to Porcupine Tree, with some tight guitar playing and wonderful backing vocals. That was evident, more so than ever, in the 11-minute-long epic from the new album, “Time Flies”.
The band completed their set list including “Russia on Ice”, the middle section of the 17-minute-long “Anesthetize”, and two songs for me that were the stand-out performances of the night — “The Start of Something Beautiful” from ‘Deadwing’, and “Way Out of Here” from ‘Fear of a Blank Planet’.
I’m lost for words to describe just how well “The Start of Something Beautiful” was done. It’s a fabulous song to start with. Add to that the brilliance of Steven Wilson, the lighting, and the sounds of Richard Barbieri, and it makes for a quite epic seven-and-a-half minutes.
“Way Out of Here” was less about the music, but more to do with the atmosphere, the lighting, and the background music-video-esque visualisations in the background. Very, very well done.
The band finally went off stage, only to come back for an encore, in which they played arguably their most popular and loved song, “Trains”, followed by the final act of the evening, a power packed performance of “Halo”, that really finished the night on a high.
All in all, Porcupine Tree were quite simply AMAZING, as always. The energy, and the chemistry of the band was clearly evident, along with the individual skill of every member. Gavin Harrison showed us, up close, why he’s renowned as one of the world’s best prog-rock drummers. Steven Wilson’s level of performance really goes without saying. Colin Edwin on bass has a simple, quiet demeanour about him, but is one of the best bassists around. And finally, Porcupine Tree would not be Porcupine Tree without Richard Barbieri in charge of keyboards and sounds.
In addition to all that, the sound in the amphitheatre was phenomenal, a testament to the organisers and backroom staff of both IIT and the band; the lighting was wonderful, and the visualisations in the background were out of this world.
So yeah, it was a really, really, awesome show, and a personal dream come true for me to see Porcupine Tree live. The band are expected back in the near future, which would give us quite a few gigs in the pipeline for 2010, in addition to whatever our ever-enterprising engineering college folk can muster!