There are about 2000 fans in the Wolverhampton Civic Hall tonight, and yet when RTM walks towards the venue a fella strolls up to me and says “who’s on tonight, mate?” We reply, and your man says: “never heard of him” and carries on about his day.
This exchange proves a few things: First that the general public is basically ill-informed when it comes to great music. Second, that mainstream radio is basically irrelevant, but thirdly it proves – perhaps most important – that great music does not need support, because somehow it gets heard. The rest of us are in the Civic Hall tonight to watch perhaps Britain’s greatest modern proggist.
Steven Wilson has had quite a career, in bands and solo – and of course as a producer and prog records restorer, he gives the impression that he lives for music. This year he released an album called “The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)” which is a quite stunning affair. It will appear highly on the end of year award lists of the great and good (and RTM). It is the finest prog record of the year in a year of cracking ones.
He is evidently proud of it too, playing five its tracks during the course of his two and a bit hours on stage. He begins, though, with “Trains” from his Porcupine Tree days, which is played acoustically.
He is soon joined by his magnificent band, which is topped off by a projection and lightshow that would be the envy of a many an arena rock act, and having a go at “Luminol” “…Raven’s….” first track.
Given the level of musicianship on show this evening – and the skills are quite jaw-dropping – the songs are not mere facsimiles of the ones that appear on the albums, rather interpretations. This is perhaps best shown on “Drive Home” during which Wilson jokes with his guitarist that he might try and play the same solo twice in two shows.
Wilson is a lot more gregarious than you might expect, and chats amiably between songs, letting fans record the show, but requesting that the devices are turned off for the new song that he plays, an untitled and unfinished tune which is introduced as “Break It (And It's Yours).” In actuality the fact that he has the courage to do this tells you all you need to know about Wilson, he is a musician that gets a thrill from challenging people and trusts his audience to come along for the ride. And it is a thrilling ride too, one that ends with a brilliant encore of “Radioactive Toy” and has been superlative throughout.
So whilst the mainstream might not be aware, the prog enthusiast might have had the night of the year.