Steven Wilson at the Royal Albert Hall
At least half of the hands in a full Royal Albert Hall go up when Steven Wilson asks who was here last night. It’s the second show of prog-rock’s most protean of modern talents under the venerated London dome and, after performing his latest album Hand Cannot Erase in full 24 hours ago, tonight is a run through his back catalogue of solo and band work. No repeaters present can accuse him of not giving value for money, that’s for sure.
The droning ambience of Cenotaph permeates from the empty stage until, one by one, the musicians walk out to cheers, the loudest being saved for a bare-footed (it’s his thing) Wilson. No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun has the type of elongated introduction associated with the genre, eventually dropping into a deathly riff in time with flashing lights shooting out all around. Having regularly collaborated on a record, he continues this bonhomie and brings out Ninet Tayeb to sing Routine, a sorrowful piano song. Even with a powerful performance, so much so that it receives a standing ovation, it’s almost subordinate to the accompanying, animated visuals playing out behind. On more than one occasion, the beautiful, disturbing and sometimes pensive changing visuals make the music feel like it is there only to serve as a soundtrack – yet they do not take anything away from the music, or the night, itself.
Great chunks of thought have gone into the show and this doesn’t escape the audience. Nor do indulgent guitar solos: Guthrie Govan comes out on Home Invasion and Regret #9, hammering out blurry-fingered solo after solo, smiling away. As heavy as things turn though — at one point Wilson says “let’s play some dumb heavy metal” — rather than going wild as might be expected, many a long-haired person nods along in an introverted manner, staying politely quiet between songs, save for the odd shout out. Quiet or not, they love him enough (or vice versa) to coax him out for two encores and there is a sense that, if he played a third night, they would be there unfailingly.
Photos: Carlos Glover
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