In March 2018 Steven Wilson recorded the last concert of his three night
residency at the Royal Albert Hall, London. This resulted in both a DVD and an
album of what is in someways in support of his previous record, To The Bone,
but has in effect morphed into a live performance of his greatest hits.
Wilson, who The Daily Telegraph famously described as ‘the most successful British musician most people have never heard of’ is likely to become much better known as a consequence, as the high quality sound production and visual impact of the video are both outstanding. Not that that probably bothers his legion of fans who regularly sell out his concerts in stadiums around the world.
This Grammy nominated musician has worked with Tears for Fears, Roxy Music and King Crimson, among many others, but has also made time to carve out a successful solo career. The CD, released on 2nd November by Eagle Rock/Universal, is well over two hours long but it is full of jewels and captures the excitement of the live show beautifully. It must help that Wilson describes the Royal Albert Hall as “probably my favourite venue in the world,” and being backed by a major label surely would not be a hindrance either. This is an ‘underground artist’ who has surely found his moment.
The presenter’s introduction, the buzz of the crowd, and the humming synthesizers provide a perfect backdrop for the surely wryly-chosen introductory lyrics of Nowhere Now, with Wilson intoning “six feet underground, we move backwards now...”
This is followed by Pariah where Wilson sings “I’m tired of Facebook, Tired of my failing health, I’m tired of everyone, And that includes myself”; but the beautifully soothing counterpoint of Ninet Teyeb singing “take comfort from me” lifts the song to another level. Wilson seems to be playing his Babicz Steven Wilson signature acoustic at the start of this tune but then swaps it for a Fender custom shop 1963 relic telecaster for the rousing and emotional outro.
Regret #9, from the Hand. Cannot. Erase. album, follows with some lovely keyboard and rocking guitar riffs, which incidentally, are a particular feature of this live performance. Wilson is constantly mixing things up however as the next tracks The Creator Had a Mastertape and Refuge show.
People Who Eat Darkness addresses the subject of terrorism; or perhaps an alien invasion, depending on whose version you wish to believe. Permanating is an upbeat pop song and is introduced here by Wilson telling the crowd that the Beatles are the best pop band ever, followed by Abba. Many clearly agree but for this critic’s money Ancestral, Song of I and Song of Unborn all have more to offer in terms of variety, with piano, handclapping and headbanging all being thrown into the mix. These songs are followed by the fabulous instrumental Vermillioncore, which begins with a gorgeous deep bass guitar before the drums kick in, followed by sumptuous keyboards and driving guitar riffs.
As if a filmed live concert was not sufficiently retro in itself, a deluxe 5LP vinyl version of this concert is slated for release in March 2019. The package will surely be seen as a highlight of Wilson’s career, as it captures him on top of his game at perhaps his favourite venue.
I don’t know if Wilson really feels like a Pariah making a ‘home invasion’, but on the basis of this album and DVD, whether he wants to or not it feels like this long time outsider is about to come in from the cold.