Thursday, April 22, 2010

Two Helpings of Porcupine Tree (and Big Elf)

For the past two days, my friends and I spent a considerable amount of time driving to Dallas, and then Houston, in order to see two stops on the current Porcupine Tree tour. This is the second leg of their North American tour supporting their latest album, the Incident.

I had already attended two dates on the first leg this tour in September. Once again, Tree chose to play the first disc of the Incident in it's entirety, and took a 10 minute intermission, before returning to stage for a 2nd set of material from their older albums. They randomly select different songs each night to keep things interesting.

The venue for both shows was the House of Blues, and both franchises had the same basic layout, each holding approximately 2,500 patrons. I had no complaints about the sound or sight lines with either club.

Big Elf

The opening band this time around was Big Elf. They're a 4 piece Prog outfit, with a guitarist, bassist, drummer and keyboard player/lead vocalist. The lead singer had a stack of vintage keyboards including a Mellotron, MiniMoog, and Hammond B3, with a Leslie 147. They sounded like they had stepped right out of the 70's.

Although they sound a little bit like the Beatles on their website samples, live, they reminded me more of old Deep Purple. I didn't enjoy these guys as much as Kings X (I'm still in awe of Brother Doug), but Big Elf is a great band. I will watch for them in the future, and I will most likely also buy a CD.

Kudos to Tree's management for picking good and complementary openers, once again. So far, I have discovered three very interesting new bands during the 6 PT Shows I have seen to date.

Big Elf in Dallas
Big Elf at House of Blues, Dallas
Big Elf in Houston
Big Elf at the House of Blues, Houston

Porcupine Tree

Like the first leg of tour, there was an announcement before PT came on stage asking the audience to refrain from recording or taking pictures during the show. Perhaps Steven is spending too much time with Robert Fripp? (LOL) Still, I do agree that it can be distracting, and I had no problem complying with their request.

Dallas

In general, this show had a good vibe, although the sound was a little harsh at times. The crowd was very well behaved, unlike Philly.

The set list for the night can be found here. Having listened to Nil Recurring quite a bit lately, the person beside me was surprised that I knew they were about to play Normal (one of my favorites), I also enjoyed hearing Anesthetize, the Start of Something Beautiful, and Way Out of Here.

Lower Balcony Seating in Dallas

The one bummer of the night was the fan club seating. Like other members, I had bought tickets through the Fan Club site to be seated in the Lower Balcony. When we got upstairs, all of the Fan Club people were shocked to see where our seats were.

There were lots of reserved seats, but they had all been sold later through the box office. I would have been willing to live with this, had I not found out that these seats were the same price as ours.

The fan club seats were all the way up at the top or last row, on stools. I suspect that there was some chicanery by the HOB to be honest, and I know that some complaints were registered. It was bad enough that my friend Dan and I chose to go down stairs and stand in the GA section. I'm still a little pissed about this. Live and Learn.

Houston

For this show, my friend Dan and I parked right next to the rail at the sound board. As a result, it was much better aurally, although Tree always sounds good live. In general, I would say that this was the stronger of the two shows.

The set list was a bit different. Strip the Soul and Buying a New Soul made an appearance during the 2nd set, and Normal was gone.

Other Stuff

During the fall leg of the Incident Tour, they were selectively playing Trains. However, it really has taken on a life of its own, and it is now their defacto hit. They're almost forced to play it every night as the encore now.

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