Setting Orange, The Aftermath 22, Year of Our Lady of Discord 3173
Porcupine Tree made their first appearance in Oxford since the early 90s a few nights ago and I made sure I was in attendance. Pixie was originally going to go with me--but then comedian Stewart Lee announced that he was playing at the Jacqueline Du Pre Music Building on the campus of St. Hilda's College the very same night. I was torn between the two, as I watched Lee's brilliant Stand-Up Comedian DVD earlier this year and really wanted to see him perfrom live. I ended up choosing P. Tree because I had never seen them in concert (though I had a couple of opportunities to see them in Connecticut).
We had arranged to meet a co-worker, who was also attending the Lee show, at the Cape Of Good Hope pub, at 7 p.m. for pre-show drinks. Pixie and I grabbed dinner at the Noodle Bar before heading to the pub. I ordered the roast duck/ho fun noodle combo, which was quiet tasty and Pixie had a mushroom/rice/cashew & pea combo that she enjoyed. We arrived at the pub for a pint--sat around and talked for a while. My mate Will, an ex-Borders comrade, showed up as well. He was heading to the Lee show--which wasn't due to start until around 9 p.m. I checked the time and it was around 7:45 p.m., so I said my good-byes and started toward the Carling Academy. By the time I was inside the downstairs room, the support band, Anathema, had finished their set. I did want to check them out, as I read somewhere that some of their tunes hit on the progressive side of metal. Ah well, another time, perhaps.
Finally, after numerous techs sound-checking the instruments--the lights dimmed and films started up on the rear stage screen, flashing with images similar to the ones in the Fear Of A Blank Planet (P. Tree's newest album, released this year) CD booklet. In fact, they started off with a blistering version of the album's title track, mainman Steven Wilson bouncing around the front of the stage, looking like a demented Geddy Lee with his glasses and T-shirt. They followed that with a tune off of their new EP, Nil Recurring, called What Happens Now? The fast pace was then slowed down a bit with a nice Lazarus, from the Deadwing album--after which it was back to rockin' with more tunes off of the EP and "Fear Of...". The highlights were a complete Anesthetize, the whole 17-minute version (with a hilarious intro recounting by S.W., about an American DJ mispronouncing the title as "Annie's Thighs") and Cheating The Polygraph, with Wilson hitting a mean solo section. A surprise Dark Matter, from the Signify album, was a treat as well.
The rest of the band were on good form, especially drummer Gavin Harrison's double-bass drum footwork and extra guitarist John Wesley's power-chording and backup vocals. Colin Edwin ("the hippie of the group"), the bass player, got a shout-out from the crowd and S.W. had another humourous moment asking the whole crowd if they loved Colin and then he said that the band themselves didn't love him. The main set wound up with Way Out Of Here and Sleep Together, backed by a video of a strange metallic creature tapping away at a keyboard-like object--it looked like something Tool might use. They returned for an encore set consisting of a lovely Waiting, followed by an old fave, Even Less (which I was hoping for) and finally Halo. I had a good time, despite the over-crowded venue. I made my way to the merch table, through the leaving throngs, and picked up a copy of the new EP (I had bought a T-shirt on my way in to the show) and then headed out.
I texted Pixie and it appeared that the Stewart Lee gig hadn't finsihed yet. I walked down the Cowley Road, followed a sign and managed to find the Jacqueline Du Pre building with the help of a porter on the St. Hilda's campus, then waited in the lobby. A bloke walked out about five minutes later and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was waiting for my wife, as she was still watching the gig. He mentioned that he was the promoter and asked if I wanted to watch the ending. I said sure, but remarked that it didn't seem fair because I hadn't bought a ticket. He told me it was fine. Just then, Dan walked out into the lobby with an extra ticket he had been given at the box office. I crept into the hall, which was a lot smaller than I had pictured in my mind--and sat down next to Pixie. Lee was in the middle of a bit about Muslims and Weight Watchers, but I had missed most of it, so I gamely laughed along when I could. He then did a hilarious bit about Richard Littlejohn, the right-wing mouthpiece who used to have a column in that rag 'The Sun' and now writes for 'The Daily Mail' (surprise surprise). I won't give the bit away, in case you're going to see Stewart, but I was nearly pissing myself. The show wrapped up with one of his 'is-he-serious-or-joking-or-maybe-both' moments and then he was out in the lobby, chatting with some of the crowd and selling and signing copies of his 90s Comedian DVD.
So there you have it--one night, two great shows (or a great show and a bit of another great show) and a nice dinner to boot. Go see either, or both in the same night, if you can!