postheadericon DVD/BD Review – Porcupine Tree in Great Shape on “Anesthetize”

Porcupine Tree – Anesthetize – DVD/Blu-ray Disc (2010)

In the past few years I have seen Porcupine Tree perform five times. One of these shows was the show in 013 in Tilburg (Netherlands) that took place on October 15th, 2008. At the beginning of that show the announcement was made that the show would be recorded for a future release on DVD. Lucky me!

“Anesthetize” is the second official DVD release by Porcupine Tree: the progressive rock outfit led by versatile and productive musician/producer Steven Wilson. The concert film is in fact a mix of the recordings of two nights: October 15th and 16th, both recorded at 013.

Strangely enough the band decided to release the DVD more than half a year after their latest album “The Incident”, which was released in September 2009. Usually the pattern is that a DVD is released right after the tour that takes place in support of an album, which was in this case “Fear of a Blank Planet”. For some reason unknown to me the band decided to ignore this pattern.

But finally the wait is over, and I can tell you it was worth it! The band is in good shape and they play their parts flawlessly. You can clearly see that all the band members are enjoying themselves on stage and had a great time. Also present on stage during the show is John Wesley, who has been touring with the band for the last few years and plays additional electric and acoustic guitars. John Wesley is not only a great guitar player but also a very talented singer whose voice blends well with Wilson’s voice. The vocal harmonies therefore sound terrific on this release.

Porcupine Tree opens the set with performing all six tracks of their (at the time latest) album “Fear of a Blank Planet”. Truly a great album, with the 4th track, Anesthetize, clocking in at over 17 minutes. A true epic which is one of the highlights of this release. For the next 45 minutes the band plays five songs. Three of them come from the EP release “Nil Recurring”, which came out in the slipstream of FOABP. The songs on this EP were written in the same period as FOABP was recorded but were left out and released separately. The EP release is not as strong as it’s big brother FOABP. Therefore I found the middle part of the show less interesting (your mileage may vary) with the exception of the track Half-Life which is stunningly beautiful. The last half hour of the show is up to par with the first part of the show in which they play a couple of strong tracks from the albums “Signify”, “In Absentia” and “Deadwing” like “Sever”, “Wedding Nails”, “Strip the Soul/Dot Three” and set-closer “Halo”.

Image quality of the DVD release is great but the high-resolution image of the Blu-ray Disc is (obviously) even better and a real joy to watch. If you own a Blu-ray Player or a Playstation 3 then I definitely recommend getting the 2-disc set that includes the Blu-ray Disc. Camera shots are adventurous and creative without getting annoying and really contribute to the ambiance of the concert film. In my opinion they did a better job on this then on the previous DVD “Arriving somewhere…” which was edited more experimentally.

The mix of the concert is absolutely terrific with great dynamics. This way both the heavy songs and the mellower songs stand out. Furthermore I noticed a difference in the presence of the drums compared to how they sounded live. During the concert the drums sounded louder and heavier in the mix. To be honest, I like the mix of the Blu-ray Disc better as they sound more balanced in the mix. Maybe the band should opt for this kind of mix during the live gigs as well to give the other band members a bit more space instead of going for the heavy, more impressive sound. (But that’s a whole other discussion so I’ll end it right here.)

Final words: The quality of this release is extremely high on all aspects. The music is fabulous, the musicianship is fantastic and image and sound quality are exceptional. Make sure you get the 2-disc version if you have a Blu-ray player or the limited edition which contains both the DVD and BD with an additional 2 CDs containing all the music of the concert film including a bonus track that is not included on the DVD and BD.

5 Responses to “DVD/BD Review – Porcupine Tree in Great Shape on “Anesthetize””

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  • Alright, ENOUGH already! I have been hearing from people I respect that Porcupine Tree is a band I will really enjoy. For some reason, it has never clicked. I don’t know why. But reading this review is getting motivated. So, Crow, I ask you, where do I begin? Studio album, live record, maybe this video?

    Also, I saw John Wesley with Fish many years ago (Sunset’s on Empire Tour ’97) and I love that guy. So glad to hear he’s associated with an act that is just a hair’s breath away from the Crimson King himself (referring to Wilson’s recent remasters of King Crimson).

    • The question where to begin exploring Porcupine Tree’s discography is not easy to answer. The reason is that this band has evolved from an experimental, psychedelic solo project (Steven Wilson’s brainchild) to the progressive rock band they are nowadays.

      The tendency on the last four albums is that the band is getting heavier with every new album. This trend started on “In Absentia”. This album also happens to be the starting point for a lot of Porcupine Tree fans that walk the earth nowadays. You can consider this album as their breakthrough album. It is one of my favorite PT albums as well. After that came “Deadwing”, “Fear of a Blank Planet” and finally “The Incident”. The last album contains a 55-minute epic that carries the same name as the album with a few separate tracks thrown onto a second disc. It is a very good album, but not the best they ever did, imho.

      Although I like the more heavy style that Porcupine Tree plays nowadays, I can still enjoy their more psychedelic period too. The early “Voyage 34 – The Complete Trip” is a very good album to check out. This album is a remix and remaster from the “Voyage 34” tapes that Steven Wilson created and is very psychedelic with lots of samples and Floyd-inspired guitars. Later albums with a psychedelic undercurrent that I love very much are “The Sky Moves Sideways” and “Stupid Dreams”.

      Lots of stuff to check out! I hope this guide helps you in your discovery of Porcupine Tree.

      Cheers!

  • Don’t think less of me if I act like a total lemming and start with In Absentia. That seems like a good jumping off point, especially if it helps define their current direction. One more question, and the I’ll leave this alone: Is JOhn Wesley on any of the studio albums?

  • As far as I know, John Wesley is not playing on the studio albums. He is primarily a hired gun for the live shows and a very good one too.

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