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Friday, June 12, 2015

Show to Know: Steven Wilson at The Warfield

Posted By on Fri, Jun 12, 2015 at 8:04 AM

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This weekend musical adventurers can leave the pharmaceuticals at home before heading to The Warfield. Steven Wilson – best known as the leader of British progressive rock act Porcupine Tree – will merge dense, guitar-driven suites of prog-metal and eye-popping lighting design with a subliminal power no chemicals could match.

The backbone of this two and half hour set will be the guitarist-singer’s new solo album Hand.Cannot.Erase., which centers around the story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a young immigrant who laid dead in her London flat undiscovered for nearly three years before the UK’s Sun newspaper broke the story.

“What was interesting to me about [Vincent] was she was someone living in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world and yet was completely invisible,” says London native Wilson, 47, hanging backstage at a venue in Boulder, Colorado. “I think it’s a very 21st-century post-Internet kind of phenomenon. People look out their window and are terrified. They shrink into themselves. ” (Vincent’s story is also captured in Carol Morley’s award-winning documentary).

Mere mention of a concept album sets eyes to rolling, but people don't need to be aware of any theme to be swept away by the evening’s musical pyrotechnics. The crackerjack band — featuring guitarist Dave Kilminster (Roger Waters), keyboardist Adam Holzman (Miles Davis), bassist Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo), and drummer Craig Blundell (Frost*) — will work through Wilson’s solo material and likely throw in PT fan faves such as “Anesthetize.”

While new personnel were enlisted for the tour, the recorded version of Hand.Cannot.Erase. features shred-monster Guthrie Govan and drum-jock Marco Minnemann, arguably the most elite players of their generation. “Guthrie and Marco are guys that a few decades ago would have been in Frank Zappa’s band. For some reason these really amazing musicians keep wanting to play with me.”

It’s a funny statement from a guy regularly profiled in guitar geek mags but Wilson insists he’s not a technical player. “If anything I’m the opposite … I’m really more touchy-feely. I think what I like about this is it’s letting me just be a frontman, more of an arranger — or if I can say so without being too pretentious — an auteur. Sometimes I don’t know the chords I’m playing. I’m quite happy to not even look at a guitar unless I’m playing a show or recording an album.”

Check out the ambient, industrial-tinged “Perfect Life” and its sumptuous wide-angle video that Wilson, a Peter Weir fan, says was inspired by the Australian director’s dream-like debut Picnic at Hanging Rock, and you’ll get a taste of the visual splendor in store on Sunday (or see live stream of show on Saturday). Clearly, film scoring is the next frontier for this guy. (“It’s the one unfulfilled ambition I have.”)

As to whether the show’s eye candy will distract from the music, Wilson isn’t concerned. “I think anyone who knows my music thinks of it as cinematic. The visual and sonic elements enhance each other. It’s about finding the balance.”

Steve Wilson plays the Warfield Sunday June 14 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30-$40. 

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Andrew Lentz

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