Way Out (of here)

Porcupine Tree used to be one of music's best kept secrets, with the new album being the fastest moving album in Amazon UK's chart they are surely now one of the worst kept secrets! With a back catalogue of 9 studio albums and attracting plaudits from such rock luminaries as Rush's Neil Pert it's no surprise that Preston's 53 Degrees venue is near to capacity. The venue itself is a new one for me and is really impressive, it's spacious and with good views from almost every vantage point, it's a bonus that the sound is almost perfect. We've come to expect that level of perfectionism from Porcupine Tree though and it makes for an exceedingly slick and polished performance.

Tonight is the first chance for many fans to see the video for the title track of the new album 'Fear of a Blank Planet', which is projected onto a screen behind the band and it adds real atmosphere to what is already a stand out track. Front man Steve Wilson promises to play the new album in its entirety tonight although clearly not in order as they move into what is now an old favourite in 'Lightbulb Sun'. Two of the new songs follow ('My Ashes' and 'Anaesthetise') and for those that haven't yet picked up the new album it's clear that Porcupine Tree are bang on form. They continue to play the contrast between hard and soft with ease and if anything the new material has a darker, more sinister edge than 2005's Deadwing.

Porcupine Tree are never the most exciting band to watch but tonight Steve Wilson is in an upbeat mood and is more animated than I've seen him for some time. The set list wanders through the back catalogue and despite the evolution of the band over this time, none of the songs sound out of place and it's particularly good to hear 'Drown With Me'. Long term touring guitarist John Wesley takes most of the early guitar solos and is near faultless, he also sings the higher vocal parts. Although not visually exciting the music is another matter, Porcupine Tree just have the knack of creating great sweeping soundscapes at will and the standard of musicianship is nothing short of outstanding.

The crowd has one or two wildly enthusiastic individuals but is largely impassive during the songs, to their credit though they erupt into rapturous applause at the end of each song. Of the newer material it's the last two tracks (that close both the album and the set) that really impress tonight, the way 'Sleep Together' just builds and builds into a crescendo of swirling guitars and keyboards is fantastic. The three song encore begins with personal favourite 'Even Less' and ends with a stunning rendition of 'Halo'. Porcupine Tree have proved yet again that they are the leading lights in 21st Century progressive rock and with main songsmith Steve Wilson being one of this country's most prolific writers it's to their credit that they continue to produce albums and tours of this quality.