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Written by Central Electronic Brain     April 04, 2013    
 
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2 CD live recording of his main band's last tour.

The ubiquitous Steven Wilson is never out of the limelight for long and hot on the heels of his live solo DVD (‘Get All You Deserve’ – reviewed in the previous issue) comes a 2CD live recording of his main band’s last tour.

The first CD is a rendition of the studio album they were promoting at the time (‘The Incident’) and the second disc comprises eight tracks (two are segued) from their back catalogue with the final three being taken from their show at the Royal Albert Hall. This includes my favourite track by the band, ‘Arriving Somewhere But Not Here’ which forms a rather fitting finale. There will be a special edition of this release featuring a bonus DVD that documents ‘The Incident’ show from Chicago; diehard fans will want to get their hands on that, no doubt.

In terms of disc one the presentation of ‘The Incident’ is pretty faithful to the studio version albeit with that organic, slightly looser, less polished feel redolent of the live environment; I feel this adds depth rather than detracts; in fact it seems an altogether warmer rendition as a result. The piece switches seamlessly between heavy (‘Occam’s Razor’) and gentle meandering sections (‘The Blind House’ which features both styles). I’m encouraged that any studio tinkering appears to have been kept to a minimum so this sounds like a true representation of the band’s performance. The highlight is the lengthy ‘Time Flies’ section.

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Disc two demonstrates both the glory and the frustration I feel with this band, mostly but not exclusively the former, I hasten to add. It probably makes me a heretic to say this, given the band’s seemingly lordly status with both Press and fans, but some of their material simply fails to excite me or leaves me bemused yet they can then produce so much that is rather compelling. The aforementioned ‘Arriving…’ and the Pink Floyd infused ‘Russia On Ice’ fit the first category extremely well but then sections of ‘Bonnie The Cat’ (the spoken/sung verses) and the somewhat torrid (in places) ‘Hatesong’ leave me cold. I find some of the guitar solos on ‘Hatesong’ un-listenable as they are exercises in noise rather than tunefulness.

What does impress me though is the inclusion of an unlikely track in the set, which also proves to be something of a highlight; ‘Stars Die’ was an early song in the band’s career and was only ever released as a single. It’s a lovely gentle song in the RPWL style driven along by acoustic guitar and a keyboard wash; the guitar solo is rather tasty too. Saving the best to last; ‘Arriving…’ closes out the set in splendid fashion. This multi-faceted epic builds beautifully and has a great refrain. When the song bursts into a guitar solo, Wilson shows he can play melodically and with wonderful restraint.

Naturally, fans of the band will be all over this like a rash, the unconvinced will remain so.

Gary Marshall

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