The king of modern British Prog proves he can almost do no wrong right now


“I don’t do requests, sorry, it’s not that simple.” 

In that line, right there, you can learn everything you need to know about Steven Wilson. What’s just happened is this:  Wilson has just broken away from his wonderful new record “Hand Cannot Erase” for the second time tonight, and has just announced he is going to dip to “dip into my ….extensive….. back catalogue.” Cue a booming voice from the stalls with all manner of suggestions. All of which are ignored by Wilson, who instead plays “Lazarus” from his former band  Porcupine Tree (“one of my more successful attempts at writing a song under 20 minutes,” he jokes).

The exchange is light hearted, but there’s a couple of reasons why it’s important, firstly it proves what everyone in here already knows, Wilson is a single minded individual who does what he likes, but more important are the reasons he gives for choosing this song. It does, he says, fit in with the themes on the new album, making it the perfect choice when he considered putting this show together. 

Of all this sounds likes it’s a world away from splitting the audience in two for a sing-song it’s because it is. In case you haven’t realised yet, this is not just any other gig. This is a performance from one of the finest musicians and songwriters of his generation and his brilliant band, one which has a light show to dream of and a video screen that actually adds to the songs rather than showing the cleavage of the women in the front two rows like most. 

“Lazarus” is the first Porcupine Tree song of the evening, and it just about marks the halfway spot in this glorious 130 minute show. A show which – like the man himself had explained some time earlier – was largely about the “……Erase” record. 

Just released, in this setting, complete with the stunning visuals, the slightly quirky sounds it possesses really hit home. The brilliant “Perfect Life” and “Regret #9” are highlights early, while “Happy Returns” with its mournful acoustic hook, does the job late on. 

It is however, a song from further back in the past that really takes the honours tonight, the whole band seems to step things up for “Invasion” with all it’s meanderings and multi-faceted skill.

Even the encores are not just thrown together without thought. “The Watchmaker” is turned into a 3D, surround sound of a big deal (there’s speakers on the balcony behind where MVM is sat to give the clock ticking slightly more urgency, and a curtain over the stage with the five musicians now playing behind the projections.) There’s a further curtain call, as a gorgeous “The Raven That Refused To Sing” ends the evening. 

The aforementioned new album has entered the charts at number 13 last week, which inescapably means Steven Wilson is in the mainstream. Not that he seems too bothered, preferring instead to measure success thus: “this is the final night of my UK tour,” he says. “There was a time when a UK tour would have meant a date in London. Now I can come to a place like this.” 

He didn’t add the obvious finishing line to that sentence, so we will: …..and deliver one of the nights of 2015.