Features

Saturday Deluxe / 31 March 2018

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Photo by Paul Sinclair

Steven Wilson rocks the Royal Albert Hall

I had a fantastic evening at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday night seeing Steven Wilson play on his To The Bone tour.

This was the middle of a run of three evenings at the historic venue and it was clear from some of Wilson’s interaction with the audience that many had booked for all three evenings. Steven makes a point of mixing up the set-lists and doing something different and the diehards are well aware of this.

To my delight, on Wednesday Steven revisited Hand.Cannot.Erase., playing seven tracks from the album, including Home Invasion and Happy Returns. Ninet Tayeb is now a familiar presence on Steven Wilson live shows and the Israeli singer-songwriter was on and off the stage with some regularity but nothing ever seems to match the drama and emotion of Routine, which was performed with the incredible Jess Cope animation as a rear projection.

Wilson’s relationship with his audience is a warm one and in an opening ‘unplugged’ section the musician looked incredibly relaxed and was chatting and joshing with the capacity 5,000 audience like mates in the pub. This was evident later on in the show when he played Permanating (one of eight tracks from To The Bone) as he teased the audience about this poppy number, saying “so none of you have left [disparaging] messages on Facebook, then?” The title track of To The Bone already sounds like a classic, although I mourned the lack of Blank Tapes – another duet with Ninet – which is a personal favourite.

I was incredibly lucky to have secured some great seats when I bought my tickets last year. I was slap bang in the centre of the second row in the ‘Arena’ section (the flat bit in the middle) and it was very interesting. I’ve never been so close to the front of the Albert Hall – you almost forget that you have this massive hall behind you and the experience obviously feels much more intimate. In some weird way, it feels a little like you’re invading the artists’ personal space, you are so close. They can see you looking at them. You are obviously dialled into the action at a whole other level and pick up on nods and cues between musicians, signals to the mixing desk for in-ear audio adjustments and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I would rather be at the back, but it is strange – and thrilling at the same time.


Paul Sinclair and Nick Beggs after the show (photo by Martin Patton)

One of the pleasures was seeing former Kajagoogoo member Nick Beggs at close quarters. He’s been playing with Steven for years and is surely one of the most musically gifted musicians to emerge from the dizzy decade of eighties pop. He’s a virtuoso on the bass and absolutely incredible to watch on stage. A lovely guy too, since I was fortunate enough to meet him after the show and have a chat.

It was lovely too, to bump into a few friends who read SDE at the show. I thought that might happen and is a lovely bonus when it does. So if you ever see me out and about or at a gig, you must come and say hello!

The To The Bone Tour continues in Manchester tonight and tomorrow, before heading to America and Canada in April. All the dates can be found here. You can view the full setlist for Wednesday’s show here.



SDE popped into Graham’s on Tuesday to fix the Rega

SDE turntable repaired and up and running again!

A big thank you this week goes out to Sophie and the team at Graham’s Hi-Fi who did a great job sorting out my Rega Planar 3. My stylus/cartridge was knackered and I finally got around to popping over there with the turntable and my Elys 2 cartridge (kindly supplied by Rega).

I’d been to Graham’s before (when they replaced the belt on the turntable) and I don’t know about you, but in this increasingly disposable world, it’s a pleasure to take an item to a skilled technician and get it ‘fixed’. I know not everyone embraces vinyl as a format, but one of the pleasurable things about owning a decent turntable like the Planar 3, is that there is a certain level of simplicity with the units and things can be fixed; components can be replaced. So unless you want to upgrade, they really should last a lifetime.

Anyway, it’s such a relief to be able to play vinyl again. I ‘christened’ the new stylus with Roger WatersIs This The Life We Really Want and my admiration for that work is growing daily. It’s easily the best thing he has produced as a solo artist. Back to Graham’s though –   if you call in advance and tell them you’re coming, they can do  jobs like this ‘while you wait’. They are my ‘local’, so I would naturally want to support them and will no doubt be back. They do a good trade in high-end home streaming systems… which I may investigate at some point, although I have to say I’m happy enough with my Sonos set-up for now (despite Sophie telling me how inferior the sound is compared to other systems). I’ll keep ‘high end’ for the main room and enjoy the convenience/simplicity of Sonos around the house.

34 responses to Saturday Deluxe / 31 March 2018

  1. FredHolmes says:

    I’d have thought that you’d be an appreciator of Amused to Death Paul ? Considered by many to be his best writing either with PF or solo ?

    I’m personally glad that the new album is being generally well received.

  2. Paul Wren says:

    Being down the front and close to live performers is always a more visceral experience altho’ does not always represent the best sound balance depending upon where you are. It also starts to impair hearing after many years of doing this, so beware!

  3. Cris says:

    I think I’ ve hinted at Kajagoogoo for one reason or another in some of my past comments, but now you’ ve really hit THE spot with this article and the mention of Nick Beggs, Paul!!!
    My all time hero, from the very first time I heard Too Shy as a 13-year old…

    “SimonP” put it perfectly in his comment below on the 80s bass players, and in this respect allow me to benevolently “give an earful” to “The Golden Age Of…” for his preconceptions on Kajagoogoo.
    Their music was not fluffy but rather exotic and original in its sound which no other group had at the time in the British New Wave. Nick’ s bass slapping was exceptional (even more so if one thinks he was only 22 at the time), inspired by Mark King of Level 42, and already on follow-up album Islands he started playing the Chapman Stick of which he is now a world master (just listen to The Lion’ s Mouth and Turn Your Back On Me and tell me if mid the pop coolness of the songs you can’ t hear the unexpected deviations coming from his teenage prog upbringing…). A suggestion for you “TGAO”: listen to Islands, KGG’ s second album, and the two albums by The Mute Gods, Nick’ s own current “prog-ject” with Roger King (keys player with Steve Hackett) and Marco Minneman (ex drum player with Wilson): you could be very surprised.
    Nick has worked very hard to keep earning a living from music after the Eighties ended, went back to learning how to read and write music (again: he slapped like that being a self-taught bass player at the time?!?!) and is an incredibly serious professional, and a virtuoso, highly sought-for and highly esteemed by everyone including his heroes Chris Squire and Tony Levin.
    And of course as further confirmation, it is needless to say that not EVERYONE can play in Steven Wilson’ s band…
    And on top of all that, most of all he is an incredibly sweet, thoughtful, friendly and nice person, which is not to be taken for granted with artists of his calibre.
    I have had the joy and privilege of witnessing this when I finally met him backstage in 2010 (after 25 years wait!) and on other occasions after that, both with the Hackett and Wilson bands.
    Rather than a reissue of Ellis Beggs & Howard (lucky you guys who saw them live!) it would be great if Nick were to put his hands on the demo of the never issued second album and have them re-produced with great pomp and released as a serious new album…
    Thank you Paul for the great picture onstage and for writing about Nick! SDE never disappoints and always surprises!
    If you come to Italy (North) I will be glad to say hello to you somehow.

  4. The Golden Age Of _ _ _ _ _ _`_ says:

    Steven Wilson, Sunday Night At The Bridgewater Hall – MAGNIFICENT!!!

    We didn`t get the guest appearances that occured at the RAH but we did get a superb performance from Steven & the band in one of the best for sound, venues in the world!

  5. Martin Waldron says:

    Hi Paul any idea if there’s any chance of a deluxe reissue of Ellis Beggs & Howard’s Homelands album. ?

    • Tim says:

      I saw Ellis, Beggs & Howard live once. Supporting someone though I can’t remember who… They were superb.

  6. martin farnworth says:

    marvellous show on thursday night at RAH. travelled from Preston as wanted to go to this venue for a long time.chuffed that i got free upgraded seats from the gallery to one in a box as it was only about 70% full and being filmed for a future dvd/blueray release. That one i will be buying although it feels almost borderline ridiculous with all the releases/reissues Wilson puts out. but give the fans what they want i guess.

  7. Steve Hurley says:

    Limited finances & real life dictated that we managed Glasgow & the first RAH show this time around – would have loved to have stayed longer & taken in at least one of the other London shows too. I would have definitely said ‘hi’ if i had spotted you!

    I was fortunate enough to see Porcupine Tree twice live before they finished and they were such a great band live. Saying that there’s a freedom to SW’s shows with his solo band that is a joy to witness. Having players of the calibre of Adam Holzman & Nick Beggs helps to set a high musical bar but there’s also an obvious friendship & camaraderie between this line-up that give the concerts an added dimension. A stunning & spectacular live experience.

  8. Ian Hicks says:

    Having attended all three Royal Albert Hall gigs this week it was great that each one was unique. For me the Wednesday night shaded it as it felt like a ‘for the fans’ concert.
    I’ve now it 30 PT/SW gigs and for me he is the best live act around.

    It was great to finally meet and have a chat with the great Paul Sinclair and I can’t believe we were in the same row.

    Thursday night was also great as I got to see Richard Barbieri supporting and also met and a natter with Steve Hogarth who was in attendance.

  9. CJ Feeney says:

    Thanks for giving us a photo of Nick Beggs fully clothed. There is a picture of him backstage at the RAH doing the rounds. He’s wearing a manikini from the “more revealing” end of the range, and a fireman’s helmet. The photo seems to have originated in Nicks twitter account.

    • martin farnworth says:

      the bloke’s on another planet. i wonder if he has to reign it in a bit as not to upstage Wilson

  10. Johnossi says:

    Nice text and review, but can you really say that SW rocks? For me that word “rocks” means about the same as Led Zeppelin and other greats, so is SW really that good nowadays?

  11. Jon Jay says:

    Nice review Paul and great photo of Steven and Nick! Being one of those, and I believe there were quite a few of us, lucky ones who attended all three Albert Hall shows I feel that the second night edged it as being the best of a very impressive run, though each show had many highlights, such was the variation of the setlists and the quality of the musicianship. Special mentions go to the acoustic set by Steven and Adam Holzman, to Ninet for her devasting vocal performanes on all three nights, sorry Paul the duet of Blank Tapes that you so wished to see was performed on night’s one and three. To the Bollywood dancers on stage for Permanating, who sadly did not appear on the 28th. To the guest appearances of Dave Kilminster and Mark Feltham, who did. To the premier live performance of Song Of Unborn along with it’s beautiful Jess Cope film and to Steven joining Richard Barbieri for a version of Porcupine Tree’s Buying New Soul at the end of Richard’s support set on the 29th. Three nights I will never forget, thanks to all involved!

  12. Gianluca Morelli says:

    I agree both on the Rega and on Roger Waters’ new work…even if I am not a big fan of his as a solo artist…but his latest work is imho Meddle and Animals meet The Final Cut

  13. Martin Waldron says:

    Nice to see Nick Beggs, a superb bass player, saw him play with Ellis Beggs & Howard in Glasgow in the late 80’s. Homelands is a great album.

  14. Christophe says:

    Thank you Paul for this review ..the Wednesday show was à real gift for the die hard fan i am ! Having seen Routine performed at the RAH i can die now . I saw SW live 8 times since 2013 5 gigs in France at home but french audiences are too quiet and cold i Thank 2 gigs in Italy : be sure that nothing can be compared with Wednesday evening ; you british audiences are definitely the best ! A french SW fan and absolute reader of SDE

  15. Hassan says:

    The show in Gateshead was superb as well.
    I did both of the Albert Hall shows in 2015, the first of which, when I was 3rd row dead centre in the Arena section was abysmal – the sound was absolutely shocking…

  16. Kevin Barrett says:

    Vinyl never died for me, never will!

  17. Rory M says:

    Hi Paul
    Are you going to cover the new super deluxe edition announcement of Mansun’s 1997 debut Attack Of The Grey Lantern?
    Excellent album and has just been announced as a nice looking 3CD&DVD edition.
    Cheers

  18. Daran says:

    Nick Beggs – my answer to all those I meet who say the 80’s lot were all talentless frilly shirts and hairspray…. “You know that band Kajagogo who everybody thinks were crap, well you know that lovely piece of fretless bass during the intro, well that is actually the guy in the band playing it……” Suck on that 80’s hater :) Imagine the talent of those in bands you don’t think were rubbish ;)

    • SimonP says:

      There were loads of great bass players in the eighties pop charts. Mikey Craig, Martin Kemp and John Taylor all played some funky bass lines for their respective bands. XTC’s bass player, whose name escapes me was good, Pino Palladino from Paul Young’s backing band, Del Palmer in Kate Bush’s and the two MKs, Mark King and Mick Karn…

  19. JULIAN ASTOR says:

    Hi Paul,

    Was at Wednesday night too. First row of the side stalls block G to your left, level with the stage, a few feet from, as you highlight, the truly great Sir Nicholas Beggs (remember Ellis, Beggs, & Howard ?). What a show !

    I have seen Steven Wilson 4 times before & this show was so incredible I decided to buy a ticket for the final night on Thursday – a very different
    set, but equally mesmerizing.

    As you know they filmed it & I’m sure you’ll be among the first to discuss details of any future DVD/BLU-RAY release on your excellent site.

    Steven Wilson has now built up an extraordinary body of work with No-Man, Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, & in more recent years his astonishing solo records, plus of course his boundless work on remasters & remixes & yet, as has been noted, he could walk down any high street unnoticed.

    He made thoughtful comments on Weds night about how in the past cutting edge experimental but accessible artists like Bowie & Prince could dominate the pop charts & maintain a ubiquitous presence & now this is something which no longer seems possible in the digital age.

    On Thursday night he explained when he worked on a surround mix on Deep Purple’s ‘Made in Japan’ (sadly shelved) he learned that the applause was dubbed on later, because Japanese audiences did not express their appreciation through the convention of clapping, & that amazing music was played to complete silence. He mentioned this in the hope that this filmed performance would witness tangible enthusiasm. No problem there !

    Btw Paul, you might have still been in NYC, but were you around for the xPropaganda gig at The Garage ? More modest scale than SW but a
    great dynamic rendition of (imho) ZTT’s most remarkable album.

    Best,
    Jules

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Thanks Jules… great comments. It’s a shame Universal didn’t release his 5.1 mix of Made in Japan. Unfortunately NY clashed with Propaganda, so I gave my tickets away via an SDE competition! Steven is a very nice guy to boot. Managed to grab a brief chat with him after the gig. I made the point to him when I interviewed him for this site, so many artists must envy his position… relative anonymity but lots of success, particularly touring. But Steven’s physical releases are also spot on. Without it being too much of a ‘love in’… I do think in many ways he is the perfect pop/rock star for the 21st century.

  20. Ken.e says:

    I picked up a Sonos one with Alexea built in. Great bass, good high-end but seems a little thin in the mid-range. It is their entry unit so I am sure the higher end units have fuller sound.
    I have heard that if you have 2 of them in the same room they become stereo and have better sound. I wonder if anyone has tried that or heard the results.
    After seeing SW on every tour since the Incident I decided to skip this tour. Now I wish I got tickets

    • RJS says:

      Pairing two Sonos Ones in stereo mode makes a world of difference. One Sonos One by itself makes for a flat listening exeperience with loads of detail missing.

  21. RJS says:

    Purely out of curiousity, what Sonos set-up do you have?

  22. juerie says:

    I saw Steven and his band in vienna back in Feb. and will see them again in Verona this summer. An amazing show. A must see.
    I had the chance to stand in the front row, right in front of Nick Beggs. I met him also after the show and have to say you are right, he is a lovely guy and it is a pleasure to talk to him.
    Everone who can, should see him on this tour.
    juerie

  23. Adam Shaw says:

    Nice review Paul.
    I had similar experience seeing Crosby , Stills and Nash a few years back , it was like hearing their voices without microphones and you feel that you can step onto the stage cause you are so close .

  24. The Golden Age Of _ _ _ _ _ _`_ says:

    Great review Paul, Going to the Bridgewater tomorrow, good seats also. Not seen SW before but been a fan of all his projects, solo. band, producer. I`ve seen Nick Beggs a few times playing with Steve Hackett. He`s a very fine musician. I never thought I would be saying that after the low esteem I had for Kaja in the 80`s.

  25. BritinDetroit says:

    Thanks for the review Paul. We are motoring up to Toronto in 3 weeks to see the show from row 6 of the Danforth.

    Steve was looking for volunteers to sell programs , in return for a program and a T shirt, which offered to do if he would autograph my deluxe edition of To the Bone. No response, shocker !

    I am also a gigantus fan of Hand.Cannot.Erase so delighted that is heavily featured in the show

    • Phil Morris says:

      You should note that Wednesday’s show was not really representative of the tour setlist up to now – as Paul suggests it’s not.

  26. Mark Carroll says:

    Rega Planar 3s are bloody magical turntables….I’ve got a 2 from way back in 1984…

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