5th April 2005 - Porcupine Tree + Anathema, Cambridge Junction

I set out thinking this would be a strange night. Two UK bands that are not afraid to try something different, not afraid to move away from the generic, NME manufactured bands a la Franz and Razorlight, would be enlightening I thought. I thought right.

First on stage are Anathema. Looking at the merchandise you would be forgiven for thinking they were a kind of grisly, death metal act, but you couldn't be further from the truth if tonight's display is anything to go by. They've toured with some big names, I have been told, Opeth and Cradle of Filth (pre-mainstream, tongue-in-cheek era) to name but a few. It's clear they are pleased to be supporting another intelligent UK band in Porcupine Tree.

They come on stage at around 8 o'clock, and immediately the lead singer has broken a string. A quick change of guitar, and they are ready to burst into another tune. The bassist suits the death metal image that is on display this evening, but they're music is mediocre and bland. They fail to excite the half full Junction, which could have been filled with cardboard cut outs for all I'd have known.
The lack of banter doesn't help them connect with the audience either, the only memorable incident in the whole set was the guitarist asking the crowd "Are you all Greek?" for some reason unknown to man. Thankfully, they're not on for much longer. Hopefully headliners Porcupine Tree will be slightly more exciting than a very disappointing set by Anathema.

The Junction starts filling up at around 9ish, all eyes staring fixatedly at the projector screen at the back of the stage. The black cover is removed displaying a massive drum kit, and the first few images flash up on the canvas.

Steven Wilson's Porcupine Tree emerge to rapturous applause, and break into an epic number, the title track from their new album, Deadwing. Ten minutes in and they're still on the first song. This will be interesting…

However, my attention is temporarily drawn away from the music, to look at the bassist, who seems to be constantly smiling. He also bears an uncanny resemblance to ex-Man United and France 'keeper, Fabien Barthez, which amuses me for the rest of the song.

Porcupine Tree's Prog Rock sound isn't really my cuppa, but I couldn't help watch in awe as songs changed direction as many times as the lead singer brushes his hair from his face. They have so many elements to their songs, and somehow they all know exactly where they are. They are an intelligent band.

With brand new album, "Deadwing" (Deadwig in Virgin Megastores, as Wilson reminds us) appearing in shop floors the day before, it was a chance for Porcupine Tree to show off new material, and it sounded exciting, very exciting indeed. I can see Porcupine Tree's music working so well as theme tunes to old, retro, MegaDrive racing games…

Ignoring the first band, who previously, I was more excited about seeing, this evening was well worth the trip. Check Porcupine Tree out, for their breathtaking musicianship, great musical talent, ability to write 10-minute epics without getting boring, and, Fabien Barthez on bass.

Phil Decelis.