Last night I went to see my current favourite musical hero in concert and this was a euphoric experience in more ways than one.
The artist in question was Steven Wilson, a musical genius in every sense of the phrase.
First, the concert was a triumph. It was everything I thought it would be. The music was perfect and on more than one occasion, I was so lost in the melodies and songs that a tear of joy escaped from my eye and rolled gently down my cheek.
Second, I had persuaded a friend of mine to take a chance and see the concert. His musical taste does not walk hand in hand with mine, but there is an overlap. When I bought the tickets, a few months ago, I suggested that he listen to Steven’s solo music on the internet and also that of his former band (currently on hiatus), Porcupine Tree.
There was no way he would ever hear the work on the radio so he would have to use the internet. It didn't take him long to find it and since then he has devoured the music. He loves Steven Wilson and, like me, thinks it’s a crime against humanity that this guy is not massively famous. He has already started to delve into his back catalogue.
Finally, the venue for the concert was Manchester Bridgewater Hall, a place usually reserved for classical music concerts. And the place was packed with a wildly varied audience, ranging from the odd rock lover to entire families of music lovers including kids.
Steven’s music is basically progressive rock but, my God, does the man have an ear for melody. He has experimented with jazz, orchestral arrangements, progressive rock, pop music and heavy metal – sometimes all in the same song.
What I liked best was the fact that there is a huge audience for his music, people who have turned their backs on shit like the X Factor and radio friendly nonsense that I ranted about earlier this year in A Rant About Music.
I am not the only one.
I have allies in this battle.
It’s not easy though.
On Friday night, I was in a pub in Manchester, celebrating a friend from work’s fortieth birthday, when I opted to leave early. The reason for leaving was that I wanted a totally clear head to see Steven Wilson and it was the most important event of the weekend for me.
“Who?” came the incredulous replies as I tried to leave the pub at around 9pm. “Never heard of him!”
I could have stayed and discussed this further with another pint of ale but I chose to leave rather than risking hangover. This was the big event of the weekend for me and nothing was going to ruin it.
As I lay in bed this morning, remembering the concert and trying to describe it to Mrs PM, I discovered that she too had no interest.
“But the music is beautiful,” I said. “I’m not asking you to like it; I’m asking you to listen to the concepts.”
I tried to explain a song called Routine from the latest (and truly brilliant) album called Hand. Cannot. Erase., which describes a woman who uses the routine of the mundane chores every day of her life to keep her going. I didn’t really grasp the full meaning of the song until I saw it performed live, with a very moving animated video being shown in the background. The woman, preparing meals for four, washing, cleaning, ironing to help her sane until towards the end of the song she shrieks finally:
Routine keeps me in line
Helps me pass the time
Concentrate my mind
Helps me to sleep
And keep making beds and keep the cat fed
Open the Windows let the air in
And keep the house clean and keep the routine
Paintings they make still stuck to the fridge
At this point in the video we learn that her entire family, husband and two children, died in a car crash and the "routine" is how she copes with the loss.
Heart-wrenching stuff that allowed one of my tears to escape.
The song is beautiful, melodic with disturbing undertones and has a truly magnificent guest female vocal and a choir boy and is technically brilliant as well as very intelligent.
The whole album is the same, full of deep emotional songs transcending various genres with a progressive feel but also a couple of, what I would describe as pop songs. Of course, it is progressive rock at the end of the day, but there are no songs that I don’t like.
It is a triumph and to be absolutely frank, should be made available to a wider audience.
I’m not asking you to like Steven Wilson or his music, dear reader; I’m offering it to you as an alternative to the tired old fodder that is spoon-fed to you by corporate executive billionaires who want to peddle crap music that makes them richer. I want to fire a broadside across the bows of radio stations who claim to speak for the population by playing “the music that they love” when in reality they are TELLING the people what music they SHOULD love by limiting the amount they can listen too.
Even Madonna may become an ally in this war as BBC Radio One, the so-called “kids” radio station here in the UK, has removed her current single from their playlist.
What goes around, comes around, eh Madge? Now you know how the rest of the struggling music makers feel.
I equate this struggle to thinking that McDonald’s is the only place to get food when there is a gourmet restaurant hidden in the back streets of the city that is not advertised and you have to search around for. Not all these restaurants are good - but most of them are far better than the bland burgers offered by Ronald McDonald.
To complete my role in this analogy, I want to be the man who meets you off the train and says:
"Before you go to McDonalds, take a look at this book, which is full of decent restaurants to try.”
In fact, that's an even better analogy:
Simon Cowell is the Ronald McDonald of the music industry.
Later in the month I will dedicate a meme to Steven Wilson’s solo work and maybe next month, I will do the same for his band Porcupine Tree.
In the meantime, here is a song called Perfect Life from Hand.Cannot.Erase. featuring the spoken words of Katherine Jenkins, the opera singer.
Remember, I’m not asking you to like it; I’m just trying to broaden your horizons and erode the influence of Simon Cowell and his cohorts.
Equally, I am willing to listen to anything you have to offer me, dear reader, and it doesn't matter what genre the music is.
I will champion anything I feel should be out there - even if it's jazz!!
Please join me.
We can do this!
Who’s with me?