Porcupine Tree - "Coma Divine...Live in Rome" (Delerium Records 1997, DelecCD 067)
From Aural Innovations #2 (April 1998)
With five studio albums already under their belt, the Tree have now gotten 'round to putting their live show onto disc, and what a fine one it is. This 75-minute set is focused mostly on songs from their last two studio albums, Signify and The Sky Moves Sideways. However, two old standards 'Radioactive Toy' and 'Not Beautiful Anymore' (first recorded when Steve Wilson was himself all there was to Porcupine Tree) are both given full-band treatment here, and make this CD worthwhile for the rabid fan as well as the newcomer. All-in-all, this is like a Greatest Hits collection, and with the great sound quality and high energy, it is even better than the simple sum of its parts.
Following the obligatory ambient intro, Wilson's crunching guitar kicks into 'Signify,' his metallized take on Neu!'s 'Hallo Gallo.' The beautiful and dreamy 'Waiting' starts in next, featuring Colin Edwin's bass on both parts, countered by (dare I say it?) a Gilmour-esque guitar solo. Who needs to 'wait for the drugs to make it real?' Part I from 'The Sky Moves Sideways' is nearly a straight transfer from studio to the live setting, but nonetheless demonstrates their impeccable use of dynamics. A bit more gusto is offered in the later portion, particularly by drummer Chris Maitland, who is far more energetic in front of a crowd. Phase-shifted bass gurgling opens up 'Dislocated Day,' which eventually builds in tension with Richard Barbieri's minor-key synthesizer bits. The first seven minutes of 'Radioactive Toy' comprise the original track, but an additional eight minutes plus are tacked on, including a bass and guitar answering session and some experimental minimalist noodling. An accelerated trance-style bass line drives 'Not Beautiful Anymore' to the show's conclusion, the band demonstrating tight, proficient playing.
The real difference is the live energy of Maitland's drumming, producing even greater contrasts between ambient and rock segments than on the studio recordings. Taken at face value, this is perhaps their greatest work to date, so if you're new to Porcupine Tree, this is a great place to start. I don't believe, though, there are any plans to release this domestically (US), which is unfortunate.
Reviewed by Keith Henderson
There are many great Porcupine Tree web sites out there, but the best one to start with is the Linton Samuel Dawson site. You can also visit the Delerium site for info on this and the many other great releases on that label.