Review Summary: A solid DVD with a superb performance and sound quality that is slightly let down by some minor issues. An easy reccomendation for anyone who is fan of the genre or of the band.
For the uninformed, some background. Porcupine Tree are a progressive rock four-piece from Hemel Hempstead, north of London, England. Fronted by vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree have been at the forefront of the modern prog-rock scene since the release of The Sky Moves Sideways in 1995. Wilson has gained prominence not only for his works in Porcupine Tree, but also for his contributions to works by Opeth, Marillion, as well as his other projects No-Man and Blackfield. Within Porcupine Tree are bassist Colin Edwin, keyboardist Richard Barbieri and drummer Gavin Harrison.
For this DVD concert release, titled Arriving Somewhere…, Porcupine Tree’s first, the band, together with touring guitarist John Wesley, performed at Park West in Chicago, Il. The band has previously stated that Park West was a favorite venue of theirs, and prime contender for a DVD recording. 15 songs are performed in total, covering songs from the album Stupid Dream, released in 1999, to Deadwing, in 2005 and everything in between. Fans of the bands older, more psychedelic sound may be in for a disappointment, but the selection of songs is a solid representation of the bands more recent sound, blending melodic, almost radio-friendly tunes to some heavier riffs usually only found in the depths of metal.
The DVD itself comes as a region free, NTSC 2 disc pack. The case is similar to a Digipak, but with a pull out cover, somewhat like an expensive box of chocolate. Inside the gatefold image of the two guitarists are two discs. Disc one contains the whole concert in 2 channel PCM and 5.1 DTS audio, while disc two is home to various special features such as two songs from a previous concert in Germany, the promo video for the single Lazarus and “Cymbal Song”, a song by drummer Gavin Harrison which is made entirely using, you guessed it, cymbals. Overall, the quality of the DVD is superb, with high quality packaging, and a whole DVD of extras. The only thing that’s missing is any form of documentary, be it a ‘making of’ or ‘on the road’ or what have you. Although the band did announce the lack of a documentary before the release of the DVD due to time constraints, it is still a missed aspect of any live DVD.
First Impressions and Video Quality
After the short, moody intro Revenant, with some of Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing-era artwork, courtesy of Lasse Hoile, the band begins with Open Car, one of the heavier tracks from Deadwing. Open Car serves as a hard-hitting opener, with a heavy riff, melodic chorus and headbanging middle section. Those of us who appreciate a very clean, almost ‘bootleg’ style video style are likely in for a disappointment. The camera angle changes frequently to various band members and many of those angles are overlaid with the noise and filters seen in Porcupine Tree’s static artwork. On the positive side, the choice of angles remains relevant and doesn’t ruin the experience, and accents the band’s stellar performance. The camera work is solid and professional, and the final image quality is superb, if not for a hint of noise that is barely noticeable. Colours are mostly deep purples and greens from the stage lighting, and dark levels are the order of the day, so ensure your TV is configured for the right brightness and contrast levels, especially if you have an LCD TV.
As expected, Steven Wilson has delivered on audio quality and mixing. Porcupine Tree music is often a choice pick by those reviewing high end audio products due to their high quality, clean production DVD-Audio releases and 5.1 DTS mixes. This DVD is no exception, with 48000 Hz PCM and DTS sound which is exceptionally clear and high quality with just the right amount of warm tone to make the soundtrack feel full, but not quite so much as to kill the live mood. There are a few periods where the music sounds almost prerecorded, but this is mostly due to the tight performance of the musicians and use of keyboards. These periods are hardly worth noting, but when the crowd cheers leave earshot, a sharp ear can sometimes pick them up, rare as they are. Wilson’s voice, while not the best in the genre’s, holds up well and provides ample emotion along with the higher tones and falsetto of John Wesley (who is a very impressive solo artist in his own right). Every part of the audio feels and sounds like it was thought through and stressed over, and the final product shows that easily.
So in conclusion, thanks to a blend of a great set list, stunning audio and a competent video aspect, Arriving Somewhere… is an excellent DVD concert that will certainly entertain any Porcupine Tree fan, or fan of the prog rock genre. The performance is next to flawless and stage presence is acceptable for a band with a lead singerguitarist. A few shortcomings such as slightly overactive camera effects and the lack of a documentary are all that really stop this DVD from being one of the best released in a long time. That said, these annoyances are nothing to prevent you buying or experiencing firsthand how strong this DVD is. So spend the money, put this in a high quality player with a dedicated AV receiver and see for yourself not only how impressive Porcupine Tree are as a musical ensemble, but also how impressive this DVD looks and sounds. Once on your sofa with the receiver just so and the TV levels calibrated, very few DVDs will come to rival Arriving Somewhere’s depth and quality.