Review Summary: Even if it’s an inferior version of the original studio recordings, Octane Twisted accomplishes the tricky task of performing a concept album live.
When an artist releases a concept album, touring the record can be risky. If the concept album is very involved in itself and is meant to be listened to - as well as best enjoyed - as a whole, performing the album’s songs out of context, out of order, not playing most of the songs from the concept album, or arranging them to be mixed in a setlist among songs from the band’s other albums that are not involved with the records specific concept, can usually really detract from the immersive effect of the music’s concept.
But Porcupine Tree chose not to deprive their audiences of a single second of their ambitious concept double LP The Incident
while touring the album throughout 2010. Much like the studio version, Octane Twisted
is spaced out across two discs, and just like the studio version, the first of the discs features The Incident
’s 55 minute self titled suite performed live in its entirety. The aspect of The Incident
that played the most major primary role in the album’s concept was this self titled 55 minute epic the first disc was comprised of, so Porcupine Tree excludes performing the whole second disc of The Incident
- and the complete album in general - most likely for the sake of variation. To appease the crowds, Porcupine Tree exchanges all but one of the less critical songs to The Incident
’s concept on the second disc for some of their most well known songs from past albums such as “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” and “Hatesong”; leaving “Bonnie the Cat” as the only song from The Incident
’s second disc that was performed and included on Octane Twisted
Being live renditions of a concept album, the first disc doesn’t differ too much from its studio version counterpart, in order to grant the crowds with the same desired effect of the original. These performances aren’t identical per say, but the entire performance of “The Incident" seems to follow a set structure far too strictly, as if just exactly going by the numbers and through the motions of the original. The little room for flexibility there is would have allowed for some very intriguing instances of playing around with a typical rendition of a song that could be considered an album, but this potential was sadly not taken advantage of as much as it could have been, making a song as long as this a little too similar to the album version to make it worth the investment.
The other issues with hearing a concept album transfered to the live stage is all the conflicting elements of a live show that can't be helped, but will unavoidably take you out of the element the concept album is trying to convey. From the crowd cheering, to Steven Wilson interrupting the experience by greeting the crowd just as the buildup of the intro piece “Occam's Razor” had engulfed you in its world, there is ultimately a lot of minor annoyances that consistently distract from the 55 minute epic, and make the journey weaker than that of the original studio version.
Though there are positives that put this above a standard every day live Porcupine Tree performance, one of them being the raw and un-finalized feel a live rendition gives a colossal composition like “The Incident”. This piece is absolutely gargantuan, and performing it all in one live take and unaltered by studio touch-ups is just another one of the many examples of how much finesse, and magnificent talent Porcupine Tree possesses. There is a certain newfound organic feel that gives this ambitious song a visceral perspective much different from the finalized studio version that was mastered and mixed with certain effects; a certain something the original could not obtain for that very reason. Wilson’s brutally sincere emotion in his melodic delivery, and the natural feeling of the wailing guitar distortion and pounding drum assaults make this an astonishing album to hear unfold before listener’s ears.
The contents of the second disc aren’t much worth mentioning or delving into. The elongated versions of staples among the band’s fan base sound just as potent and thrilling as they have before on every other one of the band’s previous tours, making Octane Twisted
sort of like an live album that’s half conceptual, and half normal live performance.
Despite the live setting preventing Octane Twisted
from having the same effects as the studio versions of the conceptual tracks that it hosts, the live setting also brings out another completely different and unique side of The Incident
that could not be achieved on the studio LP, and stands as another great testament of the magic Porcupine Tree’s showmanship can work for audiences while performing live.