The loud summer festival nights are long gone and autumn has climbed up onto its throne in Helsinki. Along with the morning frost and the beautiful season of multi-colored leaves, it also brought two bands to the Helsinki Ice Hall – bands that truly know how to play the tunes of autumn – Katatonia and Porcupine Tree.
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The Swedes from Katatonia are about to release a new album in November with quite a trendy name: Night is the New Day. It has been 3 years since their previous record, The Great Cold Distance, so the new material is impatiently awaited by their fans. The album teasers available on the mini-website dedicated to it already sound quite promising.
Seeing Katatonia live isn’t much different than listening to them on the record. The music is undoubtedly terrific, but their live performances do not bring the right energy and atmosphere. They started their set with a short “Hello, Helsinki!” greeting and went on with the music. “July” was one of the first songs played, yet even July reflects autumn when it comes to Katatonia. It feels like the metallic melancholy of their music fills every cell of your body and freezes you. As the show went on, the band played songs from different parts of their discography, such as “Criminals”, “Teargas”, and “I am Nothing.” Unfortunately, they didn’t play any of the material from the new album due to a broken bass drum pedal. Katatonia had to cut their set to half an hour and finished it with the song “Murder” from the second disc of the Brave Yester Days album. Hopefully Helsinki will still get to hear the new record live someday… at least that’s what the band promised.
1. Ghost of the Sun
4. My Twin
6. I am Nothing
A while after Katatonia left the stage, it was time for Porcupine Tree to take it over. They had a short prologue to their show about restrictions concerning the usage of recording devices – cell phones included – and how much the band would appreciate it if the audience didn’t use any. This reminded me of sitting in the cinema, where you are kindly asked to turn off your phones. Have to give credit to the audience though; I only saw two or three phone/camera screens shining in the dark afterwards, but security quickly took care of them.
Porcupine Tree also made their fans happy with a new album release in September, The Incident. The first 55 minutes of the show consisted exclusively of the songs from this record and it was the best presentation of the new material one could ever see. The light effects, the images on the screen in the background… everything gave a cotton candy flavor to the magically intense atmosphere – you feel it all around you, but it is intangible.
However, what left the most indescribable impression was neither the music nor the effects, but Steven Wilson, the band’s vocalist. He was so inconceivably radiant – brighter than all the lights on the stage – that not just the rest of the band, but the whole world seemed black and white next to him. His immense charisma and stage presence leaves you completely struck with an unspeakable admiration. During the show he changed at least three guitars and also played a small piano while casting his magic upon the audience.
The band finished their The Incident part of the show with my personal favorite song from the album called “I Drive the Hearse”, where Wilson forgot the lyrics at the beginning and had to start the song again, having a bit of a laugh at himself for it. After Porcupine Tree had proved to everyone that their new album is capable of taking you beyond the borders of your imagination, they took a 10 minute break with the countdown on the background screen. Then they came back with “The Start of Something Beautiful” from Deadwing and something beautiful continued.
The band went on with the songs from their previous releases, such as “Russia on Ice” (Lightbulb Sun), “Anesthetize (pt.II: The Pills I’m Taking)” (Fear of the Black Planet), “Normal”, and more. The packed Ice Hall was unable to resist this wave of sound, lights, and images – they could only give in to the charm. Wilson learned the Finnish “thank you” – “kiitos” – and was thanking the audience after each song. Porcupine Tree finished the encore with a song called “Trains” from the In Absentia album.
Once you climb that ‘porcupine tree,’ the world appears in different colors and there is no way down anymore. The magic was over, yet autumn goes on, absolutely not incidentally filled with beautiful tunes.
1. Occam’s Razor
2. The Blind House
3. Great Expectations
4. Kneel and Disconnect
5. Drawing the Line
6. The Incident
7. Your Unpleasant Family
8. The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train
9. Time Flies
10. Degree Zero of Liberty
11. Octane Twisted
12. The Séance
13. Circle of Manias
14. I Drive the Hearse
15. The Start of Something Beautiful
16. Russia on Ice (half song)
17. Anesthetize (pt. II: The Pills I’m Taking)
19. Bonnie the Cat
21. Way Out of Here
22. The Sound of Muzak
Text: Tanja Caciur | Photos: Jana Blomqvist