“However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs, and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.” – Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)
Having an undisclosed coven of fashionistas deciding the aesthetic fate of the free world may be acceptable in some circles, but, in the music industry, the idea that a few corporate suits are responsible for dictating what becomes popular and laudable within the mainstream is a nightmare of Orwellian proportion.
It means that an artist’s entire life’s work is reduced to demographically-marketed material void of spirit and originality. It means that certain industry titans actually believe in engineering music based on its potential to sell rather than artistic integrity. It means that the consumer ultimately loses out, because, sooner or later, everything begins to sound exactly like everything else, creating a situation akin to what the market has experienced during the last decade or so.
Steven Wilson’s breathtaking musical séance at Town Ballroom on Sunday night was the antithesis of everything previously mentioned. Here were six world-class musicians, uninhibited by expectations, playing complex pieces without boundaries, formalities, or reservations of any kind.
They simply plugged in and took the audience on a two-hour ride through the depths of Wilson’s creative subconscious, which is responsible for some of the most jaw-dropping expression of 2013 thus far.
Touring behind his latest release, “The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)”, Wilson turned the Town Ballroom stage into his very own musical pulpit from which he proceeded to spread his beliefs for all to hear.
The album doesn’t contain songs as much as it brings to life six methodically paced mini-symphonies offering catharsis through their affinity for melancholy lyrical motifs. Wilson taps into both the intellectual and emotional side of the human experience to produce a sensation beyond anything I’ve ever encountered in a live setting.
Just when it appears that “Luminol” and “Drive Home” are preparing to take their place as the highlights of the evening, “The Holy Drinker” and “The Watchmaker” storm in and force everyone to get a handle on the ridiculous mastery of what they just witnessed.
Rolling Stone can continue to push Rihanna, Kanye, and Bieber all they want, because serious fans recognize authenticity when it’s thrust directly in front of them.
Wilson, guitarist Guthrie Govan, bassist Nick Beggs, keyboardist Adam Holzman, flautist Theo Travis, and drummer Chad Wackerman have dedicated their lives to being able to play at such an intense level, so the notion that artists who veer too far outside the realm of commercial comfort aren’t cool is foolish, to say the least.
Having a visual element set the mood for the music put an even more reflective spin on things, especially during “Index,” a lingering ditty in which the narrator resorts to human beings to satisfy an inescapable thirst for collecting.
Like most shows that flirt with the “prog” label, the crowd was composed almost all males, which, for sociological purposes, is a reality that shouldn’t be ignored.
Are women really less inclined to enjoy music that favors substance instead of dance-friendly grooves?
Perhaps, but anyone who skipped this show, male or female, missed out on a gig that Western New York fans won’t soon forget.