Saturday Deluxe / 31 March 2018

Photo by Paul Sinclair

Steven Wilson rocks the Royal Albert Hall

I had a fantastic evening at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday night seeing Steven Wilson play on his To The Bone tour.

This was the middle of a run of three evenings at the historic venue and it was clear from some of Wilson’s interaction with the audience that many had booked for all three evenings. Steven makes a point of mixing up the set-lists and doing something different and the diehards are well aware of this.

To my delight, on Wednesday Steven revisited Hand.Cannot.Erase., playing seven tracks from the album, including Home Invasion and Happy Returns. Ninet Tayeb is now a familiar presence on Steven Wilson live shows and the Israeli singer-songwriter was on and off the stage with some regularity but nothing ever seems to match the drama and emotion of Routine, which was performed with the incredible Jess Cope animation as a rear projection.

Wilson’s relationship with his audience is a warm one and in an opening ‘unplugged’ section the musician looked incredibly relaxed and was chatting and joshing with the capacity 5,000 audience like mates in the pub. This was evident later on in the show when he played Permanating (one of eight tracks from To The Bone) as he teased the audience about this poppy number, saying “so none of you have left [disparaging] messages on Facebook, then?” The title track of To The Bone already sounds like a classic, although I mourned the lack of Blank Tapes – another duet with Ninet – which is a personal favourite.

I was incredibly lucky to have secured some great seats when I bought my tickets last year. I was slap bang in the centre of the second row in the ‘Arena’ section (the flat bit in the middle) and it was very interesting. I’ve never been so close to the front of the Albert Hall – you almost forget that you have this massive hall behind you and the experience obviously feels much more intimate. In some weird way, it feels a little like you’re invading the artists’ personal space, you are so close. They can see you looking at them. You are obviously dialled into the action at a whole other level and pick up on nods and cues between musicians, signals to the mixing desk for in-ear audio adjustments and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I would rather be at the back, but it is strange – and thrilling at the same time.

Paul Sinclair and Nick Beggs after the show (photo by Martin Patton)

One of the pleasures was seeing former Kajagoogoo member Nick Beggs at close quarters. He’s been playing with Steven for years and is surely one of the most musically gifted musicians to emerge from the dizzy decade of eighties pop. He’s a virtuoso on the bass and absolutely incredible to watch on stage. A lovely guy too, since I was fortunate enough to meet him after the show and have a chat.

It was lovely too, to bump into a few friends who read SDE at the show. I thought that might happen and is a lovely bonus when it does. So if you ever see me out and about or at a gig, you must come and say hello!

The To The Bone Tour continues in Manchester tonight and tomorrow, before heading to America and Canada in April. All the dates can be found here. You can view the full setlist for Wednesday’s show here.

SDE popped into Graham’s on Tuesday to fix the Rega

SDE turntable repaired and up and running again!

A big thank you this week goes out to Sophie and the team at Graham’s Hi-Fi who did a great job sorting out my Rega Planar 3. My stylus/cartridge was knackered and I finally got around to popping over there with the turntable and my Elys 2 cartridge (kindly supplied by Rega).

I’d been to Graham’s before (when they replaced the belt on the turntable) and I don’t know about you, but in this increasingly disposable world, it’s a pleasure to take an item to a skilled technician and get it ‘fixed’. I know not everyone embraces vinyl as a format, but one of the pleasurable things about owning a decent turntable like the Planar 3, is that there is a certain level of simplicity with the units and things can be fixed; components can be replaced. So unless you want to upgrade, they really should last a lifetime.

Anyway, it’s such a relief to be able to play vinyl again. I ‘christened’ the new stylus with Roger WatersIs This The Life We Really Want and my admiration for that work is growing daily. It’s easily the best thing he has produced as a solo artist. Back to Graham’s though –   if you call in advance and tell them you’re coming, they can do  jobs like this ‘while you wait’. They are my ‘local’, so I would naturally want to support them and will no doubt be back. They do a good trade in high-end home streaming systems… which I may investigate at some point, although I have to say I’m happy enough with my Sonos set-up for now (despite Sophie telling me how inferior the sound is compared to other systems). I’ll keep ‘high end’ for the main room and enjoy the convenience/simplicity of Sonos around the house.

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