Year Of Release: 2008
Record Label: Transmission
Recommended for fans of: Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, John Wesley and Steven Wilson.
- “The Sky Moves Sideways” – 4:02
- “Even Less” – 3:27
- “Stars Die” – 4:33
- “Waiting” – 3:52
- “Normal” – 4:52
- “Drown With Me” – 4:09
- “Lazarus” – 4:29
- “Trains” – 4:04
This recording is quite a treat for long-time fans of the band, however it didn’t turn out as originally planned. The full band were set to appear at Park Avenue CDs in Orlando, Florida, however due to lack of space, it was decided that only Steven Wilson and John Wesley would play to 200 fans that had managed to cram themselves into the store.This is very interesting because John Wesley isn’t even a full member of the band, he just helps PT in the live environment, and adds to the studio recordings when needed. I’d argue that he may as well be part of the band full-time, something which wouldn’t bother me at all, but seems to have some PT fans divided.
Whichever camp you belong to, you can’t deny the mans talent, and it shows on this recording! The first 3 songs are played by Steven Wilson on his own, and then John Wesley comes and adds to the last 5, the songs are mostly semi-acoustic arrangements of the full band versions, most of which work extremely well in this kind of setting.
The album starts with ‘The Sky Moves Sideways’and is probably the hardest to re-arrange given the source material, the original being 36 minutes in length divided into 2 parts that bookend the album it comes from. It has been arranged so only the section with lyrics has been used, which makes much sense, and is one of the best parts of the original song anyway! Before the song begins, it is announced that Porcupine Tree are coming onto the stage, to which SW replies ‘actually, its only me!’ which is met by an enthusiastic applause, its nice that the SW/Audience interaction is kept on the record, it enhances the performance. The song itself is wonderful, with the omission of an acoustic arrangement in favor of an electric approach, at first I thought the vocals were too high in the mix, however its just because of the new arrangements sounding different to the originals, the mix is perfect for a live recording.
The albums only low-point follows the fantastic opener, it’s in the shape of ‘Even Less’a song which has been acoustically performed before and sounded wonderful. The problems lies in the way SW decided to perform it on this occasion, full marks for creativity, none for the execution, its performed entirely on an electric guitar in a sort of jazzed up tempo, which just sounds plain wrong. The electric guitar just doesn’t work very good with the sung verses. You know you don’t like a song when you skip it on your winamp playlist everytime its about to play.
However bad the arrangement of a PT classic, the next track makes up for it 100-fold, we’re told by SW prior to him starting, that ‘Stars Die’ was the first PT song to get radio play back in 1993. It’s also a song that very rarely gets played at all these days, and almost never by the full band, so its inclusion on this album is an absolute joy to the ears. I’m conflicted to whether I prefer this version to the original album version, it’s a close call!
John Wesley joins the fun for the next song ‘Waiting’ which is one of my favourite PT songs of all time, it appears on the album ‘Signify’ in 2 parts [or phases!] this arrangement doesn’t stray too far from ‘Waiting Phase 1’, the solo sounds refreshingly different, which I’d guess JW is playing. Again this song is also a rarity these-days for the full band to play so it’s great to hear it in any form.
The only new material on this release comes in the form of ‘Normal’, a song that is from the recently released ‘Nil Recurring EP’. There is some hilarious talk from SW addressing the issue of how hard the song is to play live, with the finished product the result of much studio wizardry [and multiple takes!], he even rang up Robert Fripp [King Crimson] to ask for advice on learning the part he had written speed wise, since Fripp is a big fan of guitar discipline. The song itself is largely stripped down from the EP version, and its essentially just the chorus, however it works because of its freshness. This is because as far as I’m aware it wasn’t even played by the full band on the FOABP/NR tour dates, so its already cemented itself in history as the only live recording of the song in some form!
The next song is the highlight of the album, ‘Drown With Me’ has always been a bit of an oddity in the sense that it didn’t make the final cut on the ‘In Absentia’ album. It’s possibly one of the best PT songs ever written, and better then a lot of the tracks that did make the final cut of the album. Regardless, this version is an absolute treat to behold, it’s a song that has always sounded good due to the fantastic harmonies that it contains. I’ve always liked JW’s singing, he does sing at a higher pitch then SW, so when the two combine on this track, the end result is awesome! It’s worth buying this release for just this one song, if you’re having any reservations.
The last two tracks are fairly standard PT tracks that have been getting regular playings on tour dates for years, both being fan favourites.‘Lazarus’ is always a treat to hear, and I think it works better like this then played by the full band, as such it’s sparser, but it actually increases the strength of the song. Typical for a finishing song ‘Trains’ follows, to which the crowd go nuts about, only fair really being quite an amazing song. The live version has always been different from the studio release, in a faster tempo and lower key, and I prefer the live arrangement, has far more energy and is a treat to see played live.
So with ‘Trains’ the 33 minute live event closes, I read somewhere that ‘Stop Swimming’ was going to be played, but ‘Lazarus’ replaced it at the last minute. So my only other criticism other then the poor version of ‘Even Less’ would be why not to have included ‘Stop Swimming’ as well?
‘We Lost The Skyline’ is a good addition to any PT fans collection, however I’d wouldn’t recommend it for PT newbies, they’d be better starting off on the full albums before they would enjoy the material as it appears here.
Steven Wilson: Acoustic and Electric guitar, Vocals
John Wesley: [Tracks 4-8] Electric guitar, Backing vocals