If my dreams had a soundtrack, it would be imagined and composed by Steven Wilson. Given his history and immense musical education, I feel unqualified to critique his music except to say it’s the stuff clouds and butterflies seek out to stay afloat. Wilson’s music can pull things out of you, and whatever things are in my soul surfaced at The Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale, FL where Wilson ended a very brief 12-date U.S. tour.
After a stellar opening set by John Wesley, Wilson and his band commenced on a nearly 3-hour show, the first half of which was a cover-to-cover performance of Hand. Cannot. Erase. Fan faces glowed in a sold-out crowd, eager and honored to hear commentary, glean new meaning behind lyrics through a visual arts display projected behind the band, and see Wilson interacting with his bandmates. Layered vocals commingle with heavenly guitar work, percussion escorts a melody with increasing intensity until the music is loud and pounding in my ears, all while Wilson’s vocals sit in the background like my ego running laps around my id. While I can relate to the temptation to let Wilson’s music carry you away, his lyrics deserve more than a passing comment. However, if I go there, I’ll be quoting them for the rest of the piece. In three hours of genius jamming, Wilson’s words paint worlds we are suspended in until the final song concludes.
I don’t like to end any review on a negative note, but I’m compelled to offer a caveat for concert goers in my town. While it was not a mistake to catch this phenomenal artist live, this was not the location to do so. Culture Room as a venue can hold a lot of people, so they can sell a lot of tickets. However, the actual floor where you stand to watch the performer is 1/3 the size of the property. This creates a relatively uncomfortable, if not unsafe, venue for people to pack in and watch a 3-hour performance. It’s altogether to Wilson’s credit that we did, in fact, stand for three hours, and in spite of the overcrowding, walked away with no regrets.