Not Prickly Tree

I broke my rule against no weeknight shows in Maryland again Tuesday night, once again for a band fronted by Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree, but this time in Baltimore. I left around 3:45, but the American Legion bridge traffic was horrible and it took me 2.5 hours to get there. But I’m an “eat my vegetables first” kinda guy, and that was the worst thing to happen that night, so that was good.

I parked in the garage above Rams Head Live!, then headed downstairs. There was a line of people waiting for doors to open, but I wasn’t in the mood for that. Instead I headed to the waterfront, getting a crab cake and fried fish platter and enjoyed the view while I read the Post. Didja know there’s a new treat for crab cake fans? Now you can get a crab cake dipped in the fish/shrimp batter and fried – it’s called a crab cake fluff. I declined that, but did stop by Ben and Jerry’s. I was hoping to try Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream, but it was a small place and didn’t have that, so I had a cinnamon bun flavored cone. Not bad in general, but the chunks proporting to be pieces of cinnamon buns were reminiscent of poor quality cookie dough ice cream chunks.

I got back to the Rams Head around 8, about when the opening band, 3, was supposed to start. They hadn’t, so I wandered around. I had read a friend’s account of a show there recently, and as I suspected the club reminded me strongly of the late lamented Hammerjacks, particularly the balcony where if you aren’t the first or second person at the edge you can’t see very well. I definitely prefer the 9:30 Club – now that DC is smoke free, it’s finally breathable, plus I much prefer their tiered balcony. It wasn’t as bad for me since I’m taller, but after 3 I staked out a post on the lower level and had a good view.

After reading reviews online, I was hoping to get the new album tracks straight through because that’s how I’ve been listening to it, but by starting with the title track and ending with the last two tracks, it reinforced the theme of the album over the whole show. The place was pretty packed, and it seemed to me that “Blackest Eyes” got the biggest crowd response, though all of the songs met an enthusiastic reception. As much as I enjoyed Blackfield live, I think I prefer Porcupine Tree. As a long time Rush fan, I appreciate songs and albums with a grand scope, and their live performance was great. Steven Wilson was great on guitar and keys, and his voice could be accused of being thin and reedy, but he made the most of it (it’s not a Geddy Lee voice for you Geddy haters out there, although he bears a striking resemblence to a young Geddy). Gavin Harrison was a powerhouse on drums, and John Wesley was good on guitar on backing vocals – even picked up a solo CD from him while filling out my Porcupine Tree collection.