Cat No: DELEC CD 067
Release Date: 20th October 1997
Recorded Live in Rome March 1997
Special thanks to:
Recorded during 3 nights at the Frontiera in Rome March 25-27 1997.
All titles by Steven Wilson except: Bornlivedieintro Steven Wilson / Richard Barbieri, Moonloop Rick Edwards / Colin Edwin / Chris Maitland / Steven Wilson.
Tracks 1,2,3,4 and 7 published by Zomba Music Publishing Ltd.
Art Design and Layout: John Blackford.
Cover Photography and Design: John Blackford.
Porcupine Tree Management: Richard Allen @ Big Brother, PO Box 1288, Gerrards Cross, Bucks, SL9 9YB, England.
Gig Central, Dec '97.
In The Relatively short history of rock 'n' roll the number of live albums actually worth playing more than once is remarkably small. The majority serve no other purpose than for people to say "I'm on this, can you hear me clapping?!" Only a select few offer more than note for note versions of studio favourites and identikit renditions of a bands greatest hit. Fortunately "Coma Divine" is an exception to this rule, it faithfully captures a band at their creative peak, recorded over three nights at the Frontiera in Rome during March 1997.
It's a heady mixture of psychedelic soundscapes, chemically influenced lyrics and intricately crafted instrumental work-outs, all driven along by the acid guitar of main man Steven Wilson.
You certainly get value for money as well, as three of the tracks are over eleven minutes long. Old favourites such as "Moonloop", "Radioactive toy", and the incredible "The Sky Moves Sideways" are stretched out to epic proportions. The latest single "Waiting Phase One" is here faithfully reproduced and accompanied not surprisingly by "Phase Two" complete with some superb bass playing from the diminutive Colin Edwin". Throw in "Dislocated Day...", "Signify...", "Sleep Of No Dreaming" and you have what is basically nine renditions of their best work thus far in their career, and as for the closing track "Not Beautiful Anymore", I defy you to show me a more exciting and exhilarating encore, an absolutely cracking song which justifies the whole album.... Superb.
Metal Hammer, Dec '97.
The first live offering from underground superstars Porcupine Tree, whose atmospheric and modern take on a prog rock theme has seen both an impressive back catalogue and live following over the past six years. Captured live in Rome, they reinforce both their ability and their charm through the likes of 'Moonloop' and 'The Sky Moves Sideways', lengthy but not overdone pieces, led as ever by Steve Wilson's intriguing vision. Admittedly, it'll make them few friends (live albums never do), but it's essential listening for the faithful.
Gibraltar, August 1997.
Recorded during three nights in Rome, Italy in Spring 1997, Coma Divine contains a good sampling of Porcupine Tree's live act. Naturally, a single CD is not long enough to contain the full show. Promoting Signify, half of Coma Divine's ten tracks feature five titles from Porcupine Tree's latest studio release. One is "Bornlivedie" (retitled "Bornlivedieintro") and at less than 1.5 minutes, is inconsequential in the grand scheme of the set. The remaining four tracks are "Signify," "Waiting" (both phases), and "The Sleep of No Dreaming." These four tracks are faithful to the original studio versions in content and don't vary much from the original running times. Three additional tracks come from 1995's The Sky Moves Sideways. "Dislocated Day" is about a minute longer than the original version but both "The Sky Moves Sideways" (the "Phase One" version) and "Moonloop" have each had about five minutes of the middle, spaciest sections excised but are otherwise little changed from the studio versions. Implied then is an excellent performance. Great playing on the studio albums and great playing on stage. The final two tracks are extended versions of tracks from earlier albums. "Radioactive Toy," from On the Sunday of Life..., is lengthened by about four minutes, with Wilson encouraging the audience to sing the chorus. (Some in the audience mistake yelling out for singing.) What follows then is a fantastic spacey instrumental passage (improvisation?) and the audience remains respectfully non-participatory. Unfortunately, they feel they have to cheer as the band emerges from the deep cosmos to more earthly realms. The audience calls the band back to the stage. The encore is an extended and energetic "Not Beautiful Anymore," more than five minutes longer than the original version on Up the Downstair. After the final "Thank you very much" is 45 seconds of spacey synth sounds that ends abruptly. Whether this led somewhere, only the audience that attended the shows knows for sure. Here, it sounds like poor editing.
The first eight tracks all come from the two most recent albums. As such, Coma Divine serves as a good introduction of the material from Porcupine Tree more band-oriented efforts. My reactions to live albums vary. For example, the incredibly dynamic version of "Tarkus" on Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Welcome Back My Friends..., in my mind, blows aways the relatively staid version on their second studio album. In this case, except for the final two tracks, the versions of the songs here aren't different enough from their studio counterparts to warrent merit. Further detraction is added by the audience. The audience is very respectful, keeping nearly silent during even the quietest moments. But cheer they must at the end of the song. Of course, this is expected at a live show and the performance showcased herein deserves the accolades it receives. I'd go to a live Porcupine Tree show is less than a blink of the eye and expect to fully enjoy myself. At home, however, the environment is different and I listen to Porcupine Tree for a mood. Wilson's masterful production techniques on Porcupine Tree's studio albums engender a fully enjoyable and eyes-closed concentrated listening session from beginning to end. I can't get into that mood with the audience cheering at the end of each track. This may not bother you, of course, but it nagged at me. Although it is more difficult to sell 2CD sets, perhaps in hindsight a double should have been considered, maybe even including a live version of "Voyage 34." I say this blindly, however, because the full concert set may have just included more songs from Signify. The concert is very well recorded and produced. The CD cover is by John Blackford and is very similar in style to the design on Signify.
Porcupine Tree have found themselves in the unusual position of being a prog band that actually are liked by the critics. Having released albums that were well-received but not as commercially profitable as they could have been they broke through in a big way with "Signify" last year. The very short intro is torn apart by the immense riffing of Steve Wilson. Only a four piece, with Steven also providing the lead vocals, there is room for long instrumental passages which demonstrate just how powerful a band can be in this genre. These are rockers first and proggers second. That is not to say that keyboardist Richard Barbieri is a bit player, far from it, just that keyboards can be a cutting edge rock instrument as well as a pacifier. Colin Edwin (bass) and Chris Maitland (drums) provide the platform on which to build, and they do, brilliantly.
Within the same song they can come across as Pink Floyd or Hawkwind, Genesis or Be Bop Deluxe. There is a power, yet also a restraint, and room to move around inside the music. At times it is the simplicity, such as the beginning of "Waiting Phase One" which is the beauty, while at others it is the breathtaking complexity. Three songs break the ten minute barrier, "The Sky Moves Sideways", "Moonloop" and "Radioactive Toy" which comes in at a monstrous fifteen plus. The crowd in Rome certainly enjoyed themselves and on this showing it is not difficult to see why.
Real Groove, January 1998.
Coma! Ho-ho! Put you in one! It's too easy to take the piss, really, with Porcupine Tree. For a start, their name! It's about as devoid of trend-value as you could possible get, next to liking John Denver. Mind you, now he's dead there'll doubtless be a cult.
Despite it all, Porcupine Tree are a great group, and their lynchpin, Steven Wilson, is multi-talented. Besides Porcupine Tree, he's got an electro group called No-Man, and quite a few ambient style-collaborations with ex-Japan members Jansen, Barbieri and Karn under his belt (Barbieri is now a member of "the Tree"). It's obvious that Wilson is not the one to be constricted by the style police, and Porcupine Tree practically go all the way into that no-mans land that is known as 70's progresssive rock. Last year's Signify saw the group at the onset of maturity; they hit a peak and achieved that rare thing in the 90's: a great rock album!
As retro as they may appear, there's little of the indulgence of their forebears, and they do subtly intertwine contemporary elements - a few trancey rhythms here, a few post-Kurt lyrical gravitas - and it's all a highly listenable experience. Wilson writes great, moody songs full of the despair of his generation.
Coma Divine is a live album recorded in Rome, with a strong bias towards material from Signify. The cover - Wilson floating and pregnant under proscenium arches like something out of a Dario Argenti horror - is a good portent. The album opens with Signify, the perfect instrumental theme/intro: one of those full-throtthe guitar rev-ups that shows these boys can Rock like BIG MEANIES, except on this version we get a little more synth-noodle for our dosh. Anthemic splendour, indeed. Wilsons' lyrics are a primary atttraction, being unifyingly personal and manic depressive, rather than taking the typical prog channel and getting mystical and Tolkinesque. 'The Sleep Of No Dreaming' is one of their top tunes, a melancholic litthe number: "At the age of 16 I grew out of hope / I regarded the cosmos through a circle of rope". Yep, it's a downer - but what a great apocalyptic riff!
Then come the other two epics, 11.40 of 'Moonloop' , and 15.26 of ' Radioactice Toy'. It's a LONG album, and a LIVE album at that, and I dunno, as good as it is, I'd plump for one of their studio recordings. Having said that, it does contain some of their best songs, and good percformances thereof. Seventy eight minutes. I'm exhausted. Need a lie down. (7). Gary Steel.
Guilfin, January 1998.
Porcupine Tree are truly one of the best bands to come out of this country in the last few years. Slowly but surely they're building a large following on the strength of their unique blend of music. It crosses so many borders that it appeals to a wide audience and creates a truly progressive sound. Once heard you can't help but be captivated by the sheer innovation going on this album. They will slowly become huge.
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