Porcupine Tree’s barefoot front man Steve Wilson is easily one of the busiest musicians in progressive rock; writer, producer, collaborator, and guest musician for some of the most influential progressive and metal groups in the field today (Marillion, OSI , Paatos, Fish, Opeth, Dream Theater). He’s worked with such diverse artists as Yoko Ono, Anja Garbarek, John Wesley, Theo Travis, Cipher, Anathema, JBK, Sand Snowman, Psychomuzak, and Belgian experimental artist Dirk Serries of the groups Vidna Obmana and Fear Falls Burning.
Wilson is currently in collaboration with Swedish guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth and Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy; as well as producing and appearing on the next project from the Israeli group Orphaned Land .
And if that’s not enough on his plate he is responsible for remixing the entire back catalog of King Crimson.
Couple all that with promoting his current solo release “Insurgents”, future Porcupine Tree albums, and assorted side projects including: No Man, I.E.M., Bass Communion, and the band I’ll be reviewing today – Blackfield - and you’ll come to the same conclusion as I. When does this guy sleep?
The only other prog musician to be this busy is Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings.
“Blackfield – Live In NYC” was recorded March 16th, 2007 at New York ’s Bowery Ballroom, capturing the powerhouse duo of Wilson and Aviv Geffen , Israel ’s leading counter culture rock musician, performing material from their two studio albums.
Blackfield has much more in common with Wilson ’s work on Porcupine Tree than the calm and sedate compositions of his other side project No Man. The last No Man release “Schoolyard Ghosts”, which I reviewed here at Prognaut 8/9/2008 , was a chilled laid back mellow excursion. Blackfield on the other hand can really bring down the house with some rousing attention grabbing rock.
The lead vocals are divided between Wilson and Geffen. I personally would have preferred less lead from Geffen and more from Wilson . Aviv Geffen’s voice is an acquired taste; a bit inconsistent in spots with a tad too much modulation and vibrato for my liking – yet unique and interesting within the context of the material.
The tunes with Wilson up-front have a strong Porcupine Tree presence and might easily have been recorded during the “Deadwing” or “Fear Of The Blank Planet” sessions. Examples would be the stand-out tracks “Once”, “Blackfield”, “Christenings”, “1000 People”, “ThankYou”, “Epidemic”, and “My Gift Of Silence”
. Equally strong tracks are those in which the pair blend and harmonize as a single voice, masking any slight imperfection in Geffen’s vocals.
A perfect point of reference is Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and Dave Gilmore. Waters voice can occasionally produce an annoying strained whining quality to it – yet when he and Gilmore meld together in harmony, Gilmore’s vocals add a velvet texture that smoothes out any aural wrinkles.
So too with Wilson and Geffen. Examples of this can be found on the tunes “Black Hole In Me”, “End Of The World”, and “Cloudy Now”. The pair blends beautifully.
Even what I might consider to be the weaker tracks on the album – those ballads with lead vocals from Aviv Geffen – are still well constructed compositions.
The production is flawless and the energy level exceeds that of the original studio recordings.
The Blackfield line-up includes: Steven Wilson (vocals, guitars, and keyboards), Aviv Geffen (vocals, keyboards, and guitars), Daniel Salomon (piano), Sefft Efati (bass guitar), Tomer Z (drums, percussion).
Highly recommended for fans of Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, RPWL, O.S.I., Steve Hogarth era Marillion and progressive rock aficionados in general. Rating 9 out of 10
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on Novemeber 25th, 2009