Sound: The always-engaging and genre-defying Porcupine Tree has released its 2nd live DVD Anesthetize, which was filmed back in 2008 in Tilburg, Netherlands. With over two hours of solid music covering a good deal from the Signify era and onward, Anesthetize does not skimp in terms of quantity. It's a fairly hypnotizing concert film, but that's to be expected from a band that has been pigeonholed everywhere from the trance genre to progressive rock. The main issue comes down to the lack of extras, but if you're a dedicated fan of Porcupine Tree, the 16-set (which doesn't include the hypnotic Intro and Outro) will be a worthwhile viewing.
Between eerie blue-tinted stage and the quietly haunting synthesizer sounds, Porcupine Tree ultimately sets one hell of a moody environment. At no time does Anesthetize feel like your run-of-the-mill concert, and at times it leans closely to what you might find at a Pink Floyd performance. While the band (keyboardist Richard Barbieri, bassist Colin Edwin, drummer Gavin Harrison, guitarist/lead vocalist Steven Wilson, and guitarist/backing vocalist John Wesley) is a competent set of musicians who are always in synchronicity, it never goes overboard in terms of the progressive side. Long story short, Porcupine Tree never quite reaches full-on Dream Theater territory.
The set opens with Fear Of A Blank Planet, a sonic piece that is enhanced by a mishmash of images projected onto a screen above the band members. It's a perfect initiation into the two-hour set, which delves into other tracks like the mellower Sentimental, acoustic-backed My Ashes, and darkly sexy Sleep Together. Although the more laid-back, moodier numbers are intriguing, it's the ones that are all over the place musically that make the biggest statement. What Happens Now dabbles in a variety of interesting time signatures, Anesthetize oscillates between balladry and straightforward metal, while the band shows off its true progressive chops in Cheating The Polygraph. // 9
Content: With over two hours of music, Anesthetize is a well-rounded offering that only omits the band's early 90's material. If you purchase the DVD, you will be doing it for the music and possibly the dramatic imagery within the concert itself. It's somewhat strange that no bonus material (whether that be interviews or B-roll from behind the scenes) was included. There is a special deluxe edition released in both DVD and Blu-ray formats that will also include the full audio soundtrack on two audio CDs, a bonus track, and a cloth-bound hardback book featuring photography of Porcupine Tree. // 7
Production Quality: Film in Hi-def (not to mention available on Blu-ray), Anesthetize is simply a gorgeous concert film. Given the intense approach to the music, the dark blue tint that often colors the entire stage is an appropriate technique to utilize. The director opts to focus most of the attention on the band versus the audience, which is a wise choice for a band that so rarely interacts (at least verbally) with the crowd. // 10
Overall Impression: This DVD is one of the more intense concert films that you might witness and the title Anesthetize is an apt one. At times your senses do become a bit dulled because, although Porcupine Tree does skirt progressive rock, it's still a rather conceptual band at the same time. It's a bit disappointing that there wasn't any bonus material included, even though the concert film itself can for the most part stand on its own in terms of quality. In the end, fans may want to wait for the limited edition DVD/Blu-ray to be released just get a better value all around. // 8