In-between numbers tonight, a joyous and possibly well-lubricated punter sings out, “Wilson is a Geordie, Wilson is a Geordie…”
Allowing a beat, the Wilson in question deadpans in his undeniably southern accent, “No I’m not,” bringing the house down. “Maybe I could be an honorary Geordie? What would I have to do?” Quick as a flash, another yells out, “Say, ‘Wey aye, man!’” – which he just about manages.
Of course, the crowd tonight have already adopted him as one of their own, from the moment the band step on stage. Wilson’s in good form, not only backchatting with the audience but also snapping them as well. After urging everyone to raise their arms in acclaim, he takes their photo on his phone, and then posts his snap. “It might help convince people I’m a rock star,” he smirks.
The entirety of Hand. Cannot. Erase. takes up the first half of the show, and benefits from the extra punch that this band unstintingly deliver. Guitarist Dave Kilminster’s powerful soloing here, and in other numbers throughout the evening, elicits appreciative applause, as Wilson’s preferred brand of musical melancholia knits together with back-projected videos.
While he’s been using synched-in projections for many years now, tonight there’s a sense that the on-screen narrative takes attention away from the stage below, where all the real action is happening. New boy Craig Blundell on drums does an especially good job of driving and accenting with force and precision, and he sounds like he’s been there forever.
The second half of the gig brings an extra frisson with the inclusion of a few Porcupine Tree numbers. Open Car’s jagged, recursive riffing sees the headbanging crowd in full sway. Although the absence of vocalist Ninet Tayeb robs Newcastle of an opportunity to hear the cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity that’s been a feature of the earlier shows on the tour, PT’s Lazarus compensates for that, dedicated here tonight to Bowie’s memory. Looking around, almost every single person in the City Hall is singing along in the chorus. Gazing at the rapt faces, transfixed in the whirl of multicoloured lights, it’s not unlike being in church.
The room is hushed in reverence, hanging somewhere between heaven and earth.
“I can’t really hit the high notes in the chorus,” says Wilson before going into the version of Don’t Hate Me from new album 4 ½, but of course he does, bringing extra fire to the piece. As Adam Holzman’s spiky, combative piano runs give way to Wilson’s spectral glissando guitar, the room is hushed in reverence, hanging somewhere between heaven and earth. It’s one thing to whip up a crowd when you’re roaring along, but much tougher to stop the spell from being broken when you want to drop things to a whisper. This band manage it with ease.