No-Man, established by vocalist Tim Bowness and guitarist Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), can be regarded to be a duo that produces minimalistic and atmospheric music. Alongside these two musicians, the band's regular accompanists are guitarist Michael Bearpark, keyboardist Stephen Bennet and a rhythm section consisting of bassist Pete Morgan and drummer Andrew Booker. Special guest on this recently released live performance Love And Endings is violinist Steve Bingham.
For people who aren't familiar with No-Man, the music will be a kind of surprise. With Porcupine Tree's vocalist and guitarist on board, you probably tend to look for similarities with these bands. Please don't. Although Steven Wilson is strongly involved in the songwriting process, the musician hat undoubtedly leaves his mark on No-Man is vocalist Tim Bowness. With his characteristic, soft and relaxed voice, he became the band's trademark.
While listening to Love And Endings, you'll hardly notice that it concerns a live recording; only in between the songs the audience applauds politely. Musically No-Man blends the song structures of progressive rock with ambient sounds, atmospheric and darker rock drenched in modern rock, and pop music in the vein of Radiohead. This is the outcome of the cooperation between Wilson and Bowness that already lasts for twenty-five years. I think the opening song My Revenge On Seattle is representative for the other songs that follow: very relaxed music with the excellent vocals of Tim Bowness. Sometimes the keyboards are more prominent like in the classic Lighthouse, but it's still Bowness who attracts all the attention.
However, an occasional guitar solo as in Lighthouse immediately comes to my attention; the way in which the violin is incorporated gives the music of No-Man an extra dimension. Yet, after a while my attention slowly weakens; even Tim's David Bowie-like vocals couldn't change that. Almost at the end of the album in the song Mixtaped, we finally get an explosion of power putting you back on your feet again. That also applies to the album's final piece Things Change containing a fierce violin part making me wonder why I didn't hear more of those mind-blowing intermezzos! However, this live recording mostly is a slow and laid back adventure. Together with the CD you'll get the whole concert filmed on DVD, straight and without special effects, just a realistic view of a No-Man concert. This DVD has been filmed in high quality with clear and sharp colours which adds something special to this release.
With all respect to the twentieth anniversary of No-Man, I would have loved to hear more powerful moments, but I know they are well-known for their tranquil and atmospheric sounds that gently flow throughout the album. Tim Bowness's vocals are clear and very tasteful and Steven Wilson keeps a low profile for which I have to compliment him. Summarizing I can say: this is a No-Man concert recorded and filmed in a realistic way, no more, no less; what you hear is what you get.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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