Steven Wilson has a reputation for crafting meticulously designed, progressive albums of his own, along with his bands Porcupine Tree and No-Man. He has also remastered and remixed classic recordings from King Crimson, Yes, and Roxy Music.
Once, he was reticent about touring, but that melted away with time. Starting in earnest with the 2008 album Insurgentes, his solo career has bloomed comparatively late. When on tour, as he is now - with a date Thursday night at the Keswick Theatre - Wilson likes to get out and see what your town is all about.
"There is nothing more telling about a society than its garbage," says Wilson, who likes to walk around and see the slimiest of local sights wherever he goes. "I genuinely don't get all the waste - the fast food and the wrappers in particular - but it's what they litter that allows me to better understand each city. And it's different in every city across the globe."
Wilson says he "can't get up for any other form of songwriting than something conceptual, something focused . . . on an overarching theme to guide me." He mentions the 2013 album The Raven That Refused to Sing and Other Stories - and 2015's Hand. Cannot. Erase., which he will perform when he comes to the Keswick.
Hand tells the true tale of Joyce Carol Vincent, an attractive 38-year-old woman who died in her London home and whose remains were discovered surrounded by Christmas presents.
"From all reports," Wilson says, "she wasn't unloved or friendless. Quite to the contrary. So my story starts with that: the idea of those who choose to be alone, who focus on their own company. I understood her, got her in that regard, since I usually prefer my own company."
Wilson tells this rich, uncomfortable story with ease ("I love a good challenge"). His collaborators include guitarist Dave Kilminster (with Roger Waters for the last eight years) and keyboardist Adam Holzman from Miles Davis' band. Both are accomplished musicians who serve the rigors of the music.
"It's funny," Wilson says, "but I'm finding that it's with older, serious musicians that they better understand the concept - the feeling - of playing to the song. It could be a lost art, as so many younger guys just want to impress you with how many and how hard they can hit the notes."
Wilson's music is often called "progressive" rock. And he and his ensembles do play with the pomp, precision, grand eloquence, muscularity, and improvisational largesse associated with that tag.
But how about when the music isn't prog - as, say, on Hand. Cannot. Erase., with its pop subtleties and soft, neo-jazz nuances? Wilson says he has "been questioning that very thing." After all, " 'progressive rock' forever meant innovative rock - discovery. Yet I'm not certain what is left to innovate. It seems as if the last time of real invention in music came in the late '80s and '90s. So what's left to progress?"
Catch Steven Wilson at the Keswick and find out.
at the Keswick Theatre,
291 N. Keswick Ave, Glenside.
Tickets: $29, $39, $49. Information: