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Thursday 28 March 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Pineapple Thief (Live Review By Paul H)

The Pineapple Thief & O.R.K. - SWX, Bristol

A return to SWX three days after Polish band Riverside had put on a masterclass in progressive rock for another serving of progressive music and to be honest, as much as I love the Poles, this was another level again. Part of my reason for stating that was the support act O.R.K. (9) were worth the admission fee alone. If you read this blog on a regular basis (and why wouldn’t you??) you may have seen my review of the band’s third album, Ramagehead which was released last month. It is a superb piece of work and earned a deserved 9/10 rating. The band comprises award-winning composer /vocalist Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari, King Crimson's Pat Mastelotto, Porcupine Tree's Colin Edwin and the crafted guitar work of Marta Sui Tubi's Carmelo Pipitone. We were treated to 50 minutes of quite breathtaking music, with their range of intricate and technical rock mixed with a steely hard edge lapped up by the appreciative and large audience. Delightfully, the crowd in the SWX appeared able to hold in the chatter, and as a result there was silence for the calm and complex sections, plenty of nodding heads for the hard rocking sections and a buzz of pure enjoyment throughout.

O.R.K.’s well balanced set mixed tracks from Ramagehead, which included the Serj Tankian-less Black Blooms, the raging Signals Erased and a fabulous Kneel To Nothing with tracks from Inflamed Rides (the awesome Pyre) and a couple from 2017’s Soul Of An Octopus, including a storming Dirty Rain. Unassuming, but with a warmth that is often missing, most of the chat between songs was led by Mastelotto, his Californian drawl perfectly complimenting the beautiful Spring Day that preceded the gig. Edwin, quiet and unassuming joined in whilst Esposito Fornasari contented himself with the odd word and a sublime vocal performance. His ability is exceptional; hitting the notes on Beyond Sight was just incredible. Backed by a simple but efficient light show and crystal-clear sound, this is a band I could watch for hours. Whilst many in the audience may have been unfamiliar with some of O.R.K.’s work, the queue at their merch stand at the end of the gig suggested that this would not be the case for long.

Having turned to Matt and suggested that The Pineapple Thief (10) may have met their match with this quality of support, the next 100 minutes then proved I know nothing as Bruce Soord’s band delivered a set of the most astonishing perfection. Eighteen months ago, we’d watched the band deliver a masterful show a mere stone’s throw away at the sadly defunct Bierkeller. The initial booking for the latest tour had been at The Fleece, but the swollen crowd on this final night of their European tour demonstrated just how far the band’s popularity has increased. Soord, calmly spoken, but totally engaging, coped admirably with several technical challenges with a humour which kept attention focused. Laughter all around as he introduced his guitar tech, who played his cameo to perfection.

As on the Your Wilderness tour, The Pineapple Thief demonstrated their quality with simple yet technically flawless musicianship. Behind the kit sat Gavin Harrison, a man who makes drumming look effortless. His range is majestic, fills, rolls, hard hitting snare and gentle timpani, it’s all in the locker and he appeared to have hardly broken sweat at the end of the set. Alongside Soord, the ever-reliable Jon Sykes on bass and backing vocals, his headphones firmly in place on top of his shaven head. Energetic, consistent and always effective, it was at times hard to take your eyes off him as he bobbed around the stage, bouncing on the spot, running back and fore and adding those beautiful harmonies that make the band’s sound so distinctive.

The last tour saw Godsticks Darren Charles handling guitar duties but here we had the talents of George Maios, whose sublime lead work was captivating. With a band as talented as this, it is sometimes hard to know who to watch first and whilst all eyes naturally centred on Soord, Maios added deft touches to flesh out the intricate songs. Behind Maios, keyboard player Steve Kitch, another reliable player whose rich keys are integral to the band’s sound. Of course, this is Soord’s party, and whilst he delegates most lead work to Maios, he still leads from the front, with his acoustic guitar work enchanting.

The larger stage and venue allowed the band to be a bit more expansive in their stage set, with subtle clever lighting adding quality to that already on stage. We often forget to absorb the extras at gigs, but the simple blues, greens and reds mixed with spotlights matched the various moods differently. A sixteen-song set was heaven for many with the bulk of the songs unsurprisingly from 2018’s magnificent Dissolution and the previous Your Wilderness release. Seven songs from Dissolution in total, highlights including the tub-thumping Threatening War, the delicate Shed A Light and the acoustic duet of first encore Not Naming Any Names. Meanwhile, old favourites were greeted with roars of approval by those of the older fan-base, including a fierce 3000 Days from Someone Here Is Missing and probably the heaviest track of the evening, Part Zero from 2003’s Variation On A Dream.

Whilst there are lengthy tracks in the band’s catalogue, many of them are surprisingly short, keeping the interest there. Pacing was perfect, short track mingling with the longer epics, and new songs sitting comfortably with the older tunes. A three-song encore concluded with Snowdrops, a firm favourite from 2006’s Little Man, and once more you could but marvel at the incredible show just witnessed. The Pineapple Thief may be in their 20th year, but it looks like the band are finally getting the recognition they so richly deserve.

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