Venue : The Half Moon, Putney
Date : Saturday 23 January 2010
Date of writing this review : 30 January 2010
At one point it seemed like this might be the last gig for The Pineapple Thief at The Half Moon in Putney as the venue was under threat of closure, but thankfully that has been averted. This excellent venue still needs your support, so it was good to see it packed for this gig, and everyone should have gone home very well entertained and wanting more from both bands on the bill – and certainly in anticipation of their respective forthcoming releases.
First up were Vaughan King, who I had looked up on MySpace when I saw them announced as the support band for tonight. I had enjoyed what I had heard on there, so I was looking forward to encountering them live. I was in for a treat. Playing live they are now going under the name Vaughan King and Troupe, and they came on stage with Vaughan King on acoustic guitar and vocals, Tiago on electric guitar, Neil on drums and Aga and Olivia on cellos – and I am always excited by the introduction of classical instruments into contemporary music. They opened with Two Souls, the first of a few tracks tonight from the 2008 mini-album, The Triumphant, the acoustic guitar circling in as the electric guitar picks out a deeper part, just starting straight in with no introduction, and both cellos flow across the sound. The vocals float out and push through the dark, melodic sound, with the guitar strumming through and the cymbals tapping. The sound is growing and the drums hit it away, as it moves on with a folk feel, but with a real edge to it. The cellos become more prominent as the vocals are trembling, and it is a sharper, stacatto sound from Aga as Olivia produces a more flowing sound, and it is wonderful for me to be able to watch as well as hear Aga’s performance from so close up. The guitar cuts through sharp and the track fades to a close. They continue with The Forgiven & The The Forgotten, the acoustic circling in again, with Aga flowing in on cello as Vaughan’s vocals push through. The guitar is picking out a part as Olivia’s cello comes in, and there is a lighter feel to both cellos in this track as the guitar strums through hard. The cymbals are tapping as the track grows and the vocals become more strident, then drums then coming through as well and it eases along. It is a melodic, rounded sound which is rolling along, building as the guitar strums against the flowing cellos, and a big crescendo eases as the song fades to a finish. Next up is Ballad Of A Poor Man, a new song with an animated video for it on their MySpace page. Slide guitar pushes through powerful and melodic, and the cymbals tap along as the vocals flow in and roll. There is such a big guitar sound flooding out and the vocals have a frantic feel, pushing the track along, with the guitar chiming through as it drives along, with the guitar moving into bursts of slide, before the cellos flow in as the rest of the sound quietens. The other sounds build again as the cellos continue, and then push through as the cellos fade out, with Aga then coming back in as the track moves on. Olivia then joins in too, and they play different parts, pushing against each other, dominating the sound, Aga’s cello frantic, sharp, piercing, scratching, as Olivia is plucking her strings, and the acoustic guitar circles around the cello sound as Aga is playing so low on her strings that her fingers are almost touching her bow as the track comes to an end.
The acoustic guitar circles in deep for This Empty Landfill, with the cello sound from Aga flowing across it, the vocals also flowing through the sound. The guitar cuts through hard and then echoes out, with the cymbals tapping. Olivia’s cello now flows in and the guitar is strumming through as the sound floats along, and the drums come in. The track grows and the vocals shout out, both cellos flowing hard as a meaty guitar sound rips through, and the cellos push against it. Then it eases and flows on, still with a hard edge, the guitar circling through as it pushes along, the drums kicking again to move it, driving along hard, and I find myself transfixed by Aga’s performance, the speed and dexterity of her fingers on the strings, the utter concentration on her face, and the varying emotions which seem to be running through her, and a wonder if she might actually catch her hair in the strings as she plays, and if she did whether she would even notice as she appears so wrapped up in the moment. Vaughan adds in some harmonica for Endless Faith. He counts it in and the drums tap along as he plays on harmonica, producing a deep, hard sound. The guitar rolls in higher, melodic and shimmering, with Neil using brushes on the snare as the track opens up. It has a mellow feel but with some bite, and as the vocals come in they are really pushing, before the cellos strike in, sharp strokes ticking through. They are building a big sound which floats along but with purpose, the guitar now strumming through against the sharp sound from the cellos, and it has really grown as it drives on now, a flurry of sounds running together, the cellos striking through before it eases down into the vocals and acoustic guitar, with some slide on the electric guitar, the drums tapping as it fades away. Vaughan introduces the band here tonight, telling us that they would also usually have another guitarist and a bass player (and imagine how much more of a sound that would create). “Do you want to hear some percussion on this song ?”, he asks, and hands a tambourine to the drummer for Age Of The Utopian. He strums in hard on the acoustic guitar, with Olivia flowing in on cello, and then Aga is added and there is some tambourine as Vaughan begins to sing. Big strumming on the acoustic as the cello sound grows, and a deep sound to his vocals, then they are rising out, emotional, before the harmonica feeds in while the cellos continue to build, picking their parts, then fading to a striking sound, little slashes, and as the tambourine taps the vocals now flow. The cello sound grows again, pushing into more intricate parts, very dynamic from Aga, before easing as the acoustic and vocals come in again, and the harmonica then edges through, wailing out as the sound swirls with a hard, dark edge, and fades to the end.
Vaughan has a drink of his beer, looks at the bottle, “that’s good !”, and someone in the crowd shouts, “play a happy one” (though they can hardly be here for The Pineapple Thief if they are expecting ‘happy’ songs !). “This is kinda happy…”, and is Swan, from their new ep, Ballad Of A Poor Man. He strums in on the acoustic while the electric guitar circles with a rounded sound, and the vocals roll in. It is a mixture of complex sounds and rhythms, uneasy with an edge, and intelligent track which makes you listen and take notice, building as his vocals soar through. The guitars are mixing so well to produce an intricate sound of their own, very controlled but off balance – there is really no comfort zone in here. Then it opens up and rolls along with a melodic sound, Tiago strumming on the neck of his guitar as it pushes into a big, driving sound with the vocals soaring again, before easing down and drifting on to a close. “Was that happy enough for you ?”, and they are into End To End, the acoustic circling in fast, then easing with the cymbals tapping, before it blasts open, soaring with slide guitar and harmonica, the drums kicking in and a huge chunk of Americana rolls with the vocals as the cymbals crash through. It is a wonderfully melodic sound as the vocals rise again, and the guitar pierces higher with its own exquisite sound. The harmonica comes in and the sound eases, before the cellos strike in, stacatto and deep, with the slide guitar running alongside them. The vocals are shouting out and the sound soars, driving along hard now into a big finish. They close their set with Obstacles, begining with the opening lyrics from Blue Suede Shoes, Vaughan singing them in short, sharp lines as the guitar wails out against his vocals, before it settles down to push along deep, mellow, dirty, the drums kicking with it, biting in, the vocals now as mournful as the bluesy guitar sound flooding the stage, before sharp guitar strumming comes through and it then eases into a lighter sound. It begins to grow again, the vocals screaming out, the guitar wailing, then ploughing along as the harmonica comes into the sound. Shrieking guitar moves into picking jangling notes, and then it eases down again into the mellow feel. The drums jump in and the guitar strums hard, and it kicks off again with a discordant sound, driving hard with Vaughan beginning to move about the stage, totally in the moment, almost stepping on Neil’s camera between the monitors, starting to spin around, and the track surges on with the drums pushing the thick blues sound created by Tiago, and Vaughan kicks the tambourine on the stage floor, walking into the microphone stand as he spins harder then falls to his knees in front of the drums, playing his harmonica against the discordant guitar sound while wrapped up in the leads, and an enthralling set comes to an end.
I rushed to buy one of the few copies of The Triumphant which are still available, as you can see from my music purchases of 2010 list which is also in my blog on here, and I will certainly be buying the Ballad Of A Poor Man ep once the packaging is back from the printers. You can next see Vaughan King at Underbelly in Hoxton on Wednesday 10 February.
The place is not only full for The Pineapple Thief, but packed with faces I do not recognise from previous gigs of theirs, which is always a good thing – they deserve to be far bigger than they already are, and their excellent recent support sets with Riverside (reviews still to follow) appear to have helped that. Maybe it is because of worries that Bruce Soord will follow Vaughan’s lead in his movement around the stage, or maybe they just have a surplus of gaffer tape, but everything on stage is taped down, and we are ready to go. They open with God Bless The Child, from Little Man, which has just been re-released in a remastered version. Bruce strums in hard and sharp on the guitar, with big percussive sounds from drummer Keith Harrison and keyboard player Steve Kitch. Bruce’s vocals ease in alongside the hard guitar sound, and bassist Jon Sykes is adding percussion with a shaker while adding backing vocals and then beginning the sharp, rhythmic clapping. This runs with the big, direct guitar sound, with the drums kicking in as Jon and Steve continue to clap, the crowd joining them in that, and it pushes along hard and intense, stacatto vocals forcing it. The drums pound now with the hard guitar riffing, then it moves to the clapping with floating guitar, an excellent, sharp rhythm to the clapping from the band and crowd together. Surges from the keyboards as the guitar sound climbs hard and floats, the vocals easing back in, and you can feel the track holding, with some guitar flourishes, some feedback hits, the vocals become prominent over the guitar sound, then whispered, before the sound blasts away with the bass rumbling, cymbals crashing, the guitar piercing and soaring through, creating a big, hard, driving sound which pushes on into a sustained finish which is met with huge applause from the crowd. “We’re going to play a few new songs tonight”, says Bruce, and he also announces that the album will be titled Someone Here Is Missing, and will be released on 5 April 2010 (although the recent Kscope newsletter suggests the 26 April, and also informs us that it will feature artwork being created by the legendary Storm Thorgerson. And they continue with one of the new tracks, Wake Up The Dead, with an electronic rhythm from the keyboards pulsing and surging, Bruce’s vocals pushing in with the electronic sound, flowing up and down, with the bass rumbling through. The snare drum bites and then dies away, as a keyboard sound trembles in. The bass is buzzing as Keith and Steve are on shakers, and the guitar riff phases through before the drums kick in and the many layers gradually come together and it holds. Guitar feedback slides in and then Bruce riffs hard in phases, with his vocals flowing on top of the harsh, sharp sound. It opens up and blasts away, rolling along uptempo, a huge sound crashing around, Bruce himself crashing around and almost falling off the stage, before the electronic keyboard rhythm hits in again to bring it to a close. I cannot wait to hear the recorded version. They continue with the excellent Shoot First, from 2008’s brilliant album Tightly Unwound, the guitar strumming in, the cymbals tap. The bass rumbles as the keyboards flow through and the snare taps in. The guitar phases in and then cuts away sharply, and the track crashes on with a discordant sound to the guitar, before easing and rumbling on as the vocals come in and the guitar provides some flourishes. The riff pushes through and then floats with the keyboards as the rhythm drives us on, hitting us into the chorus and the sound soars. It pauses into sharp sounds before the guitar cuts through and it holds, with Bruce picking notes up and down the guitar neck. The drums and bass are holding too, with the keyboards flowing under them, before it blasts away into the chorus again, hard riffing then easing into the vocals, and it rolls on before fading to finish. They move straight in to Tightly Wound, which is one of the tracks on a promotional ep they had available tonight, the guitar cuts through with the drums, while the keyboards screech in with a haunting sound and the bass is thumping, before it eases along, piercing out, holding as the vocals push in to the deep, sinister sound, and then the drums kick hard to release us and it blasts on with the bass buzzing. The sound eases again and rolls on as the vocals come back in, the bass thumping again as the drums drive us along, a harder sound as it holds once more, before the guitar and keyboards come screeching through, the guitar piercing and then fades. The vocals come in with the guitar echoing now, and the bass buzzes as the track crashes away again, rumbling on as the vocals push through. The cymbals are tapping as it holds once more for the vocals to come in and flow away with the keyboards, a guitar riff phasing through with the cymbal taps and the keyboards. The cymbals tap harder as the riff continues to phase, and the bass thumps in with the cymbals and the keyboard sound, before it all comes together and rolls away moving upwards, pushing on to a sharp end.”That was Tightly Wound from Tightly Unwound, or is it the other way round, because I do confuse myself. This is another new one”, and the guitar riffs in hard with the cymbals to begin 3000 Days (which is not on the album 3000 Days), the keyboards flooding through as the bass rumbles, and the drums kick us away as the guitar continues to riff hard and moves through some wah wah phases, the track driving along uptempo and bouncing. It pauses as the guitar riffs with a lighter feel, the bass still rumbling with it, and then it kicks again with the keyboards surging through, and bursts of rounded guitar circling with that keyboard sound. The vocals come in as the guitar riff takes on the lighter feel again and it bounces on with a hard edge to the sound, again with bursts of the rounded guitar sound, which have something of a Rush feel for me. The big, hard sound driving along holds now as the drums beat through, and the guitar riffs with the drums before the sound kicks and hits on again, the keyboards flowing in again as the bass rumbles. The guitar riffing gets harder and the track really crashes on before holding into screeching guitar with the cymbals tapping, the pulsing guitar as the drums burst and crash, and thick wah wah from the guitar pushes it on again, blasting away with strobing lights on stage, very powerful and dramatic, and the rounded sound burst comes through again, hitting us on to a sharp close to the track, and the crowd erupts. With this being one of the older newer songs it is becoming familiar to those who see the band on a regular basis, and it has almost instantly become a crowd favourite. A huge slab of electronica takes us into another new track, Preparation For Meltdown, rhythm from the keyboards and a sound which squelches through, Keith using mallets for his sound, the guitar riff is fast and melodic, and the vocals flow in, rolling along, as the bass thumps occasionally. It holds as Bruce strums on the guitar neck and the keyboards flow through, with the cymbals gently crashing, before Bruce riffs harder and the cymbals tap us on and the track rolls away with a rounded, melodic sound, easing along. The vocals push through, rising, the track going with them and blasting away with a thick bas sound from the keyboards, the guitar riffing hard against that sound, the snare and hi hit also biting against the swirling keyboards as the guitar now comes through in waves, the bass rumbles and Jon adds in on vocals as it continues with a very atmospheric sound. The drums kick to release us and it moves away again, blasting on, hard guitar riffing with thumping bass, more wah wah phasing through as it hits hard into a false end. A pointed piano sound comes through, the cymbals tap and the vocals ease in, before the guitar riffs sharp and harsh against the sound, the vocals echoing. The cymbals crash and bite, the guitar screeches and the cymbal sound suddenly stops. The guitar sound crunches and then pierces and it all kicks away again, a massive rounded sound driving on powerfully, a huge crescendo into thick rumbling bass, the keyboards echoing through, the vocals easing in, before the drums drive us into a sharp, sudden finish. Bruce picks up his acoustic guitar and tells us they are “going to try something a bit different”. A hard acoustic sound circles us fast into another new track, Barely Breathing, his vocals rolling with the acoustic sound, and Jon also comes in on vocals and the sound rises, while the acoustic guitar becomes more rhythmic than melodic. Bruce’s vocals roll alone and the acoustic sound takes on a more melodic feel again, before Jon’s vocals return to push it on once more. Then Bruce’s vocals with the acoustic guitar gently ease us to the close of a lovely new track. Next up is “another new one, and it is going to be the one which will close our new album. It has never been played live before.” Bruce dedicates So We Row to Tom Randell, and Keith taps us in on wooden sticks. The guitar riffs in hard and sharp, the keyboards coming in with a pointed sound which runs with the guitar and another sound which flows under it, and the sound is both very rhythmic and very melodic as the keyboards roll on. Jon is playing a shaker as the guitar riff is repeating, insistent, and then the sound dies into just the guitar riff with some rhythm from the keyboards. The feel of the sound eases as it moves off and the vocals come in, and there is a softer rhythm now, pushing us along uptempo. The vocals flow as the guitar riffs and the bass gently rumbles, before it holds and moves into a sharper rhythm again, easing off and rolling along again. The bass rumbles with the drums and the keyboards flow, and it hits into a sharper sound, building it, developing the themes, Bruce’s vocals rising and the Jon’s backing vocals coming in, before it dies into the guitar riff with some bass thumps, again a softer version of the harder rhythm. The drums produce a martial beat on the snare, the keyboards flowing under the sound before growing and surging through in flourishes, and the guitar also surges through into the spacey sound they have created, screeching and scratching as the rhythm builds, the guitar sound growing before screeching out some more as the rhythm eases, and then it blasts away with the sharper rhythm, banging it out and then opening up and blasting on some more, wonderfully creative as it moves into a soaring, majestic sound, holding as the vocals push through against the hard rhythm, before easing into spoken word from Bruce, with some backing from Jon, and the sound swirls as the rhythm fades and melodic keyboards push through as it closes. On a first experience, that sounds like a very ambitious track and it will certainly bring the album to a stunning end.They return to Little Man for Snowdrops, Bruce strumming through on acoustic guitar and his vocals pushing out as the keyboards flow under the sound he is producing and then roll on. Keith is adding some backing vocals as the vocal sound rises, with Keith and Jon on shakers as well as adding some rhythmic clapping, and Keith has a tambourine on top of his hi hat which he taps with a drumstick. It eases along beautifully, soaring in places, before the sound eases into just the keyboards and the crowd clap along with the rest of the band. The guitar strums in hard and the track kicks away with the bass rumbling and the drums rattling, and the guitar begins to scream through as the track pushes on hard with the guitar piercing with flourishes. The guitar is strumming hard with the bass now as the bass rumbles along, and they drive us into a sustained finish. “Thank you very much, you have been very kind to us”, and they close their set with Too Much To Lose, the closing track from Tightly Unwound. The cymbals tap in as the piano ripples and the guitar echoes through the sound, and it taps on in bursts before the guitar echoes hard and the bass thumps, the vocals easing in as the piano continues with droplets of notes, the vocals now pushing through the swirling sound, and the guitar riffs hard as the vocals surge out, the keyboards echoing around the big sound. It eases along with an atmoshperic feel, the vocals emotional, moving into echoing, screeching guitar, a sharp sound with the guitar riffing faster, the bass buzzing through as the drums kick and a dramatic sound holds before it hits away, frantic guitar riffing being joined by flowing keyboards and the sound grows as the rhythm builds with the bass thumping, and the guitar sound develops and cuts through, screeching and whining into feedback before cutting away from that, sustaining its sound as the track moves into the keyboards and drums, holding with tapping cymbals and some deep bass as the vocals move into a spoken part. The drums become more prominent as feedback from the guitar slashes in, the bass buzzes, the drums holding it as the guitar and bass play around pushing it to the limits as Bruce uses a slide on the controlled screeching feedback, producing a scraping, scratching sound, riffing through inbetween the slide parts, intricate and controlled into a sudden halt. The keyboards pulse through with a circling melody and the bass pulses and the guitar riffs again as the drums kick but still hold as the keyboards tick through, and then it builds, develops as it pushes into a crescendo, then still holding with the ticking keyboards until the cymbals crash and it blasts away with the guitar riffing furiously, the bass rumbling hard but it is the guitar which is dominating the sound now roaring through as the drums and bass drive the tempo. The vocals soar through the massive sound as it rushes on relentless and Bruce comes to the edge of the stage, between the monitors, a danger to Neil’s camera again, and they blast into an extended and sustained finish, Bruce producing more feedback as he pushes his guitar against his amp, and then leaves his guitar on the stage as he walks off.
The huge applause which greeted the end of the set continues until the band return to the stage, and they were never going to get out of here without an encore. They go back to 10 Stories Down from 2005 for I Will Light Up Your Eyes, the keyboard rhythm slides in and a piano sound rolls with it as the vocals ease in on top, the cymbals just tapping as it rolls along, the bass gently rumbling as a little guitar part pushes through. It eases along and the guitar sound echoes through, the track moving mellow with a hard edge within it, before it pauses into the keyboards and the guitar cuts into that sound. Jon comes in on harmonica, a wonderful sound, drifting through, the guitar sound echoing with it, growing, and the vocals come back in to the mellow, swirling sound. The drums come back in and it pushes on, the bass rumbling as the guitar strums hard, the track moving along much harder now, really thumping with the guitar furiously riffing, then strumming on the neck, Bruce developing the part as it pierces out against the solid rhythm from Keith and Jon, the sound rising before Bruce’s vocals push it out of the crescendo and it rolls along hard and heavy with a thick edge, driving into another extended and sustained finish which fades to a close with crashing cymbals and a sharp, screeching riff. The crowd erupt yet again, but sadly there is no time left and no amount of clapping and cheering will allow the band to come back on for more, although it is very clear the crowd would love this to go on and on.
I have seen The Pineapple Thief more than a few times over the last year and they really do get better each time I see them, the time on the road bringing their sound together, giving them a sharp, tight sound, and the new material sounds very exciting. The next chance to see them live is at Nearfest in Pennsylvania on 19 June.