Venue : Bush Hall, London
Date : Wednesday 19 May 2010
Date of writing this review : 26 August 2010
This was the album launch gig for the new release from The Pineapple Thief and these are important times for them, so it was good to see the venue filled both with friends and fans, including those I know on MySpace such as Carla (who was over from Portugal), and on the band forum, such as Sandii and Neil, and, as most people very quickly noticed, Steven Wilson was also there (wearing a Demians tshirt), watching the set from the side of the stage. There are yellow Post-its everywhere, following the theme of the album artwork by Storm Thorferson – stuck on people, stuck on the top of the actual setlist with an alternative setlist written on them, and some being submitted for the album art gallery. The evening started with someone getting up on stage to tell us what they were about to show, and then telling us again once the microphone had been turned on. They are going to show two new promotional videos. The first is for Someone Here Is Missing and is an animated piece, filmed dark and with a matt finish, focusing on Mr Punch, with Mrs Punch missing, and working through the nostalga and sentimentality conjured up by photos within the room and flashbacks, before Mrs Punch appears on the end of a grab mechanism within one of those glass arcade machines. Mr Punch breaks into that to release her, and they both get into a toy plane to fly through the window and into the night. The second is for Nothing At Best, described as combining 2D animation techniques with live action special effects, creating a beautiful film-noiresque video which captures the mood of the track perfectly. It was certainly mature and sophisticated, maybe mirroring the direction the band as a whole are now taking.
And then we get to the main event – there is no support act, and the band come on to the stage from the left. Keyboardist Steve Kitch, drummer Keith Harrison, bassist Jon Sykes, and finally lead guitarist and vocalist Bruce Soord. Steve begins the rhythmic clapping which takes us into God Bless The Child, from the Little Man album, recently released as a remastered version. Keith joins in with the clapping and then Jon, before Keith adds in the cow bell sound. Bruce strums in, begins to sing and the audience clap along with them all. Keith adds in a shaker before the drums kick in and Jon adds backing vocals as the sound builds. It is now hard, rounded, rich and driving along with deep strumming on the guitar. The drums roll through as the guitar strums hard and fast, before the guitar moves to floating as the rhythmic clapping increases from both band and audience, then tighter strumming from the guitar as it rolls along and as the track moves to floating the vocals come back in. A fuller sound jumps with the keyboards flowing under it, producing a powerful sound which eases as the vocals come back in, and then the drums smash through, the bass thumps and it crashes away with the guitar screeching, pushing into a stacatto riff before kicking on again, the keyboards moving under the frantic guitar sound, driving into big flourishes and a crashing, sharp end to a stunning opening. “I have a technical problem”, says Bruce, before checking through the leads and connections on his pedal board. “OK, I think I’ve fixed it”, and he strums through into the title track from the new album, Someone Here Is Missing, circling the sound quite deeply, and singing on top of it, producing a touch of melancholy. Keith adds in some percussion with maracas and Jon adds a shaker, before the guitar riffs hard and the bass thumps, with a stacatto riff from the guitar pushing through as Bruce sings on top of it, driving it all on with a hard edge. The drums kick and it rolls away, still hard and with a heavy touch, as the keyboards flow into it. It holds into a stacatto, pounding sound as high guitar develops sharply on top, before kicking and rolling on again, then a sharp pause into circling guitar before the drums kick once more and the guitar screeches away, rolling fast, the bass thumping the track along as it drives on with a full sound, before another sharp pause into circling melodic guitar with Bruce singing on top as it slows and fades out. They continue straight on with another new track (though not one which is new to regular attendees at their gigs), Wake Up The Dead, the electronic rhythm creaking through as the crowd clap along and Bruce sings on top of that, high and melodic, with some keyboards pushing in. The bass rumbles as the vocals push higher, with the drums kicking and then dropping out. The vocals flow on as the keyboards grow, then the drums strike through and it holds, Keith adding in percussion with maracas and a shaker. The bass is thumping now as the vocals grow and the guitar strums through fast as the drums kick in. It hits along upbeat, but still with a restrained feel, holding, the guitar echoing through sharply before it screeches into a direct, striking, stacatto riff, and the bass thumps in with the biting snare as Keith still adds in some shaker, and the vocals flow over the harsh sound before the drums roll and the cymbals crash to release us, and it smashes along, a huge sound pounding on, melody only from the vocals and keyboards as the guitar riffs rhythmically, before it dies into the electronic rhythm with the bass drum, then halts.
“Thank you very much. We are The Pineapple Thief”, says Bruce, and they move on with Tightly Wound, the nearest thing to a title track from their first album with Kscope, and indeed the album which launched the label, 2009’s Tightly Unwound. The guitar echoes through and circles with the tapping toms before it kicks into ghostly keyboards, the bass thumping through, before it holds into the guitar picking a part as the vocals come in, the hi hat and snare tapping behind the vocals. It edges along before the cymbals smash it open and the guitar riffs hard as the bass rumbles, then it flows higher as the vocals push through and it rolls melodic and upbeat, the guitar cutting in sharply, swirls and then screeches with the keyboards as Bruce works the notes, before strumming out with echo and some wah wah while rich bass rumbles under it all. The guitar screeches into big riffing and the drums crash away as the track rattles along with the guitar strumming again, rolling melodic and uptempo as the vocals flow, before holding as Bruce’s vocals float with Jon’s backing vocals, the cymbals tapping as the keyboards surge, and then it holds into the vocals as echoing guitar comes strumming in softly, melodic, swirling as the cymbals tap. The drums kick in and the bass thuds, the keyboards push through in bursts, and Bruce riffs across that as the drums kick again and release us with the track flowing on, the guitar strumming as Bruce works the notes once more, repeating into a sharp finish. They return to the new album with Preparation For Meltdown, squidgy keyboards, an electronica feel, then melodic guitar strumming sharp and fast, Bruce singing over the top of that sound as bass notes thud in, and it rolls on with a sense of urgency, the cymbals crashing through in waves. Bruce plays around on guitar, strumming fast as the sound swirls, and the drums kick and a more rounded sound flows on, before drifting with a hard edge, before the cymbals smash and it hits off with frantic, furious riffing, rumbling bass, and the keyboards swirling. It holds into building electronica, the drums tapping into it, and guitar notes echo through one at a time, bending them out as Jon sings along, leading intoÂ more crashing cymbals and the track kicks away with massive riffing as it really hits on hard, the guitar pushing through with some wah wah, and then, as the track holds and circles, the guitar shrieks higher, and then it halts. The track begins to roll again with big keyboard chords against the cymbals, and Bruce sings on top of that sound. The cymbals roll through and the vocals grow bigger as the guitar strums through and circles, sharp and melodic as the cymbals are striking, pushing into rumbling electronica again as the guitar shrieks feedback. The drums pound and kick away with keyboard chords pushing behind fast riffing from the guitar, and the bass comes thumping through as they produce a massive sound containing many layers and driving on hard, with more wah wah coming through on the guitar before it rolls on smoother, melodic into a hard, sharp end. They return to Tightly Unwound for the next track, Shoot First, the guitar strumming through, phasing around as the snare sound grows along with the hi hat, with a tambourine lying on top of the hi hat to add to the texture, and the rhythm bites into the big riffing phasing guitar as the bass rumbles. The guitar strums as the track holds, electronica sounds coming from the keyboards as the vocals force through the hard sound and the track drives on powerful and relentless, before floating as it holds again, the vocals coming back in and drifting along on top of a hard drum sound. The drums crash into screeching guitar in a burst and it holds on the edge of feedback as Bruce works the notes again, really pushing them this time, bending the strings to an excessive degree, sustaining the sounds before it all rattles away as his vocals come back in to join the huge sound which is driving along. It settles into him singing as he strums the guitar and the cymbals tap, and as the bass rumbles underneath it fades to a close.
Next up is the “first song I wrote for the album. God, two years ago…”, and it is 3000 Days as Bruce strums in melodic. The drums kick as the keyboards flood in and the bass thumps, and a huge sound drives on upbeat, riffing hard into some wah wah as the track moves on in bursts. The guitar echoes through sharply, the bass walks with the rhythm of the drums and the keyboards flow under it all before it holds into rhythmic, melodic strumming, the drums kicking as the strumming continues and it moves into little bursts of flourishes which have a current Rush feel to them. The vocals flow in as it pushes along with the guitar strumming through fast, moving into more of those little bursts, driving along with a big, expansive sound before holding into beating toms against a hard riff. The drums kick, the bass rumbles, the keyboards flow and the track kicks away with the cymbals crashing, Bruce jumping around his bit of the stage as he riffs hard, then coming to the front of the stage as he sustains the sound, bursting out a hook as the cymbals crash again, and the guitar repeats and then develops as the drums grow and kick it back on track into wah wah guitar as the bass thunders through and drives into piercing bursts as Bruce brings his guitar down into a sharp halt. He riffs through hard and rhythmic into The State We’re In, another of the new tracks, with the rhythm growing through Keith’s maraca percussion and the tambourine being played with a drum stick. Bruce sings on top of the sound, his voice high, flowing in bursts, with backing vocals from Jon. The drums kick and Jon adds in some tambourine as the keyboards roll in under the vocals and the riffing guitar. The track pushes along hard with the melody coming from the vocals and keyboards, the sound full of textures as it moves into a sharp pause, then flows out of it with a rounded guitar and keyboard sound against gentle cymbal crashes. The guitar circles and builds, developing its theme as the voclas flow on top, with Jon adding backing vocals, all producing a wonderfully full sound pushing along, stopping into a guitar part and then fading out. Bruce is on acoustic guitar for the next song, Barely Breathing, circling in a melodic part, moving it fast as he sings on top, producing a gentle sound with an edge. The cymbals softly crash through as the vocals rise with backing vocals from Jon. The keyboards flow under the sound as the guitar strumming gets harder, and the drums tap in and the track shuffles on as piano comes through with a pointed sound. The bass is rumbling through, and now the track continues, drifting along with a purpose behind the sound. Bruce’s vocals rise out of that sound, again supplemented by Jon’s backing vocals, and the drums come into the mix and push it along, producing a full rounded sound which then eases into Bruce on vocals and guitar to finish.
They continue with So We Row (as in the boat, not an argument), wooden sticks tapping in from Keith as Bruce riffs hard, rhythmic, stacatto. The keyboards follow the guitar’s lead with some echo and sustain, and Jon adds more texture with a shaker. The hard sound is repeating, building the tension, giving a real sense of how it is growing, the keyboards adding in layers, before it eases into the guitar. Then the cymbals crash through and it kicks on with the bass rumbling, the vocals flowing smoothly on top. The guitar is long strumming as the drums roll, and there is a bite to the sound, especially as it kicks into the stacatto guitar again, with the keyboards also following that theme. It flows on with the long strumming from the guitar, swaying along with a hard edge, before hitting into the stacatto sound again as the keyboards really push through this time. There is some rhythm from the snare and the guitar and bass run with it as the keyboards add an electronic rhythm with some other sounds creeping through. The guitar part expands out of that, developing as it circles, and the keyboards turn all spacey. There are so many layers within the sound while the rhythm now is relentless, the snare biting against the spacey keyboards, before it eases right down into just the snare with Bruce’s vocals. Then the drums kick and smash it away, pushing all the themes within the sound to their limits, blasting on, the guitar going crazy against the forceful bass, the keyboards sliding with the bass, the drums rolling in bursts, and the vocals and backing vocals flowing on top of the huge, urgent sound which is driving along, persistant as the keyboards push through and the guitar drops out and the sound is suddenly smoother as the vocals flow, and it eases into Bruce’s voice with echoing keyboards and some backing vocals, then fades to an end. Bruce is on his acoustic guitar for Snowdrops, from Little Man, and after producing a big crashing sound says, “apologies” and then “this one’s for the Post-It man” and he strums in with the lovely melody and sings on top of it, with the keyboards flowing under the sound, and the track sways along with some drive behind it, the vocals rising and flowing as the keyboards gently surge through. Keith adds in maracas, and also some tambourine, which he taps with his stick as it rests on top of the hi hat, and the crowd clap along as the bass adds a stutter. The track eases along, upbeat, rolling away before settling into just the keyboards and increased crowd clapping, with Bruce and Jon also clapping along while Bruce swaps his guitar. The toms beat and Bruce riffs through hard on his electric guitar, the track kicks away, crashing along with the bass thumping through, and the guitar screeches in and the track flows on as Bruce strums on the bottom of the neck of his guitar. The drums are driving it along with cymbal crashes, rolling off the toms and on to the cymbals, and the track picks up the tempo and races, the keyboards striking through as it pushes into a sudden sharp end. They close out their set with Too Much To Lose, from Tightly Unwound, the cymbals tapping in as the guitar echoes into the atmosphere, and the keyboards roll through as the guitar echoes some more, the sound almost stumbling along before the guitar cuts through sharply and reverberates, the track holding as the vocals push through deep. The keyboards are pulsing through as the vocals grow, and the bass pulses too as the keyboards build and flow, with the drums blasting in as the vocals rise into the guitar riffs, the keyboards swirling around the hard sound and it thumps along before easing, then flowing back into the vocals, the keyboards rolling with long strumming guitar as the bass and drums hold it. The guitar sound turns discordant, screeching as Bruce plays around, then strikes through as it drives along hard, a sharp hit into fast strumming guitar with the bass buzzing in bursts and the guitar now riffs hard against the heavy bass. The drums kick and it blasts away, the guitar flowing with a sharp edge as Bruce comes to the front of the stage to riff, the track building then hitting into a rumble, the guitar slashing through it, riffing furiously and adding wah wah as he plays around the drums beat, keyboards streaking in as it builds into the echoing, screeching guitar, with Bruce scraping up the neck. Atmospheric keyboards flood in with the rhythm of cymbals and beating toms as the bass thumps, Bruce producing the spoken word part of the track through that rhythm as the keyboards swirl round it all. It repeats in surges and the bass comes into the keyboard sound, the guitar riffs through hard and deep, the bass thumping into it, rattling drums holding the sound before sharply releasing it, and now a huge sound is swirling around with a harsh edge as Bruce really works the guitar against the hi hat and the snare, the keyboards buzzing under that sound and high pitched riffing pierces through as the snare ticks a heartbeat and then bites. The keyboards pulse and repeat with a pointed sound as the drums kick into it and then the intensity of the keyboards’ pulsing/ticking drops, but the sound continues. The guitar riffs through with a melodic sound and the bass thumps along with the drums as the guitar begins to build again, the snare rattling against the keyboard ticking, sharp with it, before the track blasts away again with the bass thundering and the drums rattling. The guitar strums furiously with wah wah, Bruce pushing it as it screeches with the keyboards phasing behind it. The vocals soar through with backing vocal support, driving through the huge sound they have created, and it continues to blast on. Bruce comes to the front of the stage to riff into the awesome sound, then leaves his guitar on the stage as it echoes feedback and the band leave to massive applause. And Merch stops me taking the setlist (for now).
They come back on with a “thank you very much” from Bruce, and the keyboards tinkle through to begin Nothing At Best, another track from the new album (and as featured in on of the videos played before the start of the show), with the guitar riffing in as the drums first rattle and then pound with the bass, as the sound settles and then rumbles along with the keyboards high and pointed. Bruce sings on top of the deep rumbling sound and his vocals rise and soar out. He riffs in hard and the song crashes away, blasting on with a big sound, the drums rattling through in bursts before the track kicks and rumbles on. The keyboards are phasing through as the track holds and the guitar riffs, with the keyboards growing as they swirl around the vocals, and it is a busy sound which is growing and rattles away with the bass pushing it into an anthemic chorus part, moving on in bursts before holding again into rumbling keyboards with the vocals easing along on top. Then the snare rattles through and the track pounds on, the keyboards circling hard and high into a sharp end. They finish the night with We Love You, another track from Little Man, and so complete a brilliant set of songs which are all contained within the albums currently available from KScope. An electronic rhythm pushes through and the crowd call out “we love you”, to which Bruce replies, “we love you too”, and the sound grows and swirls from the keyboards, as Bruce sings on top, gentle and melodic. It eases along with the keyboard sound growing and developing, still swirling behind the vocals and adding in some electronic rhythm, and the track holds once more as the cymbal taps through. The vocals soar and the bass thumps into the guitar riff before it pauses and then kicks away with melodic guitar flowing, the bass thumping through again as the drums rattle, before the sound settles and circles. The keyboards grow again as the vocals push in and the drums kick it on as it pounds along upbeat with a hard sound now, pushing along with the bass rumble before it settles into gentle keyboards. It bursts out then holds as the guitar screeches through, settling into rolling keyboards again, with circling melodic guitar, easing along now with the sounds echoing out. The drums bite and kick it away again, the guitar riffing with Bruce’s hands running up the neck as he produces a full, rounded sound which leads into a controlled screeching, pushing it as the bass comes in and thumps along with it, the keyboard sound still constant below it all, the drums rattling to keep it all moving, everything growing into a massive sound, and Bruce stands in front of me to riff as the sound becomes more gentle and melodic as it settles, with gently crashing waves of cymbals as it eases down, then strums into an extended crashing end which closes sharply. A stunning end to a stunning set – and a fitting launch for the new album. And I get the setlist – you can see it within my photo albums on here.
This was also something of a poignant gig for many of us, because actually Someone Here Is Missing – Steve Collier sadly passed away in April of this year, and would otherwise have been at this gig. He was well known to the band and to anyone who has seen The Pineapple Thief over the years and was also a constant on their forum. The effect this news had on people can be seen in the thread dedicated to him on there. I was fortunate enough to have got to know him at the Night Of The Prog festival in Loreley last year, when we were both in the same hotel and shared a drive to the festival site, and I could not have wished to have got to know a more pleasant and genuine person. I know he will have been looking down on this gig with pleasure, enjoying seeing the band moving onwards and upwards, and he is probably wondering why it has taken me so long to write up this review (though he will more be wondering when will I actually get round to the Loreley review). Anyway, I hope no-one will object if I dedicate this review to Steve – so, pugwash, this one’s for you, my friend !