The 450 capacity Sound Control in Manchester may not be the largest of venues but for The Pineapple Thief tonight it marks a moment when they walk out to a capacity crowd. A moment later reflected on by front-man Bruce Soord when he reminisces about it being “less cosy” last time they played. That last time being on the back of the acclaimed Magnolia album, where there was a marked effort to expand their sound and move away from more progressive territory. This time they return with Your Wilderness, an album which carries on that more populist sound but also throws in nods to their progressive past.
That they have the remarkable skills of Gavin Harrison on drums with them tonight is no less a draw either and the erstwhile Porcupine Tree and King Crimson drummer delivers a master-class of subtlety and nuance all night. Melding well with Soord’s emotional landscapes, Harrison provides the driving point for tonight’s music as it swoops and soars its way along it’s path. At times breathtaking, it’s still just a sum of the parts which only serves to highlight how confident The Pineapple Thief are these days.
Opening with ‘Tear You Up’, it’s the beginning of a set heavy on the new album. More expansive and meatier than on the album, the moment in which Soord swaps his acoustic for electric sets the song alight. This becomes a key motif of the gig as they swap the more subtle moments for a heavier sound. The synth performs much of the orchestral parts but rather than try to emulate, they follow a more guitar driven path.
This works superbly for the live arena and through a storming ‘The One You Left To Die’ into the bass driven ‘Alone At Sea’, they bring these two Magnolia tracks into line with their newer sound. Progressively heavier, albeit in essence rather than in musicality, by the time they play ‘That Shore’, a highlight of Your Wilderness, it’s a brief moment of calm to gather your sense. A moment for the synths to shine through, the hushed tones envelop the venue and unlike many other gigs these days, you could have heard a pin drop.
Harrison’s drumming goes to another level on ‘Reaching Out’ which delves deep into its progressive rots for a completely transcendent middle section which sees the band jamming it out on stage. The metronomic beats offering a backdrop for the band to roar ever louder on their instruments. A truly breathtaking moment, it’s a moment when you realise that The Pineapple Thief are something of a national treasure and you have to wonder why they are not playing much bigger venues.
Such is the unfortunate way with so many bands these days, to The Pineapple Thief, they seem to enjoy the intimacy and the rapport with the crowd is fantastic. There’s a recognition of fellow souls with many having followed the band for years. That they remain appreciative of the new music shows that the band are doing the right thing. It’s this intimacy that makes the moments when the music completely transcends the venue that much more special and you find yourself dragged along for the ride with nothing to do but stare mesmerised at those magicians on stage.
‘In Exile’ threatens a sing along moment and sounds much less thin than it does on the album. Placed in the middle of the set, it provides a bridge from the progressive past of ‘Reaching Out’ to more song based fare such as ‘Take Your Shot’. Following this with ‘Show A Little Love’ which then moves into ‘Fend For Yourself’ shows a band who have always based their songs on classic structures and the progressive tendencies have reared their head only when necessary. It is this song-writing skill which sets them apart from a lot of prog bands and keeps them firmly in the 5 minute mark territory. Not for them the sometimes over-long excursions that many of their ilk take.
That said, ‘Part Zero’ is as prog as they come and from the start as Harrison leads the band in, you know you’re in for something special. Serving as a moment to match the power of ‘Reaching Out’, it is perhaps surprising that the rather slight ‘Simple As That’ becomes one of the most explosive songs of the night. It’s easy melody and optional sing-along bringing the venue to life as the nodding heads turn into a mass of dancing bodies. It’s a triumphant moment and sums up the whole mood of the gig.
Shouts for ‘Ground Floor’ are met with mirth as the band finish the main set with a stunning ‘The Final Thing On My Mind’ which Soord introduces as his favourite song on the new album. It’s easy to see why too as it’s haunting melody casts a stir over the crowd who stand enraptured as the band once again take you on a transcendent journey. You almost forget your surroundings as the music becomes part of you and whilst it may have been helped along by the couple of pints of IPA you had just supped, you just know that there is something special at work here.
For the encore The Pineapple Thief go back in time to their Little Man album and dust off ‘Snowdrops’ replete with an audience clap along. It’s an unusual moment of audience participation from one that has been willing to let themselves be dragged along by the music and almost seems out of place. It’s a beautiful thing though and it’s light-heartedness makes the heaviness of final song ‘Nothing At Best’ all the more powerful. A throbbing, gristly beast, it’s the perfect ending to what was a nigh on perfect gig. It’s only after you stumble out into the cold night that you realise that you have just been on a two hour emotional journey and words just don’t seem enough to describe what you have felt. An exceptional night of music from one of the finest bands in the UK and surely now it is time for the rest of the world to take notice? Maybe we can just keep them for ourselves a little longer.