The Pineapple Thief at SWX Bristol February 2024

The Pineapple Thief / Randy McStine

SWX, Bristol
Thursday, 22nd February 2024

The Pineapple Thief return to home territory in Bristol on a damp February night for only the second date of their European Tour, performing much of their excellent new album It Leads to This, their first of original music since 2020’s Versions of the Truth. But first up, a solo support slot from New Yorker Randy McStine…

Randy McStine at SWX Bristol February 2024The Pineapple Thief always have a class act as support, and it is Gavin Harrison’s live Porcupine Tree bandmate Randy McStine who takes the stage to set the scene and build the atmosphere. His opening number starts with an eerie synth looping pattern which transfixes the audience. Droning echoes fill the auditorium before he dons an electric guitar and dazzles with some mesmerising sliding bottleneck fretwork.

McStine has a strong but lilting voice, and for the next song, Before, he takes to an acoustic guitar, which he skilfully plays with loops whilst singing with a melodious voice – he certainly captures the interest of a packed venue. He has a pleasant manner as he addresses the crowd, telling them that this is his first European tour playing his own material. He finishes off with two pieces written and recorded as a duo with drummer Marco Minneman, starting with Activate, another fine display of skilled guitar work.

Seaside sound effects commence Big Wave, in which he asks us to imagine we are on a beach, and for a few minutes his atmospheric music does indeed take us away from another dank British winter day outside, and the crowd really appreciate him – an excellent way to prepare for the main act.

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Who to Avoid
Big Wave
Randy McStine – Vocals, Acoustic & Electric Guitars

LINKS: Facebook | Bandcamp

The Pineapple Thief may only be on the second show of the tour, but from the start of The Frost (from the new album) it is clear that they are really hyped for what is in effect their ‘home town gig’ – the band originated in nearby Yeovil. Bruce Soord’s voice has really matured over the years, and he gives an impassioned vocal performance, backed by some excellent harmony vocals from Jon Sykes and Beren Matthews. Bruce injects some crunchy guitar passages into this impactful opening number. The ‘Thief’ keep the energy levels high with a crisp rendition of Demons from Versions of the Truth, from which they play three songs tonight. There is great interplay between Bruce Soord’s grittier guitar in contrast to the more melodic guitar lines from Beren Matthews.

The Pineapple Thief at SWX Bristol February 2024

New album It Leads to This is played in its entirety, with eight songs sprinkled through the show and comprising virtually half the set – a testament to the confidence the band has in their excellent new material. Bruce announces Put it Right as being written three years ago “when we were all inside”, and this delicate, fragile song captures the strange mood of those pandemic lockdown days. It is echoing, brooding and dramatic, with Steve Kitch outstanding on fluid piano in the mid-section. Bruce’s guitar swings from discordant flourishes to more graceful moments as the whole band deftly plays the melancholic but hopeful finale – Soord chanting “…in time, we can work this out…”.

Our Mire from Versions of the Truth is a real highlight of the show and comes alive on stage: propulsive and percussive, a great showcase for the skills of Gavin Harrison on drums. This is a throbbing song full of discordant ghosts and ethereal shadows. Shimmering guitars open up a resplendent Versions of the Truth, followed by a more frenzied Every Trace of Us from the new album. This rolling number features yet more great drumming and harmony vocals, but the star is the funky bass slapping of Jon Sykes, who really drives the song on, as he does all night with aplomb.

The Pineapple Thief at SWX Bristol February 2024

The focus has very much been on the two most recent albums, but next comes a real blast from the past, Dead in the Water from 2006’s Little Man, which Soord explains was one of the songs re-recorded and re-imagined with Gavin Harrison on 2022’s Give it Back (Rewired) album. Dead in the Water was always a beautiful, atmospheric number, but with Harrison’s magic dust sprinkled over it goes to another level, and the band pull it off with stuttering feedback, great percussion and stark, intense vocals. As someone who attended the Litte Man album launch at a relatively sparsely populated and rather modest venue in 2006, it was quite an emotional moment to see this song resurrected nearly 20 years later – just how far has this band come in these years?

The ‘Thief’ get right back up to date with two songs from the new album, All that’s Left and Now it’s Yours. The auditorium is bewitched with eerie guitars from the outstanding Beren Matthews, subtle percussion and delicate piano in the spellbinding Now it’s Yours, a sort of sequel from Soord’s song about the future of his children from his 2019 solo album All This Will be Yours. This brand new piece is a real highlight of the show, with tasteful guitar motifs from Soord to complement his crystalline vocals. However, this is also a song which underlines the gifts that Steve Kitch bring to the band – he is not for fancy flourishes of flamboyant solos, but his textured synth soundwaves and subtle keyboard play is absolutely essential in describing the sonic pictures the band creates.

The Pineapple Thief at SWX Bristol February 2024

Fend for Yourself is the first of three songs from their landmark 2016 album, Your Wilderness, the album where Gavin Harrison joined them. Beren Matthews is particularly fluid on guitar, and afterwards Bruce Soord shares with the crowd that this is now his fourth tour with the band, and you can really tell he has blended in. Indeed, he also features significantly on the new album – one just wonders whether he will ever ‘officially’ become a core band member…  A trio of new songs follows, including a forceful, strident Rubicon and some great keyboards on It All Leads to This. However, it is the delicate To Forget with Bruce on acoustic guitar, Gavin on feather-light percussion and some lovely harmony vocals that really stands out. The glowing red lighting reflects the glowing musical embers of this emotional and beguiling song, punctuated with some brief keening guitar – just beautiful.

We are on the home stretch now and they launch into a frenzied Rewired version of Give it Back, from All the Wars, filled with throbbing menace and thrashing guitars. The whole band ignites with flashes of controlled power and occasional stabs of frenzy. There are some great multi-layered vocals, and the band get the whole crowd clapping along furiously. They finish the main set with the epic majesty of the brooding and slow-burning The Final Thing on My Mind. There is real power in their restraint and poise, and as the pace and tempo rises they really let go with a thrilling roller coaster of a finale. Beren Mattews throws in a brilliant but brief guitar solo – this is not a band which bashes you over the head with excessive and indulgent soloing but fascinate and excite with subtle dashes and sonic landscapes created by the whole band. This is a brilliant piece, right up there with the best of The Pineapple Thief’s tracks. Needless to say, after such an outstanding final song and great show, the Bristol crowd go mad for their local heroes.

The Pineapple Thief at SWX Bristol February 2024

The encore blasts along with In Exile, featuring some serpentine guitar work over a battery of drums, and before we know it The Thief are overwhelming the crowd with live musical tsunami Alone at Sea, dating back to 2014’s Magnolia. The band are really letting loose now with band members invading the raised keyboard section and Bruce Soord striking Rock God poses with thrilling distorted guitar flourishes, while Harrison’s drums detonate in perfect synchronicity – this is a band who know how to rock out when they want to – and it’s a breathtaking way to finish the gig.

The Pineapple Thief at SWX Bristol February 2024

I have been following this band for 20 years, from when five men and a dog were watching them at times, so it is incredible to see the heights of professionalism, confidence and performance that they are now achieving… and it is so pleasing to see such talent, persistence and hard work getting the recognition it deserves. I met an old friend, Pete Clemmons, at the gig and we spoke about those old days, scarcely believing that all these years later It Leads to This, playing to packed audiences and touring the UK, Europe and the USA – a far cry from those tiny gigs in Yeovil and elsewhere. Pete used to stand next to me sometimes at those magical early gigs – and he is a wise man, posting this perfect summary of the night on social media:

“A Rock band with tricky time signatures. An incredible groove, no anthems. Incredibly tight unit. Almost ballad like songs that ask to be explored. The Pineapple Thief don’t force themselves on you. Instead, they gently engage with you and draw you in… these were just some of the things that ran through my mind. It really was a wonderful gig. And this band are that special. Bristol again delivered…”

The Pineapple Thief at SWX Bristol February 2024

The Pineapple Thief appear to be going from strength to strength, both with their albums and as a great live outfit. They have now set off for an extensive European tour – if they play near you, try to see them. They return to London for one more triumphant gig at Shepherd’s Bush in March – if you can, just go!

[Read Leo Trimming’s review of The Pineapple Thief’s It Leads to This]

The Frost
Put it Right
Our Mire
Versions of the Truth
Every Trace of Us
Dead in the Water (Rewired Version)
All that’s Left
Now its Yours
Fend for Yourself
To Forget
It Leads to This
Give it Back (Rewired Version)
The Final Thing on My Mind
~ Encore:
In Exile
Alone at Sea

Bruce Soord – Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Gavin Harrison – Drums & Percussion
Jon Sykes – Bass & Backing Vocals
Steve Kitch – Keyboards
~ With:
Beren Matthews – Electric Guitars, Acoustic Guitars & Backing Vocals

The Pineapple Thief – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp (Kscope) | X

[Photos by Leo Trimming]