“We’re going to play quite a few songs from an album that’s not out yet, so you can’t sing along even if you want to,” announces Godsticks frontman Darran Charles.
In fact, the Welsh band are brave enough to pretty much base tonight’s set upon their forthcoming fourth record, Faced With Rage, spitting out three newies in a row. Based on churning metal riffs, the music is perhaps a little heavier than genre purists might prefer from a support act. Songs such as Revere, Guilt and Lack Of Scrutiny are somewhat bare in the hooks department, but their Frippian solos elevate them from a status that could otherwise be considered mediocre.
Having begun life with a gig in a skittle alley just down the road from leader Bruce Soord’s house in Somerset, The Pineapple Thief have come a long way from ‘bedroom band’ status, and are now popular enough to sell out mid-sized venues such as Islington’s Assembly Hall.
Quite why they’re back in London a mere nine months after doing precisely that, filming a multimedia DVD/Blu-ray package on the night is a little beyond Prog’s comprehension. However, on one of the final warm Saturday nights of the year, a packed-out ULU is buzzing for a last chance to hear the band’s current album Your Wilderness in its entirety, plus a Facebook-voted trawl through the remainder of their 10 albums.
Just like labelmates Godsticks, the headliners’ sound has an underlying heaviness that doesn’t always sit comfortably with the more complex aspects of their oeuvre, though The Pineapple Thief boast a far superior command of melody and songcraft. They resist the temptation to perform Your Wilderness in its original running order, while also adding its final track, Where We Stood, omitted last time out, to the setlist.
The presence of Gavin Harrison on Your Wilderness and as part of tonight’s line-up explains a proliferation of Steven Wilson T-shirts in the audience, but for the most part, the Porcupine Tree/King Crimson drummer reels in any possible sense of showboating. This is fitting as Soord recently revealed that Harrison is “up for doing the band’s next album”, to be recorded once this tour is over.
The best tune of the night is also the group’s proggiest – surprise, surprise! – a 10-minute piece from Your Wilderness called The Final Thing On My Mind. The song closes the show proper, Harrison’s drums going off like cannons during its eye‑watering midsection.
Returning for a well-deserved two-song encore, featuring Snowdrops and Nothing At Best, this correspondent departs the ULU musing upon a set that was undoubtedly enjoyable, if sometimes a little directionless.