It’s like Foxtrot never happened. One of the first things that strikes you as the stark, simple spotlights come up on The Pineapple Thief’s show at London’s Islington Town Hall is the lack of traditional visual frills. But if you’re going to eschew the staple stagecraft props of the performing arts, from big haircuts to dancers to Slipperman costumes to neon backdrops and accompanying films, you might as well go completely the opposite way. And as it turns out, The Pineapple Thief’s stage uniform of black jeans and black T-shirts, offset by a modest array of lights, lends them a sleek, stylish look, even if their own mothers would probably struggle to pick them out in a police line-up.
The closest they get to a visual trademark are bass player Jon Sykes’ huge headphones – actually ear defenders, as we learn from the interviews that intersperse the live footage on this 95-minute film – which explain everything from the band name to the bass man’s hearing issues. But of course, as Bruce Soord and his bandmates would doubtless be at pains to tell you, individual backstories, like showbiz visuals, are a secondary consideration, because The Pineapple Thief are All About The Music. And on that front, a set peppered with selections from most of their 11 albums to date, is never short on thrills.
The slow-building opening strains of Tear You Up ease us gently into the set, but once Darran Charles’ jagged shards of prog-metal guitar pierce the soundscape it’s clear that there’ll be no shortage of weight to back up the floatier parts of their sound. The more abrasive highlights include some exemplary noise mangling from the Godsticks man on a powerful reading of The One You Left To Die, and the similarly emotive and heavy Alone At Sea.
Guest drummer Gavin Harrison’s punchy percussion might be less prominent in the sound mix, but more rhythmically tuned ears will appreciate the intricate patterns underpinning Reaching Out and Tear You Up here. Either way, the regular camera shots from overhead make up for his low sonic profile, making the King Crimson/Porcupine Tree maestro’s kit look around 20 feet wide and 35 pieces deep.
For a live recording, the sound quality is also pretty much faultless too, even if sometimes the sparse environment and the lack of focus on the crowd make it feel a little like a TV live set with a studio audience. But all that is simply in keeping with what TPT are about – top-drawer no-frills progressive rock, nothing more, nothing less.