Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Pineapple Thief @ Élysée-Montmartre, Paris - October 23rd, 2021

The Pineapple Thief had always been one of the most promising so-called Prog bands of the last twenty-some years, and with the arrival of Gavin Harrison in 2016, first as a session drummer then from 2017 a full-time member, the combo from Somerset was catapulted at the head of the heap. Their dramatic, kinetic sound is reminiscent of latter-day Marillion, Radiohead, Mogwai, Archive or Porcupine Tree but they have an identity all of their own thanks to frontman Bruce Soord's sinuous yet memorable melodies.

They are here touring behind another excellent new record, the dark, ambitious Versions of the Truth which explores contemporary themes such as the post-truth reality, alternative facts and the state of the new world order. The setlist understandably revolves around this new record and doesn't go back much farther than 2012 until the end when the band plays the epic Final Thing on My Mind, a composition that perfectly encapsulates what the band is all about musically, knitting a mesmerizing canvas of light and shade as they build up the tension to its paroxysm and finally achieves a climactic release. They closed the set with Nothing at Best, off of their 2010 LP someone is missing.

Despite the complexities and intricacies of the music and despite the individual musicians' obvious virtuosity, the band never loses sight of groove and melody, even when things get heavy. The contrast between their delightful vocal harmonies, the thundering drums, the crunchy riffs, the bouncy bass and the atmospheric keyboards is what makes The Pineapple Thief unique. Well, that and their name...

Breaking in their new touring guitarist, the band delivered a terrific performance, aided by an elegant light show and the support of a crowd that has been deprived of live music for too long. And if the historic theater nestled at the heart of Paris' red light district wasn't quite full, it was still a very decent turnout for a band that was playing much smaller spaces until very recently. No doubt the trend will continue.

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