The Pineapple Thief, O2 Ritz Manchester – 21/2/24

It’s a typical dreary wet night here in Manchester and it is time to witness the fruit stealers strutting their stuff at the O2 Ritz.  They put on an absolutely brilliant performance in October 2021 when they played at this same venue so we are hoping for the same tonight.  On that night the support act was Alex Henry Foster whose jaw dropping performance is etched into my memory, one song – The Hunter – topping 26 minutes, a true prog classic.  So the bar is high – can those fruity stealers top it?  We shall see…

The venue is warm and welcoming but doesn’t feel anywhere near as full as it did last time. Randy McStine enters the stage to a huge welcome, a man better known as the touring guitarist for Porcupine Tree, this being a return for him to our fair city having played with PT at the Castlefield Bowl 8 months ago.

It is a truly solo performance with McStine playing acoustic guitar along with a synthesiser, loops and various effects as well as singing, but I am struggling to become engaged with his music and the first part of his set left me feeling confused.  This all changed with the conjoined last two songs – Activate and Big War from his partnership with Marco Minnemann.  These seem to be more fully formed and they certainly hit the engage button for myself whilst also remaining highly memorable.

Twenty minutes later the house lights go down once more and The Pineapple Thief take to the stage opening their set with The Frost from their new album and they play it fine but it is nothing special; to my ears their new album It Leads To This which, at this point, has only been out for 11 days is sadly ‘el blando’.  Put It Right the album opener is as dull as it is on the album, or maybe that is the point and I am missing it because it has all lead to this?  The band go on to play ALL the songs from this album throughout the set, most of which get polite applause, certainly not an enthusiastic response.  

The sound isn’t exactly loud either as I can talk to my friend without shouting, I am not feeling it; my attention is often distracted like noticing there is a larger than normal seated section at one side and that the balcony is closed.

Interspersing the new material were songs from Versions Of The TruthDemons and Our Mire both of which are so much better live, and the title track is absolutely brilliant.  However a rewind version of Dead In The Water from Little Man did nothing for me and only received moderate applause from the rest of the audience. 

At this point there is no more new material and things seem to go up a notch.  A rewind version of Give It Back is really trashy and touring guitarist Beren Matthews becomes more animated and looks to be really enjoying himself.

At this point the audience is noticeably thinning out with significant spaces appearing, I am tempted to join them but decide to hold out to the end and I am glad I stay.

A trio of songs from Your Wilderness come up next Fend For Yourself is fairly average to be honest and again the applause is polite, but The Final Thing On My Mind and In Exile are far better than their album equivalents.  The final song of the evening is Alone At Sea from Magnolia is a lovely performance but the hardly rousing ending I was hoping for.

Über drummer extraordinaire Gavin Harrison is on point all the way through the set but this music is not as heavy or as industrial as his work with Porcupine Tree, he delivers exactly what is required.  Additional guitarist Beren Matthews is a huge asset to the band and his solos are dynamite.  Main man Bruce Soord’s vocals and playing are excellent yet keyboardist Steve Kitch remains understated in the mix.

It is blatantly obvious that the older material is far stronger than the new songs.  Also blatantly obvious are some killer songs have been left out from the set.  From Dissolution, White Mist would have been perfect to hear, and 3000 Days from Someone Here Is Missing is also missing, but why? 

Sadly I can’t wait to get home as this has been a somewhat deflating experience, glad I didn’t buy a t-shirt. 

The Frost
Put It Right
Our Mire
Versions of the Truth
All That’s Left
Now It’s Yours
Dead in the Water
Every Trace of Us
It Leads to This
To Forget
Give It Back
Fend for Yourself
The Final Thing on My Mind
In Exile
Alone at Sea

Social Media:

About Ant Firmin