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ConcertsThe Pineapple Thief, O.R.k: Glasgow St Luke’s 21st March 2019

Posted on Saturday, March 23 2019 @ 00:19:21 CDT by Steven Reid
Progressive Rock

With the sad demise of the ABC and it’s smaller room, the ABC2, in Glasgow due to intensive fire damage caused by the blaze in the neighbouring Glasgow School Of Arts last year, gig goers in Scotland are now experiencing some of the less celebrated live music venues in and around the city. Tonight was my first visit to St Luke’s, a converted church a mere stone’s throw from the legendary Glasgow Barrowland. Not only did it prove to be an atmospheric building both in and out, but it also has quite excellent acoustics and a really vibrant feel. Paying his respects to the ABC from the stage, The Pineapple Thief main-man Bruce Soord quite rightly commented on the excellent venue chosen for tonight’s show and it was no surprise when he and his band - now featuring full-time member Gavin Harrison (ex-Porcupine Tree) on drums - positively thrived in this previously reverential setting. Sea of Tranquility’s Steven Reid was there…

Harrison wasn’t the only ex-Porcupine Tree man in attendance, the show being opened (rather early I have to say - even arriving ten minutes prior to the stage times tweeted out by the bands earlier in the day, they were on their second song of the night as we entered the hall) by Colin Edwin’s current outfit O.R.k.

Actually, calling O.R.k ‘Harrison’s band’ sells this multi-national outfit seriously short, what with King Crimson skin thrasher Pat Mastelotto conducting proceedings from behind the kit and the band’s two Italians - singer/keyboard player Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari (LEF) and guitarist Carmelo Pipitone - ensuring this outfit are an equal four-way split. Running through the gears early on there was a track apiece from O.R.k’s three albums to date, “Funfair” from Inflamed Rides, “Too Numb” from Soul Of An Octopus and “Signals Erased” from the recently released Ramagehead. In between songs it was Mastelotto - taking a break from being a blur of precision percussive fury - who did most of the talking, but all four musicians took turns engaging the audience and as they plunged deep into a trio of Ramagehead tracks it was clear they were quite rightly winning new friends. “Black Books”, which saw LEF duetting with System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian in the studio, found Pipitone aggressively and convincingly handling the co-vocal (although his lyrics being lit by a roadie holding a torch from behind Mastelotto’s drums did raise a few chuckles) and together with the LEF’s more seasoned voice they made for a stunning mix. However, it was “Kneel To Nothing” (a song made all the more poignant for being performed in front of the venue’s ceiling height pipe organ in an old church) that broke down the walls and saw O.R.k received like old friends rather than the new acquaintances they actually are. Something hammered home by the full force of “Dirty Rain”, a rabble rousing progressive workout that arguably would have made for a more fitting conclusion than “Pyre”. Although with LEF explaining that the latter was the first song this quartet composed together, it is understandable why they see it as such an important statement. Either way O.R.k went down incredibly well and are undoubtedly one of the best progressive opening acts I’ve seen for some time. Hopefully they’ll be headlining venues of this size soon.

The Pineapple Thief, however, are old friends and while they might, from the outside, often seem like singer and guitarist Bruce Soord’s plaything, it is worth highlighting that bassist Jon Sykes has been in place since 2003’s Variations On A Dream album, while keyboard man Steve Kitch came onboard just after 2005’s 10 Stories Down. With Harrison involved since 2016, The Pineapple Thief are arguably more solid a band now than they’ve ever been and that was something shown by the set for this tour, which showcases fourteen songs from 2010 onwards, with only two older cuts receiving an airing.

For some bands that would mean a disgruntled set of fans, but not tonight, with the brave decision to highlight six songs from the latest album, Dissolution, proving a master stroke, so enthusiastically were they greeted. And no wonder, “Far Below” an excellent slow-building opening, “Threatening War” and “Try As I Might” cutting, enigmatic and involving pieces that can both raise the hairs on the back of your neck and then cause convulsions as you strain your muscles in time to Harrison’s incredible beats. I know a lot is said about this drummer and his talents (he actually receives special mention on the promo for the band’s upcoming American tour) but all of those words are well earned. Whether he’s trilling out a flurry of rim-strikes, rolling down his toms and then back up again, jumping from one indecipherable time signature to another or laying it down thick, fat and heavy, it’s virtually impossible not to come to the conclusion that he’s simply as good as it gets behind a drum kit. Cleverly The Pineapple Thief know it, they allow the drum drama to shine, but even more crucially Harrison never abuses that privilege.

On stage TPT are actually a five-piece outfit, lead and rhythm guitar man George Marios a stunning addition to the live band as he peels off sparking solos and adept asides, while adding to the incredible singing strength within The Thief’s ranks. Soord is a vocal powerhouse, an oft employed falsetto still hitting hard, but flanked by the equally skilled Sykes the pair embellish, harmonise over and highlight the captivating music they create - add Marios into the mix and the three part vocals are a weapon few bands can employ. Something apparent in the likes of newer cuts “White Mist” and “Shed A Light”, even if the band’s ‘sideman’ is often the gentle butt of Soord’s jokes and was even (with a huge smile on both their faces) jokingly shushed by Harrison as Soord and Sykes combined on the acapella opening to the first encore, “Not Naming Any Names”.

Before then a few older cuts were allowed to enthral, the groove and guile of “3000 Days” and “Nothing At Best” illustrating why 2010’s Someone Here Is Missing was such a breakthrough for the band. It was an opening The Pineapple Thief didn’t waste, strengthening their hand both in terms of personnel and output and that this visit to Glasgow saw them almost fill a room roughly double the size of the one they played on their previous visit to the city is fitting reward for their endeavours. And the band gave that reward right back to the enthralled audience in St Luke’s, closing the night out with “That Final Thing On My Mind” from the Your Wilderness album and a quick delve into the past with the glorious “Snowdrops” from 2006’s Little Man. It proved a fitting close to what had been a tremendous, triumphant evening.

Photographs Katie Reid & Steven Reid

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