Thursday, April 07, 2011

Gig Guide 7: Blackfield/Pineapple Thief at The Assembly Rooms, Leamington Spa; 6th April, 2011

Of Steven Wilson's 26 side projects away from Porcupine Tree, Blackfield is pretty much the one I'm the most ambivalent about - if, indeed, you can be 'most ambivalent' about anything apart from measuring one's own ambivalence. I like the first two Blackfield albums, but there's a couple of things about both of them that, you know, almost leaves an unpleasant taste in my mouth. The newly released third album - Welcome to my DNA - is pleasant enough. It's not got a lot of weight, dark autobiographical pop, and a bit Porcupine Tree Lite musically!

Aviv Geffen, Wilson's cohort in Blackfield, is a kind of cross between Robbie Williams, Bob Dylan and Daniel O'Donnell - he's essentially a very popular protest singer in a country that still finds the need for protest singers and worthy causes. For an Israeli, Geffen is a peacenik. Musically, a lot of his stuff... you'd sell organs to avoid.

The two of them - Wilson and Geffen - and their band - a drummer (who annoyed Roger), bass player and a keyboardist had to wait for the warm-up act to do their 30 minutes first and my companions this evening - Mr Walker and Mr T - are both much bigger fans of this band than me. Pineapple Thief are a kind of hybrid of Porcupine Tree and Radiohead. They're what Radiohead might have been like had they just come out and admitted they liked prog. I don't dislike this particular PT, I just find them a bit ... meh. They've done some great songs and I'm unlikely to ever see any of them played live (one of them is 29½ minutes long) and if any of the nu prog bands of the last 10 years were going to make it, you'd probably have a few quid of Pineapple Thief.

They were accomplished. Played a tight 30 minute set with some tracks I knew and didn't steal any thunder or get wig-out with it. Roger said the band were quite reserved from the last time he saw them. If all Pineapple Thief gigs were that long I'd be happier and might play them a bit more.

Blackfield came on. Played a 1 hour 20 minute long set, including encore. They focused on 75% of the songs Geffen wrote and like the other PT supporting them, they were accomplished; the sound was good. There were the familial touches you want like Wilson with no shoes on. The venue was very nice and you could imagine Porcupine Tree kicking off a tour here.

At 10.30, we left the venue and returned to the car... The journey home was uneventful...

Huh?

Yeah, that was the sum of it. Watched the band and had a safe journey home (to the delight of Mr Walker). Nothing spectacular. No leaving the venue extolling the virtues of Israeli power pop/prog. With retrospect, Leamington was probably more exciting. It looks like a well weird 'town'. It looks more like a city than some cities I've been to yet it's about the size - population wise - of Wellingborough and neighbours with Warwick, which, despite its castle and university, is a bit of an idiot cousin in terms of appearance. The accent is a bit odd too.

And that's what the gig was like in many ways - a review that turned into a geography lesson; a horse that became a biscuit; lamb flavoured cider...

2½ out of 5 (or 5 out of 10 if you're scoring in 10s)

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