Monday, 4 April 2016

Live in 2016: Karnataka live at The Globe, Cardiff on Sunday 3rd April 2016

It was time tonight to lose my Karnataka live virginity. Clearly, you should all know by now that I like my Prog and Karnataka’s album Secrets Of Angels was my favourite Prog album of last year.

So I was really looking forward to seeing if the band could reproduce the intricacies and dynamism of Secrets of Angels in a live context.

The answer was a resounding YES.

Now consisting of Hayley Griffiths on Vocals, Enrico Pinna on Guitar & vocals, Cagri Tozluoglu on Keyboards, Jimmy Pallagrosi on Drums and founder member Ian Jones on Bass & Pedals the band put in a storming and impressive performance tonight that is worthy of their recent awards for Best Album and Best Track for Secrets Of Angels.

Now on album 7 (including two live albums), the band have had various line ups since their conception in 1997. With this line up being together since 2014 it now seems the band has a stable foundation with which to grow both their recording and live future. 

With the limited lighting and stage setting of the small Globe stage, it was all about the music tonight as the band perform a two-set show that incorporated the majority of the Secrets Of Angels tracks and selected highlights from their previous albums. In fact, something for fans old and new. And judging by the comments after and between the sets with the fans attending, the setlist went down really well. It also gave the newer members of the band a chance to get their musical skills around some of the earlier Karnataka classics.

So, with the strains of pre-gig music by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (a nice touch) fading, the band took to the stage.

They open up with the first track from Secrets Of Angels, the Eastern tinged Road To Cairo.

Right from the start you can see the power of the band. Underpinned by Ian Jones' bass pedals and Jimmy's drums, Enrico and Cagri build the tapestry upon which Hayley Griffiths' vocals swoop and swirl like a hawk.

With Hayley Griffiths, Karnataka have found the perfect front woman. Her voice is just astonishing all evening with it's power, range and consistency - the years of classical training coming to the fore.

Not only that, she was genuinely captivating in her movements onstage. Not any easy feat with the size of the Globe's stage. You just can't take your eyes off her. Even when she moves to the back and side of the stage while the boys play their instrumental passages, your eyes keep being drawn to her movement. Not only has she got a magnificent voice, she also has that special something that every brilliant front man and woman has had over the years. Whether it be that seductive sultriness or inner power, Hayley certainly uses it to great effect tonight in the interpretations of the songs.

Next, we are treated to another three songs from the magnificent Secrets Of Angels album.

Poison Ivy is followed by Talk To Me and the show stopping Fairytale Lies.
Although Karnataka have always had a way with a melody, Secrets is dripping with hooks and choruses to die for as this first passage of songs prove. If there were any doubters in the audience they were surely captivated by now.

The first of the older tracks comes next with a powerful version of Moment In Time from The Gathering Light album. It is great to see Hayley growing into these older songs like they were her own. She brings a new dimension with her range and dramatic presentation.

Part 1 of the show closes with a new song - Twist Of Fate - which proves that the powerful and tuneful songs of Secrets Of Angels were no flukes. There is plenty of gold to be mined in the future by Karnataka and by the reaction of the crowd tonight, I was not the only one who thought so.

Then came the 20 minute interval which gave the fans time to interact and talk about the gig. Seems fans have come from all over the UK to be here tonight with many attending more than one gig on this upcoming European Tour.

It was good to hear Then by Yes and Firth Of Fifth by Genesis on the half time tape too.

Part 2 opens with the second older song of the night - again returning to The Gathering Light album for Serpent & The Sea. 

Because Of You is one of the most dramatic songs on Secrets Of Angels and it gives Hayley a chance to give it her best Assertive Seductress, which she does with aplomb and a definite twinkle in her eye as she moves to every member of the band one at a time.

The band have one older song left up their sleeve as they turn to The Storm album for Dreamer.

If singles were a thing that the music buying public were still interested in then it might be in Karnataka's interest to chose one of the next two songs they played to release and promote in that format.

Forbidden Dreams and the extremely catchy Borderline - no, not Madonna's song - it's much better than that one - would easily fit into daytime radio schedules. These two tracks from Secrets Of Angels warms up the crowd nicely for what the next 20+ minutes would bring.

Now - in my 40+ years of listening to Prog, I've heard some majestic music. But I have to say that over the last 6 months that I've lived with Secrets Of Angels, the title track has become my favourite Prog song of all time - and being a lifelong YES & GENESIS fan, that's quite an accolade.

It's very, very rare for a live performance to bring me to tears but tonight's performance of this title track did just that.

It's 20 minutes of pure majesty. I must admit I was concerned whether the band could pull off all of the song's epic grandeur, intricacies and majesty in a live performance. But I needn't have worried. They played it magnificently.

The track gives every member a chance to shine - and they all pulled out the stops to deliver something very special indeed - I tell another reviewer present this evening that I would have paid the price of admission just to hear that one track. And I even tell Ian Jones the same after the show.

But two members in particular shine on this track - Jimmy on drums directed the song through its various patterns and changes with a flair that is reminiscent of Keith Moon at his musical drumming best.

And Hayley's vocal performance is just a thing of beauty. The range she shows in the song's dramatic final movement is just amazing. How the hell she holds those notes I'll never know. But it's everything that is great about Karnataka all in one song. It is a privilege to be there to see it performed. 

What it would be like with a choir and orchestra God only knows - but I'd love to find out one day.

The ovation it produces brings the house down. And it is so richly deserved.

The band then leave the stage - if only to get their breath back after such a monumental performance.
But they have one more trick up their sleeve for the encore.

If there isn't a Disney Music Executive currently tapping up Ian & Hayley to use Feels Like Home in a forthcoming movie then they need their heads examined. This song could be HUGE in the right movie. Academy Award winning even.

It was great to see Karnataka win awards this year for the Secrets Of Angels album. In next years awards, following this year's European Tour, they may even see another, Award for Best Live Act on their mantelpiece. I for one, would not be surprised one iota.

I can give no higher recommendation than to say if you only see one band live this year - make sure it's Karnataka.

Twitter - @Karnataka