A masterclass in bittersweet progressive rock 9/10
Words by Lynds, photos (c) Delilah Artist
Neither a musician nor a drummer, but with a love of prog despite once being told ‘prog is for boys that can’t get girlfriends’ my excitement was high to witness two King Crimson drummers play with two separate acts on the same bill. First up we have O.R.k. Effectively a supergroup comprising of Italy’s celebrated vocalist, producer and award-winning film score composer Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari (LEF lead vocalist), the astonishing King Crimson’s Pat Mastelotto (drums), formerly of Porcupine Tree Colin Edwin (bass) and Marta Sui Tubi’s Carmelo Pipitone (guitars). Each holds true mastery over their instrument and exudes style and charisma beyond compare.
Positioned commandingly stage right, Mastelotto is not only allowed to shine metaphorically, but physically too from the lighting! Opening with Funfair from their debut album (Inflamed Rides, 2015) followed by the opening track of Soul Of An Octopus (2017)’s Too Numb is a refreshingly fresh groove. Signals Erased (from latest album, the astonishing Ramagehead check out our review here) takes us deeper into a heavier rock trip. Time Corroded stands out as well if not better than on the same album, with swirling psychedelia and extraordinary cymbal work while the tempo drops somewhat for the ballad of Beyond Sight. Melancholic and deeply stirring, as on the album this leads into the striking Black Blooms which unsurprisingly did not feature Serj Tankian ( System of a Down) live, but Pipitone more than compensated delivering a great contrast to LEF’s exquisite tones. Kneel To Nothing was harder hitting live as was Dirty Rain (Soul Of An Octopus). Closing with Pyre (Inflamed Rides)with a gruffer and more melancholic vocal delivery and a cheeky King Crimson motif by Mastelotto, the set demonstrated that O.R.k most certainly are a live force to be reckoned with.
Briefly, I managed to catch up with Colin Edwin (bass) and LEF (vocals) after their final set of this tour. Edwin stated that as the last show was that evening, a rest was next to which LEF responded ‘Colin, don’t lie please…’ While both regarded Rome as a tour highlight, for European dates Stockholm won out for Edwin while LEF preferred Oslo. To celebrate, LEF was looking forward to a long walk with his dog, but the bassist fancied a vodka and lime! Drinks procured, now time to head back for our headline act The Pineapple Thief.
Desperately underappreciated, The Pineapple Thief produce melodically luscious, progressive rock influenced and easily accessible music that appeals to a varied audience. King Crimson and Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison; whose creative input and exquisite percussive style elevates what might initially be perceived as quite a gentle offering to giddy heights. Unfortunately not literally elevated, it was difficult to observe the Modern Drummer award winning marvel from the audience, there’s down to earth but he really should be put on a pedestal!
Opening with latest album Dissolution’s beautiful, progressive rock ballad Try As I Might in a mesmerising style with Bruce Soord’s vocals even more astonishingly emotive live. Despite a desperately uncooperative wah-wah pedal, the band continues with humour. The pace drops for an exquisite rendition of In Exile from their previous release (Your Wilderness, 2016) and Alone At Sea (Magnolia, 2014)
Threatening War mesmerises as the rhythmical, emotive syncopated delivery of Harrisons percussion elevates this wonderful ballad to a stadium worthy anthem. Far Below was the first single released from Dissoution, and apparently originated from a jam between Soord and Harrison from the distinctive 6/8 drum rhythm created, live it moves the audience powerfully. No Man’s Land and That Shore takes us back to Your Wilderness, 2016 which was the first album to feature the impossibly melodic drumming of Harrison. The melodically and lyrically darker Uncovering Your Tracks disconcerts and delights in equal measure as Jon steps up to vocals with soundscapes of a far larger stage.
3000 Days ( from 2010, Someone Here is Missing– art by Hipgnosis’s Storm Thorgerson) is a blistering prog funk hybrid while the mournful Shed A Light is plaintive, pared back and poignant. The breakdown is epic and the drums commanding. Part Zero from 2003’s Variations on a Dream is glorious before the most classically progressive (and longest track from Dissolution) commences. The album version features a number of tricks and a guest guitarist, however it transposes phenomenally live into an epic worthy of Pink Floyd, with Bruce’s command of the stage as classy as Gilmour and an astonishingly marvellous psychedelic breakdown.
Nothing At Best (2010, Someone Here is Missing) closes a breath-taking set in astronomical style.
Due to popular demand, despite the fact that Soord himself announces that tonight has been one of those nights where anything could go wrong has gone wrong he launches into a chilling version of the gentle and melancholy ‘Not Naming any Names.’ The Final Thing On My Mind (2016, Your Wilderness) is heavier and almost gothic in its delivery in an early The Cure manner! The glitches continue as a bottle of champagne is presented to celebrate the end of the tour, which Soord struggles to open despite the drum rolls and t-shirt wringing! Credit is given to artists, crew and all involved in the production of the tour in Oscar-worthy style.
Snowdrops (Little Man, 2006) is the final track with a more Beatlesy feel, unites the audience who deliver a syncopated handclap in deafening unison.
Tonight has been a masterful and delicate blend of well-crafted bittersweet, contemporary progressive art rock with pop sensibilities that is sure to have affected all. 9/10