On a welcome return to Glasgow on Karnataka's only Scottish date of their End II End European Tour 2017 performing their award winning albums The Gathering Light, released in 2010 (Winner of Best International Album at the Prog Awards) and Secrets of Angels released in 2015 (Winner of Best Album and Best Song at the Classic Rock Society Awards 2016) both albums to be played this evening in their entirety, this giving this an extra added air of expectation in the minds of the faithful attending tonight's show.
If you have not heard of Karnataka (where have you been for the last 20 years), its fans of the band include such legendary keyboard wizard, wit and raconteur, as well as renowned broadcaster, self-confessed Grumpy Old Man Rick Wakeman, plus esteemed broadcaster, talent spotter and voice of The Old Grey Whistle Test ‘whispering’ Bob Harris in your corner as major league fans of the band; just exactly who are Karnataka?
Well Karnataka could best be described as a British-based symphonic prog band but there is so much more, as the band features an international line-up of world class musicians. Firstly Enrico Pinna Lead Guitar, he was once a music teacher at the Yamaha and Roland Music Schools between 1990 and 2000. Singer Hayley Griffiths. She also when not performing with Karnataka, is a very astute business woman running her own entertainments company called Head Over Heels Entertainment, supplying musicians for corporate events and wedding’s and parties. Hayley is also an award winning solo artist in her own right becoming so before joining the band. Then Jimmy Pallagrosi, Drummer, he’s been a drum demonstrator for Yamaha and Paiste and toured with All Access, Yamaha’s official band and has his own New DVD out Called Open Mind; nuff said. On keyboards, hailing from Istanbul is KORG Kronos user and KORG featured artist, Çağri Tozluoğlu. Çağrı has emerged as one of the finest keyboard talents on the rock scene.
Playing piano and keyboards from a very young age, Çağrı went on to study classical piano before branching out further into other genres including folk, progressive/symphonic rock and jazz fusion. Then last but by no means least Mr Ian Jones on Bass Guitar he is also a multi-instrumentalist of the highest calibre he also plays guitar, keyboards and can dabble a bit in the old Geddy Lee dark arts of Bass Pedals.
So with the ‘Twin Salvo’ renditions of The Gathering Light & Secrets of Angels albums marking a water shed for the band, it might be the last time both albums be performed live back to back and knowing they not only have their incredibly knowledgeable but respectful fan base to satisfy, who tonight are coming from both the northeast and northwest of England, some on a several hundred mile round trip to see them in Glasgow but fast forwarding to the 18th March 2017 and going head to head with the best of the rest of the Prog Rock community at the gathering of HRH Prog5 in Wales, combing that of being in front of not only their own fans but the sentinel’s of the Prog press, the band know the heat is on to perform on this tour and perform at their best; always self-critical to look to match or even better their previous recorded to DVD performances especially from their June 2016 London 02 Islington Academy show.
So what did we actually get on the night, well a wait outside Audio the venue in Glasgow for tonight’s show, a small postage stamp of a club right in the heart of Glasgow’s city centre, with the queue, listening to a final sound check, pensive to get in and grab the best spot down the front or raid the Merc desk for the best offers on show. A prompt start 20.15 or 8.15 pm in old money, no one’s bothered about the time, just the beautiful haunting intro of the opining of The Gathering Light album as we drift in to ‘The Calling’ in what seems like no time at all we are through ‘State of Grace’ and land on one of Hayley Griffiths own favourite track ‘Your World’ in the process we have a bit of idle chit chat to say hello and to reassure us Glaswegians who have shown up that despite the bands vans mechanical issues they are here raring to go. To jump slightly ahead and rather than make a joke of it at the time, I did point out to Hayley after the show, when she and the band graciously did a wee meet and greet, that Alan Reed Pallas ex singer songwriter had his bands van parked about 150 meters away, outside another club called Ivory Blacks, as he was also in town doing his gig on the same night, the penny sort of dropped with Hayley as to why so many of the locals had not turned up but the valiant faithful from elsewhere had. I did get to assure Hayley I would have been more than willing to ‘appropriate’ said vehicle if the need arose! It would have been only Glaswegian hospitality to help out those in need and I’m sure Alan Reed wouldn’t have minded(?), anyway Hayley is much better looking and who would not have wanted not to help a damsel in distress or at least in need of sourcing some tour transport for her and her band mates at short notice.
To digress, back to the action, as we career towards the climax of the first set and the immensely catchy, melodic and haunting title track of The Gathering Light, a number simple effective and ticks every prog box under the sun as to how to write and perform, a memorable finale to an album. Resounding applause ensues as the band end the first set with much more noise than you would expect from such a small crowd but majorly appreciated by the band. Time for a time out and a quick costume change to boot for the aforementioned Ms Hayley Griffiths who’s dress sense is as stunning as her beautiful evocative but dangerously powerful and charismatic Soprano voice, the style of the little black number that she woes in when she hits the stage for set number two, is reminiscent of the one Michelle Pfeiffer slips into for her ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’ routine (the one featuring her legendary piano draping scene only Michelle’s is red and Hayley’s is black but you get the picture).
Hayley is a focal point for the second set her stage craft quickly grabs the audience’s attention as the band kicks in brilliantly on album opener ‘Road To Cairo’, but in a flash of around 20 minutes or so, it nearly over, just seems leaving only breathing space at the end of the set for Hayley to announce the last number. The 20 minute plus and now becoming regarded as classic opus, the finale, the title track of the album, the set closer, you got it; ‘Secrets of Angels’. Needless to say with the likes of Mostly Autumn, Evenesance, Within Temptation and Touchstone to name but a few all having their own definitive career defining anthems, ‘Secrets of Angels’ quite possibly tops any and all of what the aforementioned have or ever might have in their repertoire? I’ll let you decide but if like me you go to a gig for talking sake at HRH Prog5 or catch Karnataka, on a DVD release and think, why the hell are these guys not headlining Wembley Arena?
Just remind yourself it took Dream Theater over 20 years to really hit the big time. In Karnataka I could not think of a better UK based band to headline any future Cruise To The Edge and inspirit if Chris Squire is up there (?), then Chris; it would certainly be in good hands and without doubt in fine voice!