Two years ago, at this very venue, Karnataka made a very bold move by recording a full show with a very new line-up. It paid off, quite clearly a credit to new girl Hayley Griffiths who we described as bringing a “West End” sheen to the proceedings.
If tonight’s gig lacked something it might have been the frisson surrounding a live video recording, or at least the extra lighting. But the band evidently believe in calculated risk-taking, because they set out to premiere for the very first time – and in its entirety – their new album ‘Secrets Of Angels’ ahead of the actual album release.
They might have pulled this off had the sound mix matched their delivery, not least a 200 per cent performance from Hayley. Several mutterings were heard in the interval from even the most forgiving fans: The drums were too loud and the guitar muffled.
Karnataka will have sorted these early gremlins by tomorrow but to be truthful it did detract from full enjoyment of their new magnum opus. They deployed some new tunes in the first half, but it was actually one song that really rescued the flow – ‘Your World’ – from ‘The Gathering Light’. This has fast become a firm favourite in the setlist and is a real highlight.
By contrast, the new material appears to be more symphonic and less immediate, but this is always going to be the case on first sitting. At times, there is a definite Nightwish feel especially when Hayley deploys a semi-operatic delivery.
The second half gave us a further chance to hear the new album, starting with ‘Poison Ivy’ and ‘Fairytale Lies’, although some band banter to provide a context would have helped us navigate the new landscape.
It would be wrong to pass judgment based on this initial hearing, and with the sound mix still unbalanced. There is no doubt that Hayley brings showgirl fairy dust in abundance and it is a spirited and engaging vocal performance throughout. I do wonder however whether there is enough band interplay, even on the “epic” title track.
I couldn’t help thinking that if Jimmy Pallagrosi and Ian Jones were unleashed with a truly rock guitarist, sparks would really fly. Enrico Pinna is a talented player, if a tad jazz-orientated, and it would perhaps be foolish to under-estimate him on this showing. Cagri Tozluoglu’s keyboards add plenty of atmosphere and colour and, again, needed to be drawn out further to counterbalance the strong and dominant vocal.
Overall, though, this current tour will whet the appetite for the latest album, and a more considered listen at home hopefully on a half-decent sound system. It also provides further evidence that one of the more enduring prog outfits are still out there and demanding our careful and considered attention.
Review and photos by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
Album review (Secrets Of Angels)
KARNATAKA Tour Dates 2015
Feb 27th Bury The Met Theatre
Feb 28th Nottingham, Lowdham Hall
March 7th Derby The Flowerpot
March 8th Bilston Robin 2
March 13th Edinburgh The Voodoo Rooms
March 14th Chesterfield Classic Rock Society
March 20th Bristol BierKeller
March 22nd Leamington Spa Assembly (special guests of Arena)
March 26th Norwich Arts Centre
March 27th Milton Keynes The Stables
March 29th Southampton The Brook
April 12th Swansea The Scene
April 17th Leicester Y Theatre
May 9th London Islington Assembly Hall
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BLOCK BUSTER Losing Gravity (Frontiers)
WATCH ME BREATHE Don’t Think I Haven’t Thought About It (The Label Group/INGrooves)
FIRES OF FREYA Take A Bow (indie)
BLACK STAR RIDERS Underneath The Afterglow (Nuclear Blast)
STOMPIN’ HEAT Shiny Curly Red Hair (indie)
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09:00-12:00 THE DEFIANTS Zokusho (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 CORELEONI II (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 TONY McLOUGHLIN True Native (Fuego)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
BAD COMPANY Company Of Strangers (1995)
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