Karnataka – Fibbers, 29/11/12

Photos included in this posting were taken by Marc McGarraghy, who is on a year long project to generate donations for MacMillan Cancer Support from his live music photography. More details can be found on his fundraising community Facebook Page.

A couple of years ago, I bought Karnataka’s then new album – The Gathering Light – pretty much on spec. It impressed me so much that I placed it second in my top five albums of 2010. Shortly after buying it, still relatively new to the idea that fans could actually interact with bands (look, I grew up with the likes of Queen, Genesis, Dire Straits and, more importantly, no internet…) I emailed them to ask if they had ever considered playing in York. A brief email exchange followed, in which I gave founder member and bass player Ian Jones details of some of York’s venues and he said he would look into it. Then, to all intents and purposes, it seemed that the band imploded when, despite critical acclaim for The Gathering Light, three members announced that they were leaving.

However, Ian refused to let the band die and, along with guitarist Enrico Pinna, soon started to announce new members until, eventually, a new line-up was complete and, in early 2012, they started a fifteen date tour. Later in 2012, an even longer tour was gradually revealed and, slightly tongue-in-cheek, I commented on Facebook that there was still no York date (it wouldn’t surprise me to find that York isn’t exactly high on any band’s list of potential venues, especially those that are based in the South) only to get a message back from Ian telling me that they were still trying to work out a suitable date and that I should “watch this space”. A few days later tonight’s date was added to the tour schedule. I couldn’t have been happier. Or more worried… What if nobody else turned up?

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Ian Jones (bassist and founder member)

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I should have known. While Fibbers wasn’t full, there were a number of faces that I recognised from other Prog gigs dotted around the audience, as well as Marc McGarraghy (another York music fan who had been at a few of the same gigs as me but who I hadn’t actually met until tonight) and, I found out later, at least one couple who had brought forward their trip to York in order to see Karnataka on this tour again.

The current trend of there being no support act continued, with Karnataka taking to the stage at around eight-thirty. New vocalist Hayley Griffiths (much prettier in the flesh than in some of the publicity photos) has a classical background and has toured the world as lead singer in both Riverdance and Lord Of The Dance, as well as releasing two solo albums. Her vocals have a slight theatrical quality to them and, when she sings, she can often be seen either staring wistfully into space or with a particularly expressive face, as though she is performing in a stage musical, rather than a rock band. That’s not to take anything from her performance, though. The more the set went on, the more vocal range we got to hear and, if anything, she gives the impression that she is singing directly at you. The set was a mixture of tracks from band’s back catalogue, with specific emphasis on The Gathering Light, as well as new songs that have been written for a new album, which is due to be released in 2013.

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Hayley Griffiths (vocalist)

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Musically, the live performance varied from a traditional “light” prog sound to something quite a bit heavier and rockier, especially during the new songs. Even The Gathering Light, which ended the first half of the gig seemed to be have a heavier opening than the album version. The stand-out track of the first half was The Storm, title track of the band’s 2000 album, which with its opening salvo of Pinna’s guitar over Cagri Tozluoglu’s keyboards was incredibly atmospheric. Throughout the whole evening, Tozluoglu seemed to pour his heart and soul into his playing, often appearing to be lost in the music, especially during The Journey (another stand-out track, which also came from The Storm – which I wasn’t surprised to later find out was the all-time favourite album of one person I was chatting to) which was also featured some great drumming from touring member Matt McDonough.

Having only heard the songs from The Gathering Light prior to tonight, I was glad that the album featured so prominently, especially the stunning three-part The Forsaken, with glorious vocals from Hayley before she left the stage while the rest of the band performed a superb instrumental section which featured piano and a simple but highly effective guitar section before bursting into life. Hayley returned to the stage for the third part of The Forsaken and followed it with an even better vocal performance during new song Feels Like Home. The set ended in blockbuster style with Your World, during which the sexy dancing quotient was increased dramatically. After a brief on-stage discussion the band played Tide To Fall which ended the evening on an even better note.

After the gig had finished, all five band members came of stage to mingle and chat with the audience and sign merchandise. Karnataka may have had to survive at least two major line-up changes (four of the original members went off to form Panic Room in 2006) and multiple smaller changes during its lifetime but you have to admire both the hard-working attitude and willingness to engage personally with fans of the current line-up. Hopefully, with two tour’s under their collective belt in 2012 and the new album in 2013, this line-up will stay together for a while longer.

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Hayley Griffiths, Enrico Pinna (guitar), Ian Jones, Cagri Tozluoglu (keyboards)

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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