Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Live in 2016: Karnataka at Acapela Studios, Cardiff on Saturday 3rd September 2016

This was my second time seeing Karnataka in 2016 - and my first time visiting the Acapela Studios venue in Pentrych, Cardiff.

The venue is an old converted church which Welsh Harpist Catrin Finch has turned into a studio and venue. And she and her team have done a great job.

The first time I saw Karnataka this year was at The Globe in Cardiff which is a rock venue with no frills. They were excellent that night but I was so looking forward to seeing them bring their Secrets Of Angels Tour to this most intimate of venues. 

With only two more live dates to go in 2016, Karnataka were clearly up for tonight's show before they head off back into the musical ether to conjure up what will hopefully be the follow up to award winning album Secrets Of Angels, which they play in its entirety tonight. 

Now with the stable line up of Founder Ian Jones (Bass) Enrico Pinna (Guitar/vocals) Cagri Tozluoglu (Keyboards) Jimmy Pallagrosi (Drums) and the sublime Hayley Griffiths (Vocals) the band have clearly tightened up over this tour and are now an even more formidable live unit.

With Cagri up on the pulpit and the band tucked nicely beneath him they kick off the show with the opening track from the Secrets album - Road To Cairo.

It's a fantastic opening song full of power and energy and it gets the crowd on their side from song one.

It is great to see that the gig has attracted fans from all over the UK and not just from Wales and the South West of England. Many of the fans here are ardent supporters and have seen the band many times in all types of venues from intimate ones like this through to the festival circuit.

The band seem perfectly at ease in this type of venue and the open floor in front of them allows both Hayley and Enrico the chance to show off their skills as they move into the space and nearer to the seated audience.

On June 25th the band played a special gig at the O2 in London which they filmed for a future dvd release. If it's anything like their last live dvd release - New Light - then we're in for a treat.

Although the band play the whole of the Secrets Of Angels album tonight there is still some room for earlier classic songs from the previous albums such as Moment In Time and Forsaken.

It's great to see how much the band has grown over the last 5 years, especially Hayley Griffith who was once again just fantastic tonight. She has become such a confident front person for the band and links all of the musical magic that swirls around her. She has what seems to be boundless energy and her ability to sing and dance around at the same time is truly mesmerising.

There is even time to showcase a new song Twist Of Fate which bodes well for the next album.

Keeping to the template of the rest of the tour - the show is split into two halves. This gives the audience a break within the two hour and twenty minute show but also gives Hayley the chance of a costume change.

Part two is just as special as Part one and opened with the epic Serpent & The Sea from The Gathering Light album.

It's always difficult trying to write a review for another performance from the same tour, especially with a similar set list but one thing I have to say is that the band have improved even from the high standard they set for themselves at the start of 2016.

Karnataka have found that almost telepathic communication that the best bands develop over the years to produce a slick and assured performance. And this is exactly what they achieve in this evening's performance. The interaction between all the members of the band - even Cagri who is playing The Reverend for the evening placed up in the pulpit. Very often forgotten, unless you happen to be Sir Richard Of Wakeman. Cagri provides the colours and textures for Enrico and Hayley to weave their respective magic and he does this in spades tonight.

Ian Jones is the founder and rock of the band and his solidity and bass lines are a joy, especially in the more complicated musical passages. As principal songwriter, often with Hayley these days, Ian's role in the band cannot be underestimated. 

Enrico Pinna is a guitarist of immense taste - I know this as he likes Pat Metheny - and during the evening he underpins most of the music with his sparking and sympathetic guitar playing. He is on excellent form tonight.

In Jimmy Pellagrosi, Karnataka have found a drummer with skill and personality. Often rising from his seat to play upright, I can honestly say he is the most musical of drummers I have seen live since Keith Moon of The Who slipped off the mortal coil.

Indeed, he enjoyed having his moment in the spotlight as he came into the centre of the floor to take the loudest applause of the evening. It was an unexpected and joyful moment - not the sort of thing you expect at a Progressive rock gig. It was more in common with the sadly missed Paul Hester of Crowded House, who would keep Neil Finn on his toes for every Crowded House gig.

A nice touch this evening was Hayley coming across to wish a couple in the audience a Happy Anniversary and even give them a card signed by all the band. A very nice touch indeed.

The highlight of this tour has been the showstopping performance of the title track Secrets Of Angels. It is 20 minutes of pure drama and ecstasy for this old music lover.
The first time I heard it live it brought me literally to tears. And do you know what, it happened again.
It is a truly breathtaking piece of music and is Hayley's chance to prove what an amazing voice and vocal range she has. Absolutely astonishing. It brought the longest standing ovation of the night and rightly so. 

The encore for this performance was another highlight from the Secrets Of Angels album - the lovely Feels Like Home.

It was brilliant to see the band surpass the excellent performance they gave back in April at The Globe.
Tonight, they took the opportunity to come and and talk to the fans after the show - sign albums and autographs and even get some photos taken. They are really nice people and are truly appreciative of their fans. They realise the distance that some of the fans have taken to get here tonight and make sure they talk to them and thank them for their support.

 So, it was a chance to say goodbye to Karnataka for 2016 and let them go and write and work on their next opus. They have already promised some live dates in 2017 - so if you get a chance, go and see them, they are one band you really must see live Music Lovers.

Twitter - @Karnataka


  1. I saw you at Globe....and agree with every word of this review.....
    In fact...every letter of every word.
    My 56th time seeing this band...I am one of those that travel miles to see this Brilliant band.

    From what you wrote...I think you already know why I love this music.

    Look forward to 2017....I already have two tickets in house...hotel booked.
    KARNATAKA hitting the road in 2017....you know I will be there.

    1. I'm hoping they come back to The Acapela - you're lucky to have a ticket for 2017. Unfortunately I cannot go any further than Bristol or the Convent in Stroud so I'm hoping the gang come somewhere near in 2017 :)