A Progressive Night - La Claque, Genova
11th November 2017
Last week was the latest ProgBlog adventure in Genova (and a couple of cities along the Italian Riviera.) Not only did I get to see four amazing bands on two separate nights, I also managed to add to my vinyl and CD collections with visits to Genova’s Black Widow Records, Jocks Team in Savona, at the La Claque night of prog, and a couple of 180g vinyl reissues bought from newsstands, part of a series of Prog Rock Italiano in association with publisher De Agostini.
The La Claque Progressive Night was organised by Black Widow. Ancient Veil opened proceedings with an acoustic set from a pared-down line-up of Alessandro Serri on guitar, Edmondo Romano on woodwind and Fabio Serri on piano, plus contributions from special guest Marco Gnecco. The compositions are well-suited to an unplugged format, and it was a fine performance of some beautiful, folk-inspired music. I’m still getting into their latest release I Am Changing from earlier this year so my favourite track was something I’m much more familiar with, the Eris Pluvia album title track Rings of Earthly Light.
Second on the bill was Melting Clock who really impressed me when I saw them at the Porto Antico Prog Fest in the summer. By chance I bumped into keyboard player Sandro Amadei in the Black Widow shop when I popped in to say hello and buy a few albums after arriving in the city on the Friday, and had a short chat. When I arrived at La Claque for the gig I was able to speak to most of the band and was pleased to see that they’d got lots of support from family and friends in a packed club. I was even presented with a small memento as a token for my support, a Melting Clock plectrum, one of a small pile which had featured in a promotional poster for the evening. The group felt that the atmosphere in La Claque was incredible, and the whole audience was won over with the first song, L'Occhio dello Sciacallo (The Jackal’s Eye) which followed a short instrumental introduction Quello che rimane (What Remains). My personal favourite track is Antares, a mini-masterpiece of carefully crafted modern symphonic progressive rock chock-full of excellent keyboard lines. The call and response and harmony vocals of Emanuela Vedana and Sandro Amadei reveal compositional maturity and there’s a wordless vocal section from Vedana that reminds me of Ennio Morricone’s film music which gives me goosebumps. Throughout the performance the twin guitars of Simone Caffè and Stefano Amadei added depth with distinct clean and distorted roles while the rhythm section of Alessandro Bosca and Francesco Fiorito contributed complex but well-thought out lines to pin down the music. They even played an incredibly accurate version of Soon, the hauntingly beautiful coda to Gates of Delirium by Yes, and ended their set with a crowd-pleasing performance of Pink Floyd’s Time. Their entire set was brilliant and heralds a very bright future.
Phoenix Again was the headline act of the evening. I met most of the band at the merchandise stand where I bought their three studio albums on CD; ThreeFour (2011), Look Out (2014) and Unexplored, released this year on the Black Widow Records label, and was very kindly presented with a T-shirt. From Brescia and originally called Phoenix when they formed in 1981 by Lorandi brothers Claudio (lead guitar, voices), Antonio (bass), Sergio (guitars) along with Silvano Silva (drums, percussion), they added keyboard player Emilio Rossi to expand their symphonic sound in 1986 but disbanded in 1998 without ever having produced an album. Following the death of Claudio in 2007 they revisited their music and with the help of a number of guest musicians, released ThreeFour in 2011 under the moniker of Phoenix Again.
The current incarnation of the band is made up from original members Antonio Lorandi, Sergio Lorandi (now taking on lead guitar and vocal duties) and Silvano Silva, plus two more of the Lorandi family, Marco (guitar) and Giorgio (percussion), plus Andrea Piccinelli on keyboards. On record, their sound ranges from symphonic progressive to jazz rock, funk and experimental but I’d describe their live sound was being close to the jazzy end of the prog spectrum with a much more urgent, hard edge so that it come across as complex and intricate. Being unfamiliar with their music beforehand didn’t stop me enjoying some great music and there was an unexpected bonus as the crowd dispersed, when Sergio Lorandi played beautiful renditions of Steve Howe’s Mood for a Day and Steve Hackett’s Horizons.
I stayed behind after the performances to speak to a number of the artists, congratulating Melting Clock on a magnificent show and was formally introduced to local impresario Marina Montobbio who, it turns out, had been at the 2014 Prog Résiste festival in Soignies in her capacity of promoter for The Watch, the headline act on the last evening. Resplendent in a pair of Gibson plectrum earrings, I’d noticed her at the Porto Antico Prog Fest, taking photos of the different groups and also chatting to musicians, so I suspected she had some official role. Smart and knowledgeable, if I ever think about getting involved in promotion in the music business, she’d be top of the list of people to contact.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening thanks to the musicians and the organisers and I can’t believe anyone could have left the venue feeling disappointed.