Banco del Mutuo Soccorso - Circolo Colony, Brescia
20th January 2018
I often arrange holidays and attendance at gigs at short notice but the announcement that Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, one of the most highly regarded Italian prog bands was playing a gig in a relatively accessible city came the day after I’d flown back from skiing in Chamonix, giving me seven days to organise more annual leave and arrange transport and accommodation in Brescia. Somehow I still managed to put together a decent hotel and flight bundle and organise a ticket for the concert with only four days before the departure date.
Brescia doesn’t have the prog credentials of Genoa, Milan or Rome although PFM’s Mauro Pagani was born in Chiari in the Province of Brescia. Pagani was also, for a brief time, a member of Brescia’s classic-era progressivo italiano group Dalton but left before their well-regarded debut album Riflessioni: Idea d'infinito (1973). Also deserving a mention is Gustavo Pasini, the convenor of a number of musical projects, drummer and composer who used to run the Canterbury Café in the San Polo district, south east of the city centre.
Banco’s gig was at Circolo Colony, a club on an industrial estate cum retail park in the Sant’ Eufemia district. I arrived by taxi but had to complete a membership form before I could enter the club, despite having pre-booked my ticket. The first band on, La Stanza di Iris (Valeria Di Domenicantonio, voice and synth; Antonio Di Girolamo, guitar; and Valentino Piacentini, drums) were a bit noisy for my taste and lacked sufficient variation to really hold my interest; they describe themselves rather accurately as a ‘rock bomb that hits and stuns those who listen to us’. Second up were Hamnesia (Lorenzo Diana, guitar; Livia Montalesi, vocals, violin; Giovanni Tarantino, drums; Matteo Bartolo, keyboards; and Andrea Manno, bass guitar) who were premiering their first album Metamorphosis, which I bought from the merchandise stand. Metamorphosis is a concept piece about a journey into human consciousness through paralyzing fears and uncertainties which paradoxically provide us with an opportunity to overcome apprehension and change ourselves through metamorphosis. This was much more to my liking, where the individual influences of the band members which appeared to include symphonic prog, classical and metal, combined to form a modern prog that included some riffing, some great soloing, some authentic analogue keyboard patches and some memorable melodic lines. The lyrics were all in English, something which may have been influenced by the English-speaking bands they profess to admire like Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree, but I prefer my Italian bands singing in their native language. Montalesi possibly had monitor problems because there were a couple of occasions where I thought she drifted out of key, whereas her singing on the CD is assured and problem free, but this was an impressive performance indicating Hamnesia are another young band to look out for.
I’d been standing around at the back of the hall for La Stanza di Iris, moved near to the mixing desk for Hamnesia and stood with most of the rest of the crowd close to the stage for Banco. The sextet now consists of Vittorio Nocenzi, keyboards, vocals; Nicola Di Già, guitar; Tony D’Alessio, vocals; Marco Capozi, bass guitar; Fabio Moresco, drums; and Filippo Marcheggiani, guitar, which means that Vittorio Nocenza is the only original member remaining. I smiled when the first track Metamorfosi kicked in, eloquently forming a link between the veterans and Hamnesia, and instantly engaged with the amazing, familiar music.
I’d been a little concerned about replacing Francesco Di Giacomo with D’Alessio but to his credit, D’Alessio didn’t try to emulate Di Giacomo and accompanied by Nocenzi, the singing worked very well. Following Metamorfosi (from their eponymous debut in 1972) they played Cento mani e cento occhi (from Darwin! 1972), Il ragno (from Come in un'ultima cena, 1976), La conquista della posizione eretta (from Darwin!), Canto nomade per un prigioniero politico (from Io sono nato libero) and then a couple of tracks I don’t have in my collection which I believe were Canto di primavera (from the 1979 album of the same name) and Paolo Pa’ (from Urgentissimo, 1980).
Unfortunately, I’d been forced to book a taxi for 11.50pm because the taxi firm couldn’t provide the service when I’d originally requested at half-past midnight, or my suggested compromise at 00.15am so I didn’t get to hear the full set. I had to leave the club as the excellent L'Evoluzione (from Darwin!) was ending. Worse still, I had to hang around in the cold and call the taxi firm again because there was no sign of my cab, and I could have spent more time listening to the band but when the driver did appear we chatted about Banco and other Italian prog on the way back to the hotel.
Though I’d been a little disconcerted by the songs I didn’t know, the playing throughout was exceptional and Nocenzi, as part of his between song banter related a tale of how much Brescia meant to the band. So, despite only getting half a set, I was glad I attended and I’ve ticked off Banco del Mutuo Soccorso from the list of bands I needed to see. My only gripe was that the club was some way out of the city centre and even public transport, which I had been informed shut down at 1am on a Saturday, was not a viable option because of the hazardous nature of the walk from the club to the station in the dark.
(This gig review was sourced from the blog ‘A Tour of Brescia’ posted on 30th January 2018)