Le Orme with David Cross - Brixia Forum, Brescia
20th April 2018
I’d managed a break of three weeks between gigs, the last of which was spent skiing in Austria, but had to dash from Sölden to the Half Moon in Putney to see ESP 2.0 with only a couple of hours at home to eat, shower and change. Following ESP there were roughly 52 hours before setting off on the next leg of the gig marathon to Brescia in Italy to see one of the great classic progressivo Italiano bands, Le Orme, who were to be joined on stage by David Cross, touring with the Italians as a guest musician; it hadn’t escaped my notice that Cross formed a loose connection between ESP and Le Orme, as he’d played on the debut ESP album Invisible Din.
Previously acquainted with the small, beautiful city of Brescia after visiting to see Banco del Mutuo Soccorso play in January, I was quick to spot a number of posters advertising the gig plastered over a wall on the short walk from the station to the hotel, a gentle reminder why I’d dragged my wife back to the city.
We’d already had a coffee at Verona station while waiting for the train but the first stop of the afternoon after dropping our bags off at the hotel was the Tostato coffee shop, an altogether more comfortable place for a drink than any station bar, reminiscent of somewhere you’d find around Shoreditch, and then it was on to the record stores; Music Box and its sister store Brescia Dischi were closed but we wandered out of the centro antico to Kandinsky (via Nicolò Tartaglia, 49/c), an excellent shop selling new and second-hand vinyl and CDs where I was allowed to browse through the selection ordered in for Record Store Day, being held the following day. I couldn’t really justify getting the special edition The Piper at the Gates of Dawn so I chose three albums from the store’s Italian prog and International prog re-pressings racks: Il Tempio della Gioia by Quella Vecchia Locanda; ...per un Mondo di Cristallo by Raccomandata Ricevuta di Ritorno; and Visitation by Pekka Pohjola. It was nice to chat about music and about being in Brescia specifically for music, like when I’d got a taxi back to the hotel after the Banco gig, but we also covered the subject of the meaning of Record Store Day. My purchases came in a free Kandinsky bag for life and as I left I was presented with a CD released in 2016 on the store’s own Kandinsky Records label, Double Rod Pendulum by Ant Mill which I was warned wasn’t prog but proved to be highly original guitar-driven rock which at times crosses into psyche. It’s not really my thing, being relatively heavy and more blues-rock based than anything else in my collection, but it’s still melodic, with vocals all in English. It was recorded live in the studio and you can detect a raw edge, but the production, typified by the snare drum sound on Tale #11 [Lullaby for E] is really good.
The Le Orme with David Cross performance was held later that evening at Dis-Play, a temporary venue set up in the Brixia Forum which serves as the city’s exhibition space, a 10 minute taxi ride from the hotel. I may have been ticking off another classic 70’s Italian band but I should point out that the current line-up includes just one original member, drummer Michi Dei Rossi. Keyboard player Michele Bon has been with the band since Tony Pagliuca left in 1992, so the most recent recruit is bassist/guitarist/vocalist Alessio Trapella who joined in February 2017. I was totally blown away by the musicianship – the performance seemed to have been comprised almost entirely of early material that I’m familiar with and the band had found a superb replacement for Aldo Tagliapietra in Trapella (I’d seen Tagliapietra performing the whole of Felona e Sorona in Genoa in 2014 which was quite special). The inclusion of David Cross on the tour was perfect; Le Orme are no strangers to guest musicians - Peter Hammill wrote English lyrics for Felona and Sorona and David Jackson has performed with both Tony Pagliuca and Aldo Tagliapietra and the violin seems like such a natural fit with the Venetian-formed band. Dei Rossi, assisted by Cristiano Roversi, released an album of Le Orme material arranged for orchestra ClassicOrme in 2017 and in 1979 the classic line-up released Florian (after Caffè Florian in Piazza San Marco), an album recorded using only traditional (non-rock) instruments augmented with violin, an exercise in modern classical music with a progressive touch.
Cross featured heavily during the gig and in return the ensemble played a version of Exiles, based more on Cross’ interpretation from his album of the same name than the original Larks’ Tongues in Aspic version, but it was good to see the acknowledgement of the King Crimson influence on Italian prog. I thought there was an interesting comparison between the role of Dei Rossi, the drummer and only original member, with that of PFM’s Franz di Cioccio. Though Dei Rossi didn’t sing he spent quite a lot of the time between and sometimes during pieces in front of his kit not only acting as spokesperson, but also directing the audience and the band. There was a humorous moment where he pointed out that he still had a lot of hair and the majority of the males in the audience had very little.
Apart from some technical problems with Michele Bon’s monitor and earpiece at the very beginning of the set which required him to remove his jacket, holding up the start of the show, it was a flawless performance by a group of exceptionally gifted musicians. Best of all, I managed to got to see the whole performance because I’d worked out how to order a taxi late in the evening when the taxi hailing smartphone app no longer worked. My merchandise stall visit resulted in a limited edition copy of Elementi (2001) on vinyl but I didn’t get the chance to say “hello” to Chiemi Cross as she’d temporarily vacated the stand.
On the Saturday we headed off to nearby Cremona, a UNESCO World Heritage site listed in 2012 for the intangible heritage of violin making, where the main thoroughfare was lined with stalls selling vinyl and CDs to mark Record Store Day. I got into conversation with a couple of stall holders and bought Florian for €15 and an original copy of PFM’s Per un Amico for €40. Sunday was spent in Desenzano del Garda where there are impressive Roman remains but no record shops and we flew back to the UK on Monday after an excellent long weekend.
This gig review was taken from the lost blog ‘The storm after the calm’ posted on 30th April 2018 and retains some of the material not directly related to the gig