11th November 2015
When I first logged on to gig-alert web site Ents24 some years back, in addition to signing up for alerts for the usual suspects, I also entered, in a spirit of wild optimism, the names of a selection of acts from my youth, each of whom I was fairly sure would never be treading the boards anywhere near me ever again. Artistes like Budgie, Joe Walsh, Pavlov’s Dog, Greenslade and the like. Another such were Italian prog-rockers Premiata Forneria Marconi (or PFM) whose name, much to my surprise, popped up in a gig alert email earlier this year.
PFM had originally formed back in 1970, and had released a pair of albums sung in their mother tongue, to general indifference on these shores. But the recordings were picked up by Greg Lake, who promptly signed the band to ELP’s Manticore label and ensconced the lads in the studio with his old Crimson mate Pete Sinfield, with a remit to re-record those first two albums, but with English lyrics – to be provided by Sinfield.
These efforts bore fruit with the Photos of Ghosts and The World Became The World albums – both a touch patchy on the second (vinyl) sides perhaps, but where they were good (River of Life, Celebration, Just Look Away), they really were quality. Sinfield’s lyrics were a tad silly at times (I shall just mention Is My Face on Straight, and leave it there), but they certainly helped facilitate the band’s acceptance into both the UK and USA rock mainstream.
A fine live album Cook followed before the band chose to attempt to “break" America, and things began to go more than a touch awry. Star turn violinist and flautist Mauro Pagani decamped, and the band choose to bring in US–based vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti. Fluent in English, Lanzetti also brought a strong voice to the table, but one which came with a decidedly irritating Roger Chapman-esque vibrato warble.
The concurrent albums Chocolate Kings and Jet Lag also saw the band experimenting with a harder, jazzier feel to the music; a major turn-off for me and, I would hazard, a significant number of fans reared on Genesis, Yes, ELP and the like.
|Vocalist Alberto Bravin|
|Franz Di Ciocco|
Just a few weeks prior to the gig, I did a bit of internet digging to ascertain just how much PFM I was getting for my money. The answer was both a lot….and a little. For there were now seven band members - as opposed to the original five - but of these only drummer Franz Di Cioccio remained from the original line-up. Although to be fair, bassist Patrick Djivas had been around since 1975, and violinist Lucio Fabbri since 1979. But the rest of the band had been recruited during the last decade, with at least two of them looking like fresh-faced bairns alongside the grizzled veterans,
Clearly we had one foot in Tribute-Act Land here, I felt.
But what I had forgotten, of course, was that Di Cioccio had occasionally handled lead vocals back in those halcyon days. And this evening, rather in the manner of Phil Collins, he was more than happy to split his time between the roles of charismatic front-man and battle-hardened tub-thumper.
Indeed during Harlequin it almost looked as if he had to haul co-drummer Piero Monterisi out of the hot seat to gain back possession of the shared drum kit.
The new and old guys together succeeded in seamlessly recreating even the more complex musical pieces, but nothing was performed from their back catalogue later than 1977 – other than their robust 2013 arrangement of Dance of the Knights. But given Sergei Prokofiev wrote this back in 1935, that hardly counted.
I should perhaps have preferred some of the Chocolate Kings/Jet Lag stuff to have been dropped to make way for River of Life, Just Look Away or Impressioni di Settembre, but this gig certainly turned out a whole lot more fun that I thought it was going to be.
|Franz Di Ciocco|
|Randagio means "Stray dog" we were informed.|
|PFM - Dingwalls November 2015|
I had also enjoyed another brief (see Martin Barre entry) lavatorial brush with rock superstardom. To explain: the loos at Dingwalls, although sited to the sides of the stage are actually accessed from each of the side balconies. Consequently, having taken up what I thought was a prime spot at the front of the first level, I found myself being constantly pestered by folks attempting to get past to tinkle, and had had to redirect so many of them I began to feel like a member of the staff.
With just seconds before the gig was due to start I received another irritating tap the shoulder, and turned to see a thin shaven-headed guy whom I brusquely directed back the way he came. “No, no”, he stated in a halting Italian accent “I have to play!”. This I discovered was band member Lucio Fabbri frantically attempting to find his way to the stage.
Another first for The Blog!
|Premiata Forneria Marconi - Dingwalls November 2015|
Four Holes in the Ground
Photos of Ghosts
La Carrozza di Hans
Promenade the Puzzle
Dance of the Knights (from Romeo & Juliet)
Mr. 9 Till 5
Alta Loma 5 till 9 (including William Tell Overture)