Two days after seeing Panic Room I found myself back at Crewe Limelight to see the new-look Karnataka.
Following the dissolution of the original band back in 2004, bassist and original bandleader Ian Jones put together a completely new incarnation of the band, including Lisa Fury on vocals, Enrico Pinna on guitar, and Gonzalo Carrera on keys. Some people seemed to object to the mere existence of this band, some hack scribblers dismiss them as ‘a glorified tribute band’, which I feel is a bit harsh.
When I first saw them at Crewe last year I thought they put on an impressive show, but I had a nagging doubt that what I was really seeing was Ian and Lisa plus some hired hands. Having seen powerful live performances by The Reasoning and Panic Room earlier this month, I felt they had something to prove this time around.
Typical of Sunday night gigs at Crewe Limelight, things started bloody late, and it wasn’t until ten o’clock before the band came on stage. Unfortunately the start of the set was marred by technical problems which rather spoiled the impact of the opening instrumental ‘State of Grace’, and caused intermittent problems later on as well. After that rather shaky start, though, they recovered momentum, and it was soon apparent that this was a far, far better band than I’d seen back in 2007. Although the set included plenty of old favourites, a good proportion of the set was new material, and the new songs had enough of the same feel and mood to justify keeping the name. They’ve gelled as a band now; confident enough to reinterpret the older songs and make them their own rather than the sort of note-for-note reproductions that you’d expect from a tribute band. Enrico Pinna played some amazing guitar, striking the right balance between fluid virtuosity and restraint where appropriate. Lisa Fury’s vocals were as impressive as last time. It’s probably not easy to take some very personal songs written by another singer and sing them as if they were hers.
Strangest moment came partway through the set when a Dutch fan dragged his girlfriend on stage in order to propose to her. That’s something I’ve never seen happen at a gig before.
A good gig, despite the technical gremlins. It’s a pity the sheer number of gigs by various bands in October meant I didn’t get the chance to see Karnataka more than once on this tour.