Early 2012 the Welsh progressive rock band Karnataka embarked on a fifteen- date tour across the UK. Under the name New Light Tour 2012, the band reached as many areas of the country as possible; in particular those towns and villages they missed on previous tours. The band performed at some of the most unique and beautiful venues in the country, from traditional theatres and art centres to a stunning fourteenth century converted barn. Yet they couldn't perform in all places and therefore many fans − especially those from abroad − couldn't see how the new line-up managed to perform the band's back catalogue. So New Light Live In Concert, Karnataka's latest double album and DVD has been recorded for those people who missed them live on stage. However, it's by all means a great souvenir for people who attended their live shows as well. On this almost two-hour live album, DVD and Blu-ray you can witness and listen to an entire live performance.
The live performance has been recorded at the start of their New Light Tour at the Met Theatre in Bury, England on February 23, 2012. This tour marked the first live show for a line-up featuring the new lead singer Hayley Griffiths. For those who aren't familiar with the band's third female singer an introduction is in place. She's a classically trained soprano who has achieved global recognition and critical acclaim for her role in the international phenomenon Riverdance and Michael Flatley's Lord Of The Dance. She has sung for the emperor of Japan in Tokyo, at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow and for an audience of 20,000 people in Taipei Arena. Moreover, in 2010 her debut album Silver Screen won the Best Classical Crossover Artist Award. Her second album Celtic Rose was released in 2011; it's her first complete Celtic album composed of traditional and contemporary Irish and Scottish songs.
Other new members in the band are the Turkish keyboard player Cagri Tozluoglu from Istanbul and the talented multi-instrumentalist Colin Mold, who was the driving force behind the folk rock band Kara. During the tour Mold played additional lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars, violin and he did some backing vocals. The fourth new member is drummer Matt McDonough. Last but not least Karnataka's new line-up still consist of founding member Ian Jones on bass and bass pedals and Enrico Pinna on guitars and backing vocals. The latter made his debut on the band's latest studio album The Gathering Light (2010, see review).
When you watch and listen to New Light Live In Concert you'll soon notice that the performed songs differ from the original album versions. This is mainly due to the fact that Hayley Griffith's vocals strongly differ from Karnataka's prior singers Rachel Jones (pre-1998-2004) and Lisa Fury (2008-2010). Her soprano voice provides the music a rather new sound that I like a lot. In my opinion a live album shouldn't be a copy of a studio album. I think it should sound differently and this is something in which Karnataka succeeded very well. However, not only the vocals differ from the original versions. Take for example The Calling, an instrumental piece from their latest studio album. It featured the Uillean pipes played by guest musician Troy Donockley. Since he wasn't available during the New Light Tour, the electric violin replaced the pipes. This worked perfectly and made the song still very enjoyable. The addition of several new violin parts on the older songs suited these songs quite well.
Also the addition of twin guitar parts throughout the concert is a real treat to the ears. The combination of Enrico Pinna and Colin Mold playing both the same guitar parts makes the music sound very melodic. However, it's mostly Pinna who steals the show with his great electric guitar playing. His talent for playing excellent solos can be especially heard on the superb piece Forsaken. The band must have known that Hayley's voice couldn't always shine during the songs from their back catalogue. Therefore she got a special solo spot. This way she got the chance to show all of her vocal talents on tracks that aren't original Karnataka songs. So they also included two Hayley Griffith's tracks on this album that demonstrate her vocal talents. Lagan Love from her Celtic Rose album was performed brilliantly. She sings it wholeheartedly and only accompanied by some beautiful string synthesizer parts. It's followed by Our Love from her Silver Screen album. This time her voice sounds rather operatically. It fits in perfectly to Karnataka's new arrangement which includes fine playing on the violin as well. Besides Griffith's skills as an amazing singer she also proves to be a real entertainer who can keep the audience focussed during a concert. To mention any highlights is rather difficult, because in my opinion the entire concert is just one highlight.
Both the CD and the DVD versions benefit from a tremendous production and capture the details of the vocal performances as well as the arrangements without one musician over-powering the other. Also the camera work has been done well capturing the musicians at close range and from a distance showing the whole band in action. They perform material from The Storm (2000), Delicate Flame Of Desire (2003) and The Gathering Light in the best possible way and in 5.1 surround. In addition to the concert they included interviews with all musicians. They were asked about their background and musical influences and about the future and the past of the band. Finally a tour photo gallery can be enjoyed. New Light Live In Concert is a real must to listen to and to watch. Especially people who like bands as Iona, Mostly Autumn and Clannad are advised to check out this great new live release of Karnataka!
See also our review of their Dutch concert in January 2013.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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