Mermaid Kiss and Karnataka

The Rock Café 2000 - Stourbridge, England - 21 December 2003

Concert Review

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Reviews © Stephen Lambe 2003 | Images © Stephen Lambe and Chris Walkden 2003
HTML and Editing © Russ Elliot 2003 | Last updated: 31 December 2003

That Mermaid Kiss (feature) would open for Karnataka (2003 tour review) before the close of 2003 was a well received suggestion by both bands when introduced in Oxford this past July. The band members had established a mutual respect by listening to each others' music prior to their first meeting at one of Karnataka's live performances. The Mermaid Kiss album was played at the interval to the delight the audience and demand for copies resulted at the gig and afterwards. Subsequent conversations between the bands led to the Mermaid Kiss' support of Karnataka on their 21 December date at The Rock Café 2000 in Stourbridge.

While this gig was the concluding (and over two hour!) performance of Karnataka for the year it was the first ever live performance of Mermaid Kiss. Originally planned to include backing singer Sara Jackson, other changes led to the incorporation of backing tracks in Mermaid Kiss' set. As the reviews indicate below, only small technical difficulties marred the support band's otherwise well prepared initial stage performance. Karnataka were again at the top of their game, performing material from their vast repertoire--including covers on this occasion--flawlessly.--Russ Elliot

Mermaid Kiss. Since first receiving coverage in Musical Discoveries, Evelyn Downing, Mermaid Kiss' vocalist and flautist has been away at University, preventing as much work on material as the band would like, but at last here was their debut gig supporting Karnataka at Stourbridge's Rock Café 2000.

Despite some unfortunate technical hitches which were no fault of the band, (mainly problems with Evelyn's microphone), they delivered a six song set that suggested an excellent future. They followed the gentle, hypnotic "Mermaid's Kiss", with a new song "Take it all away," a surprisingly up-tempo piece with guest musician Nigel Hooton's guitar adding considerable power to the band’s live sound.

The ballad "Write my name in Stars," from their debut album, was subtly performed, and was followed by the more powerful "Soundchaser" with its memorable, soaring, chorus. The first of two further new songs came next, "La Belle Dame sans Merci," performed with vocal and Andrew Garman's piano only, and Evelyn, daringly, singing completely unaccompanied on certain sections to spellbinding effect. Finally, the band's epic "Circles of Fire," showcasing some powerful lead guitar from Nigel, though marred by further microphone problems, suggested that the band might be developing a rockier edge.

The band's decision to use some backing tracks worked nicely on the whole, and Evelyn certainly showed herself to be a confident, powerful live singer. She dealt with the technical problems pluckily, which helped an enthusiastic audience warm to the band, and the set was generously received by the Karnataka fans. Let's hope the band get to play live again soon as this was a delightful, all-too-brief set, which promises very well for the future.--Stephen Lambe

Complete set list: Mermaid Kiss, Take it all Away, Write My Name in Stars, Sound Chaser, La Belle Dame Sans Merci , Circles of Fire.

Karnataka. With this Christmas concert coming very soon after the finish of their Autumn UK tour, it was no surprise that Karnataka were still sounding tight and well rehearsed. Even better, then, that this final gig of 2003 should produce a very special performance, a two and a quarter hour set and a remarkable audience reaction.

The main set was very similar to that played at The Robin, Bilston a month previously, though it was obvious that here they were really giving it their all after that relatively restrained, though excellent, performance mid-tour. The superb "After The Rain" has now taken its place amongst the opening salvo of up-tempo songs, while the early set also included the light, tuneful new song "Chasing Rainbows." The highlight of the three unrecorded original songs on display, however, was "Talk to me" a very intense, progressive piece with an eastern flavour, and some fantastic soloing from Paul Davies on guitar. This song suggests that "Karnataka 4", when it arrives, will be something special indeed.

The audience had been enthusiastic throughout, but at the end of "Delicate Flame of Desire", following Rachel Jones' spoken "Keep it burning", they responded with a spontaneous sing-along to the final few lines. Rachel was obviously moved to tears, the first time I remember such an emotional moment at a Karnataka concert. The first encore included more sing-along moments, with a rendition of "Out of Reach" – the first time I had seen it performed live.

Then, for encore two, we enjoyed a wonderful, rocked-up version of the Abba song "Eagle." So good was it that it must surely take its place as an occasional encore in future live sets, followed by a fun version of Genesis' " I know what I like" with the band launching into a few bars of a variety of rock classics.

Not only was this one of the best performances I have seen from Karnataka, it was also the most relaxed and yet also the emotional. After a great year, it could be that the band are about to raise their game even higher. We will find out in 2004!

Complete set list: Time Stands Still, After the Rain, Dreamer, Chasing Rainbows, The Right Time, Must be the Devil, Talk to me, Strange Behaviour, Should Have Known, Delicate Flame of Desire, Writing on the Wall, The Journey, Heart of Stone. Encores: These Dreams are over, Out of Reach, Eagle (Abba), I Know What I Like (Genesis).

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