Sunday, March 17, 2019

O.R.K. @ Petit Bain, Paris - March 17th, 2019

You know the music scene in Paris is bad when a band like O.R.k., comprised of fantastic musicians and hot off the heels of the release of an excellent record, can only attract forty-some punters on a Sunday night. Sad turnout notwithstanding, it was a great evening of music and everybody in attendance had a great time listening to singer/keyboardist L.E.F. (Owl, Berserk, Onake), guitarist Carmelo Pipitone (Marta Sui Tubi), bassist Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) and drummer Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mr. Mister...) play their neo-prog pieces in such a casual and intimate setting.

The most striking thing about the performance was that contrast between the high-caliber musicianship and how relaxed the whole thing seemed: despite the obviously high level of concentration required and the darkness inherent to the compositions, the mood was chill and debonair, musicians cracking jokes or telling anecdotes between every song. None of that formal, serious posturing you usually see at so-called "prog" concerts.

I was curious as to how they would reproduce all the layers, textures and effects on their albums, particularly the last one Ramagehead which is one of the most sonically dense pieces of music released in recent years. The answer is, they don't: while there are plenty of samples, triggers and synthesisers parts, the crux of the sound is the racket made by the drums and guitars and that gives their live presentation an immediacy that differ from the more ornate recordings.

They played tracks off of every one of their three releases as well as a topical cover of Bowie's I'm Afraid Of Americans and while we'd be hard-pressed to pick a highlight, the songs Black Blooms and Signals (both off of Ramagehead) were probably the most intense.

L.E.F.'s soaring vocals were frequently augmented by Carmelo Pipitone's darker, more saturated timbre but every member contributed vocally. As far as instrumentation goes, every player is a monster in his field but there is no ostentatious virtuosity on display: all parts come together in support of the song, the mood or the groove. And there is plenty of groove, thanks to a killer rhythm section comprised of seasoned "prog" veterans. But things also get very heavy, mostly due to Pipitone's crushing riffs and inventive leads.

An excellent concert that was poorly attended, which only proves the old French adage that "les absents ont toujours tort".

While you're here, check out our interview with O.R.k.'s drummer Pat Mastelotto HERE

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