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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

PFM - Premiata Forneria Marconi

NEARfest 2009, Bethlehem PA

Review by Julie Knispel

Throughout the entire weekend of NEARfest, one of the biggest wonders (other than whether the food at the on site caterer was edible…it was, by the way…or at least the bison burger was) was what kind of set Italian legends Premiata Forneria Marconi would be playing.  Over the past year or two they have had two very different sets that they have been alternating through; one is based heavily on their newest album Stati di Immaginazione, while the other is more of a walk through their prodigious 30 plus year career and back catalogue.  Looking over the setlist for their NEARfest performance, I think we got a little of each, but one thing is certain; what we got was a performance that showed them with more fire and passion than I thought could be brought to bear.

I don’t say this lightly; I am a huge fan of Italian progressive rock, and PFM, Banco and Le Orme are the big three bands.  Banco and Le Orme have both offered up performances at NEARfest that are still spoken of years after the notes fell silent in Baker Hall.  I think PFM’s performance to close out the festival may have exceeded either of the other two groups, with a mix of new and old material that showed them still masters of the game.  The material from Stati di Immaginazione was presented in multimedia format similar to the original release; each song had an accompanying short film that visualized the music being played.  From wonderful footage of Venice for “Venezia” through the philosophy of “Archimede” to the cyberpunk of “Cyber Alpha 3.1,” the new material stood side by side the older material and felt every bit as valuable as the older songs.

And what older songs were selected as well!  I could not ask for a better choice of material.  I hoped beyond hope to hear “Dove…Quando” off the debut release, and got a heart wrenching, not a dry eye in the house take on this favourite track.  “Out of the Roundabout” was phenomenal, and there was likely not a single person still in their seats through a roaring take on “E’festa;” this was another song I was waiting on hearing, and there was more energy pouring off the stage to the audience, and from the audience to the stage, than I could have imagined.  It was almost palpable in intensity. Franz Di Cioccio was a madman, dancing, jumping, flailing, singing his soul’s passions out on the stage, then running to the back to show off some very impressive drumming. Franco Mussida stayed seated throughout the performance, but don’t let that fool you; his acoustic playing as precious and delicate, but when he strapped on an electric guitar, his playing was filled with all the fire of a player a third his age. Patrick Djivas’ bass playing was fine and nuanced, with plenty of power on the lowest notes (there were times the entire theatre shook as he played), and the new boys (Gianluca Tagliavini, Piero Monterisi and Lucio Fabbri) were more than up for the task of playing this material.  Their contributions were more than serviceable; they seemed genuinely in love with the music, and their love of this music shone in their playing.

Premiata Forneria Marconi proved that time can be made to stand still; it can, in fact, be made to go backwards.  For two and a half hours on a Sunday in Bethlehem PA, over 1000 people were transported back to the band’s youth, I am certain, and we got to see one of those legendary performances that will be spoken of for years to come.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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