In order to rein in progressive expanse, Roman group introduce their panoramic tapestries to concert audience.
Whatever one may think of this relatively unknown Italian ensemble, it would be difficult to deny the bravery of Roberto Vitelli’s collective who, with only two albums under their belt, decided to bring both platters, nigh on entirely, to the stage, without relying on outside material yet attaching a couple non-heard pieces to the setlist. They were a tad cautious, though, having waited with the glorious recording, which was made back in 2019, until after the band’s third studio opus saw the light of day – the “Livesmere” performances didn’t offer a preview of 2020’s “Wyrd” anyway – and their steady following, at least on the Apennine peninsula, seemed secured enough not only for the local listeners but also for international art-rock aficionados to latch onto the Romans’ mostly instrumental narrative.
One is not required to be familiar with 2015’s “Les Châteaux de la Loire” in order to get pulled into its concert interpretation – the expansive, in places impressionistic, painting that deceptively doesn’t concentrate on details, the group preferring wide strokes instead, yet dazzles the audience with pseudo-abstract building of melodies from the album’s main theme to “Au Revoir…” while all the other points of this suite demonstrate a lot of nuances. As Giorgio Pizzala’s wordless vocals, Vitelli’s folksy strum and Fabio Bonuglia’s pastoral ivories add layers to the wondrous landscape of “Sully-sur-Loire” and render “Meung-sur-Loire” irresistibly mesmeric, Daniele Pomo’s drums spice up the peaceful drift of “Blois” before the voice-spliced passages of “Chambord” begin congealing into an understated, although gorgeous, drama which will turn too ethereal in the delicate interplay of “Chaumont-sur-Loire” to reveal the ensemble’s soft underbelly. There are sounds effects, such as birds’ chirping and lapping of waves, but the record’s pure audio format can’t explain why the punters applaud here and there for no apparent reason, so if there was a video that could flesh it all out immensely.
Still, the previously unreleased numbers, the lively dance of “Rain To Come” and the cosmic swirl of “Nightfall” – the latter featuring John Hackett on flute, – compensate for the omission in the way the songs from 2018’s “From Sea And Beyond” which are gathered on the second disc of “Livesmere” can’t. Once the band’s epic advances are enhanced on the otherwise gripping “The Ancient Samovar” and “Runaway” with singing, theatricality that is so typical for Italian prog feels amplified by the touch of self-importance, undermining the adventurousness of “Marine Extravaganza” or “The Schooner” where sheets of organ and guitar lines conspire with bass rumble and almost disco beat to deliver a sonic storm. But then, placing “Time, Life Again” at the show’s end should be perceived as an elegant, existence-affirming move – and a concert platter able to move the listener should be considered a no mean feat: a successful installation of a milestone.