Arriving onstage to polite acknowledgement, The Fierce & The Dead get a gradually-building reaction from the crowd. Their humour, ebullience and instrumental command during this 30 minute set prove to be impressive. Even ongoing tuning problems can’t obscure the fact that the night is a qualified success for them.
There’s an enduring passion in the UK for PFM. So, when the Italian seven-piece amble onstage to a huge outburst of approbation, it’s clear they’re already among friends. In one respect, there’s a peculiar stage set-up. While founder Franz Di Cioccio wanders occasionally out from behind his drum kit to the front of the stage to handle vocals, the rest of the time it’s Alberto Bravin singing. What makes it strange is that he’s tucked away right at the back.
However, this is merely a cosmetic query. What matters is that the band are breathtaking. Di Cioccio is a charismatic, relaxing focal point. He talks commandingly, even dealing comfortably with constant shouts from a couple of fans for Celebration.
There’s plenty of opportunity for the various members to shine, as PFM march through their extensive catalogue. While Photos Of Ghost and Harlequin ramp up the melodic side of the band, on tracks like La Carrozza Di Hans and Paper Charms everyone stretches out and gives free reign to their instincts. The way that Marco Sfogli’s guitar interacts with the violin swoops from Lucio Fabbri is remarkable. This adds a baroque nature to the music, accentuating the way in which PFM have always joyously followed their own individual path.
The whole tone of the event is raised even higher when they interpret Prokofiev, adding a touch of two of their own to Romeo E Giulietta: Danza Dei Cavalieri. And this passion for classical pieces is further enhanced when the main set concludes with Rossini’s William Tell Overture, which has everyone chanting along to the renowned main theme. This is preceded by an exhaustive virtuoso spot from Fabbri, which is enthralling.
- The Progressive Rock Quiz: think you know the bands that helped build prog rock?
- PFM: Paper Charms
- The Guitar Heroes Quiz: how well do you know prog’s greatest six-stringers?
- The History Of Prog In 50 Albums
The encore begins with a spectacular percussive duet from Di Cioccio and Roberto Gualdi. The latter spends much of the performance locked in the shadows, acting as a back-up to the former. But here, he gets the opportunity to show his skills, the pair dancing and dallying around not only their kits but anything else to hand in a melodramatic interlude that’s considerably better than the usual stodgy drum solo offered by many bands.
This inevitably leads into the finale. As anyone with knowledge of PFM would have been aware, it is the aforementioned Celebration, slowly morphing into a full-blown audience chantalong, led by the excited and peripatetic Di Cioccio. The only way to conclude the PFM experience.