Gizmodrome – Gizmodrome Live (Album Review)

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Gizmodrome is one of those super-groups that appears to be destined to leave the fans wanting more – not due to the quality of the output, but because of the tremendous pull of each member’s agendas. Much like Flying Colors, Them Crooked Vultures or Black Country Communion, there’s always a feeling that these bands could go much further if they managed to put albums a little more often. Or maybe the key here is to leave the fans wondering what their next step would be. The one thing one can be sure when it comes to this band is that this is a one-of-a-kind high voltage combination, with a carefree attitude and unparalleled musicianship.

For those still not in the know, Gizmodrome is comprised of Stewart Copeland (drums, guitars and vocals – yes, you read that right), Mark King (bass), Vittorio Cosma (keyboards) and Adrian Belew (guitars). The combined powers of such diverse musicians brought a celebrated self titled debut in 2017, which is now followed by a live offering, simply titled “Gizmodrome Live”. Their collective history includes The Police, Level 42, King Crimson, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Talking Heads and PFM, and not surprisingly, they combine the spirit of adventure and camaraderie that characterizes their music – a cosmopolitan blend of progressive rock and a pinch of punk with a heavy twist of avant-garde humour.

Up for release on November 19th 2021, “Gizmodrome Live” was recorded in Florence, Rome, Tokyo, Osaka, Aschaffenburg and London, and manages to capture the excitement of the debut and to further explore their musical palette. The setlist is a combination of their own material, selected Police songs that were penned by Copeland, and a few numbers from Belew-era King Crimson. Given the variety of the scope covered by these songs, one would expect their set to be a rather uneven affair, but surprisingly, these songs blend in quite well with each other.

The album begins with Stewart greeting the audiences on the cities where the songs were captured live – “good evening”, “buongiorno” and “konnichiwa”, and the band kicks it off with “Amaka Pipa”, one of the highlights of their debut. Vittorio’s piano and Adrian’s guitar split the protagonist, while Stewart delivers a distorted, an almost Afrobeat-like vocal. The syncopated “Zombies in the Mall” follows, with Stewart’s quirky delivery being complimented by Mark’s backing vocals and punchy basslines, along with blistering solos from Belew. “Stay Ready” comes next, a song which is also present in the group’s debut, but which was penned by Stewart years ago – it was part of the soundtrack of the TV series “Ewoks and Droids”.

“Miss Gradenko” is the first Police song to come off on this set. Check out a few videos of the band playing it and you’ll hear them always making mistakes here and there, but here, the tale of the Russian spy who had to conceal her beauty for fear of getting caught is told perfectly, with an incredible solo from Belew and intense slapping from Mark. The reggae pop “Summer’s Coming” brings a levity to the proceedings, and is followed by “Sweet Angels”, another highlight of Gizmodrome’s debut.

King Crimson’s “Elephant Talk” comes in next. The fuzzy guitars and off-kilter vocals of Belew are a driving force on this song, and Mark’s punchy bass is so prominent here that it needs two drummers to go with: Stewart is joined on stage by Level 42’s Pete Ray Biggin. An eerie version of “Does Everyone Stare” follows, with a piano melody that would fit in like a glove on Tim Burton’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas”, and great vocal delivery shared by Stewart and Mark.

The quirky and reggae-tinged “Man on the Mountain”, originally sung by Stewart and Mark, could have easily appeared on The Police’s “Zenyatta Mondatta” or “Regatta de Blanc”, and bring the humour back to the set. Mark and Adrian tackle the vocals here, while Stewart gets a chance to focus on drums only, revisiting the ferocity of his skin-beating abilities of the early days of Police. It’s followed by “Excesses”, which goes back to the days of Stewart’s project Klark Kent. More material from their debut is showcased, with the hypnotic and syncopated beat of “Ride Your Life” and the quirky and radio friendly “I Know Too Much”, where the following genius piece of lyrics can be heard: “there are many roads to Heaven/ and some that may not please us / Satan comes in many forms / sometimes he looks like Jesus”.   

Stewart’s diatribe against the ups and downs of being a rock star comes up on the gloomy “Darkness”, masterfully carried out by Mark on vocals, accompanied by Vittorio’s atmospheric keyboards and Adrian’s tasteful licks. The cosmopolitan nature of Gizmodrome comes across on “Zubatta Cheve”, both sonically and on the lyrics, which are a mix of Italian, English and made-up words. And there’s still time for “Strange Things Happen”, an old song from Stewart’s arsenal which was part of the soundtrack of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”, The Police’s “Bombs Away” with Pete again in drums, and a spirited version of King Crimson’s “Thela Hun Ginjeet”.

 Overall, “Gizmodrome Live” is a very entertaining and diverse collection of songs, with and experimental nature that sounds like old friends having fun and showcasing unpredictable outbursts of creative energy. Obviously, there’s something in their output that appeals to fans of all the acts these musicians became famous with, but the combination of each member’s personality and their collective bag of tricks create a completely unique musical experience. 

Released By: earMusic
Release Date: November 19th, 2021
Genre: Progressive Rock

Band Members:

  • Stewart Copeland / Drum, Guitars and Vocals
  • Mark King / Keyboards
  • Vittorio Cosma /Bass
  • Adrian Belew / Guitars

 “Gizmodrome Live” tracklist:

1. Amaka Pipa
2. Zombies in the Mall
3. Stay Ready
4. Miss Gradenko
5. Summer’s Coming
6. Sweet Angels
7. Elephant Talk
8. Does Everyone Stare
9. Man on the Mountain
10. Excesses
11. Ride Your Life
12. I Know Too Much
13. Darkness
14. Zubatta Cheve
15. Young Lions
16. Strange Things Happen
17. Don’t Box Me In
18. Spin This
19. Thela Hun Ginjeet
20. Bombs Away
21. Don’t Box Me In [Bonus track on digital release feat. vocalist Manuel Agnelli]

9.0 Excellent

The phrase “bigger than the sum of its parts” is a cliché when talking about successful supergroups, but here it applies perfectly. The potluck that is Gizmodrome brings dishes from Level 42, The Police, King Crimson and PFM, and present an exquisite banquet on their debut and on the upcoming live offering. Best served hot!

  • Setlist 8
  • Musicianship 10
  • Performance 9
  • Performance 9
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