Having recently been quite taken with the latest album by Italian ‘noir rock’ band Belladonna I grabbed the chance to catch them live at a rare UK show, promoting said album “Shooting Dice With God“.
What struck me on first entering the venue was what a mixed bunch the crowd was; the usual Soho rockers were in attendance, but also quite a few well dressed older couples. These turned out to be fellow Italian’s (the band have a much higher profile at home) no doubt lured by the band’s sophisticated and swooning sound. That combination of the rocky and romantic is evident on stage – the band emerge all clad in black, with vocalist Luana Caraffa rocking the military cap look and with red roses entwined around her mic. After a brief poetic speech from Luana about the stars and destiny it was on with the rock show.
One of the the standout features of the band’s sound is the piano playing of Valenti De Iullis but unfortunately her cool classical tones were lost in the mix during the first few numbers, and although the band were rocking it left them sounding severely lacking in character.
That all changed by the time we got to the bands surprising cover of Guns N’ Roses‘ ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’. I was aware that it was part of their live set but had no idea as to the classy reworking they had given it. Played as a torch song, with Luana giving it her full pocket rocket, sultry rock chick act, it is a beguiling re-invention and YES – we can finally hear the piano!
From there on in the band seem to really hit their stride, and even if I’m not a fan of slower songs like ‘I Feel Life’ and the bands rather studied theatricality (Luana wears a blindfold to sing ‘Mystical Elysian Love’), you cannot deny they give it their all. What is perhaps a surprise is how much more comfortable the band look when they are really rocking out. Dani Macchi is a typical guitar god – throwing shapes and flowing locks – who at times gets a little over excited for my tastes, but him and the rest of Belladonna genuinely seem to thrive on kicking up a storm on tracks like the excellent ‘Karma Warrior’.
Belladonna leave to a rapturous send-off from the crowd and that earthier, heavier side to the band really asserts itself in the inevitable encore. It begins with a joyous thrash through two blues classics – Muddy Waters‘ ‘Got My Mojo Working’ and ‘John the Revelator’, a standard most famously covered by The White Stripes but earlier played by Son House and Blind Willie Johnson. I really didn’t see that coming! It’s all good fun and then to top it off we’re treated to the standout from that latest album, ‘I Set My Controls For Overdrive’.
A classy, and yet feisty, night out, Belladonna‘s show at The Borderline left everybody happy.