November 4, 2023

Kromelow’s evident love of this music shone through, and his interpretations shed new light on familiar material.

Like most of London’s small venues, the Piano Smithfield is underground. The dark inconspicuous entry might cause one to jump to the conclusion that it is at the seedy end of the spectrum of music establishments, but it’s a clean and cosy setting with plush velvet seating, dark red patterned wallpaper, and chandelier lighting making it look more like an over-sized Victorian drawing room than a concert venue.  Attendees were pampered too, being escorted to their table, and then served by roving waitresses. Even the toilets seemed sparklingly clean! The compere announced that this was the first prog event they had hosted and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the audience hoping it wouldn’t be the last.

The sell-out audience was here to see pianist Adam Kromelow, known artistically as the Genesis Piano Project, but we were first treated to a short set by a new group called Storm Deva. The material was played by just two members of the group: Carollyn Eden (pianist and singer) and guitarist Stuart Clark, although they thoughtfully introduced the three absent members of the band (drummer, bassist, and interestingly a cellist).  Despite them looking very much like a folk duo, musically the songs were surprisingly long, leisurely-paced, and progressive. With a full band you could imagine them sounding like Renaissance, although Eden’s vocal style seems more inspired by Kate Bush than Annie Haslam. The opening Carpe Diem and Free were both particularly strong pieces and it will be worth checking out their upcoming self-titled debut album that is released on 1 December.     

Progressive music fans are used to classical influences in their music. ELP took that to the limit by taking pieces from the classical repertoire and playing them in a rock style. What is much rarer is the reverse path of a classically trained musician interpreting progressive rock songs. Adam Kromelow is one such artist, having been educated at the Manhattan School of Music where he majored in Jazz Piano Performance. As a lover of Genesis, he formed the Genesis Piano Project just over a decade ago with fellow-student Angelo Di Loreto with the intention of interpreting Genesis’ music on classical piano alone.

Kromelow began the concert by playing the much-loved but technically challenging Firth Of Fifth. While he occasionally varied the tempo and added the odd jazzy touch, he was faithful to Genesis’ original music (as he was elsewhere in the set). The audience seemed mesmerised, both by the remarkable technical skill on show and the extraordinarily full sound that was generated. In one moment, Kromelow could make the famous guitar solo theme sound plaintive and soulful, and then soon afterwards bash out the same theme in a whirlwind of octave chords, unleashing the full power of the piano.  I don’t think anyone in the audience expected quite such a dramatic concert.

Firth Of Fifth was followed by an impressive rendition of One For The Vine, and then the surprise package of the evening, Mad Man Moon. Kromelow recounted a funny story about how as a youngster he loved the song so much and especially the slightly wild middle section. He hunted down and bought the music score for it, only to find out that the middle-section had been excluded! Like me, I suspect many in the audience hadn’t heard Mad Man Moon for a decade or two, and it was a wonderful reminder of the quality of the song, not to mention the depth of Genesis’ catalogue.

Kromelow cleverly mixed things up by inserting vocal arrangements of ‘lighter’ material to break up the more technically demanding pieces. More Fool Me was an effective interlude, and using Follow You, Follow Me (which tellingly was the only post-Hackett song played) was an inspired choice as the encore. The highlight though was Afterglow, with the bombastic album-closer from Wind And Wuthering revealed for what it really is: a simple and deeply-moving ballad. However, it must be said that while Kromelow can sing in tune, he wouldn’t cut the mustard as a professional singer. He perhaps missed an opportunity here to invite Carollyn Eden back on stage for a guest vocal on Afterglow.

Perhaps the biggest applause of the night came after a thrilling The Cinema Show, probably in recognition of the prodigious ability and concentration needed to reproduce this song. There was equally loud – but this time sympathetic – applause when Kromelow talked about the death of the Genesis Piano Project’s co-creator, Angelo Di Loreto, and his inability to think about continuing the Genesis Piano Project as a duo with a different face than Angelo’s on the second piano. He then played For Absent Friends before continuing with The Colony Of Slippermen, and a final medley (apparently only ever played by Genesis during their 1978 tour) consisting of Dancing With The Moonlit Knight and the closing section of The Musical Box. Despite the average age of the audience being 50+, they leapt to their feet in unison on the concluding chords of The Musical Box, giving Kromelow an ecstatic round of applause.   

I suspect that this was a night to remember for this partisan audience of Genesis fans. Kromelow’s evident love of this music shone through, and his interpretations shed new light on familiar material. The good news for those who were unable to make it is that a live album (of this tour set) is expected to be released. Even more intriguingly, Kromelow announced that he is working with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra to orchestrate Genesis transcriptions with the intention of him playing live concerts with the orchestra.  That’s certainly something to look forward to!