Concert — Emerson Lake and No One

One evening last week Jeannie and I saw a rather unique concert. Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, of Emerson, Lake and Palmer played a show of mainly unplugged material, interspersed with stories about their songwriting and touring and that sort of thing. More intimate and laid-back than polished and high-energy, but it definitely had a few special musical moments. Most of the songs were altered or adapted to fit the format. They opened with “From the Beginning” which featured an expansive jazz intro by Keith. Next came an adaptation of the King Crimson classic “I Talk to the Wind”, played in a similar style. Quite nice and surprising. Then Greg switched from guitar to bass and it was on to “Take a Pebble” with a piano solo that segued into a mainly solo piano rendition of Tarkus. I think I preferred it to original. You could hear the piano ideas a lot more clearly, and it didn’t sound so bombastic or repetitive, and I think they tightened it up a bit and dropped a solo section or vamp here and there. Toward the end Keith fired up the Moog and did a combination keyboard and knob-twiddling solo, which left the machine in a state of generating automatic weird noise to ride out the song as he returned to the piano. Very nicely done.

The second set included a versions of “Ces’t la Vie”, “Bitches Crystal”, a semi-successful jam that took off from Blue Rondo a la Turk, a rendition of “Pirates” not quite as good as Tarkus but admirable nonetheless, and even a bit of “Benny the Bouncer” (which Keith claimed is his favorite ELP song), and of course closing the show with “Lucky Man”. At one point they opened the floor to questions from the audience and woman requested to lie down on the stage under Keith’s piano for a song, so he indulged her and spun out a fantastic improvisation for a few minutes. It was nothing I’ve ever heard before but it was reminiscent of several of his compositions, and fairly structured in its use of ostanotos, rising and falling lines and stabbing chords, and I feel like I have some new insight into “how to sound like Keith Emerson” now. All in all an interesting and enjoyable experience. I wish them the best for their plans for a reformed ELP tour this summer!

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