Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Keith Emerson & Greg Lake - Live from Manticore Hall

Back in 1973, there was Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) and there was no other rock show that compared.  It was the year of their most successful commercial LP - Brain Salad Surgery.  With that release they set off on a worldwide tour that can only be summarized as “Welcome To The Show.”  On the tour Keith Emerson played piano as he and the piano somersaulted into the heavens in a flood of colored lights, pyrotechnics and mirrors. Greg Lake wowed with guitar mastery, a pleading voice and sensual delivery.  Carl Palmer piloted a drum set that would make a philharmonic jealous - double bass drums, two gongs, fifteen snare drums, at least eight toms and so many cymbals that he had to stand up before the front five rows could even see him.  It was over the top, a veritable carnival, and it drew audiences just to watch the spectacle.  In fact, the band became so popular they headlined over Deep Purple at the 1974 monster music festival California Jam. Yet, the band earned the labels “gimmicky” and “pretentious” for their showmanship and penchant to release albums of long serious opuses of progressive rock and reinterpreted classical music that lacked wide commercial appeal. Emerson and Lake started to have interpersonal disputes. Carl Palmer didn’t help.  He was and is a perfectionist.  Eventually, Palmer went on to play with Asia, although he did play with Lake or Emerson on occasion.

Over the years the thought has crossed my mind - what would the band have been like if it had played all of its hits, as well some of its less commercial works, without the sideshow mentality - a more subdued, emotional interpretation, rather than using the “carnival has come to town” approach?  A new, live ten track release by Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, called Keith Emerson & Greg Lake - Live from Manticore Hall, provides a partial answer.  The album offers soft, live performances by Emerson and Lake of Greatest Hits and obscurities recorded during what was supposed to be a 2010 ELP reunion tour.  At the last minute, however, Palmer didn’t like the sound on the recordings and dropped out of the project.  I think he missed out on audience intimacy that he probably has never experienced due to his seemingly haughty personal standards and preference for razzle dazzle.

Live from Manticore Hall gave Emerson and Lake the ability to reflect on, in words of the Grateful Dead, “what a long strange trip it’s been.”  Midway through the performance Emerson and Lake even offer a “Q and A” session with the audience that results in a very personal look at the life of a rock star, rock band and success. It is a unique opportunity among rock and rollers who are more often cultivating image, not intimacy.  What can be less gimmicky and pretentious than that?  Here’s the track list:

“From The Beginning”
“I Talk To The Wind”
“Bitches Crystal”
“The Barbarian”
“Take A Pebble”
“C’est Le Vie”
“Moog Solo” / “Lucky Man”

- Old School

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