Keith Emerson & Greg Lake

April 8, 2010
Nokia Theatre
New York, NY

Review by Ralph Greco, Jr.
Photo by hightea

It's been a while for us die-hard Emerson, Lake and Palmer fans. Sure, we got Carl Palmer coming through with Asia and his solo project. I can't recall the last time I had seen Greg Lake live. In 2009, Keith Emerson canceled his tour.

And then the 2010 Emerson and Lake Tour got off to a shaky start when four of the first five shows were abruptly “postponed.”

A whole bunch of ELP fans were chomping at the bit with NYC's Nokia Theatre show sold out. But the performance, only their second one, went on without a hitch and I was there with the brethren to soak it up. The ornate staging, made to look like the inside of a recording studio, had Emerson and Lake's soundman at the ready behind a faux studio wall as we were ‘welcomed back’ to Manticore Hall.

Lake sat on a stool, stage left, strumming his six-string; Emerson was stage right, surrounded by an arsenal of keyboards (including the beast). They opened with “From the Beginning,” and from this beginning, it was immediately clear Lake was in better voice than he had been when I last saw him in 1992. To make it even sweeter, Emerson's slightly different arrangement over the verses were stellar.

A highlight of the show came early on as they dabbled with King Crimson's “I Talk To The Wind,” delivering a beautiful rendition. From there it was “Take A Pebble” and what amounted to the first side of Tarkus. These numbers showcased the highs and lows of the night. The high, by far, was Lake's vocals and his bass parts. Emerson cleverly changed whole passages (especially the “Stones Of Years” portion) to accommodate the two-player set up.

The low was exhibited on “Take A Pebble,” which begged for the full resonance of a real piano. Also, Emerson’s wailing right hand on “Eruption” may not have been up to snuff with his chunky left hand opening. This may be due to the keyboard he played most of the night. The Moog was used more for effect than anything else.

Forty-five minutes in and it was intermission. The second half of the show was a lot looser. They opened with a nice read on "C'est La Vie." Emerson played his Korg at centerstage (with more of a real piano sound) during “Prelude to Hope,” his solo piece for the evening. He then told a story about Dave Brubeck and we got the real first use of his Hammond (tee-hee) as he and Lake worked through “America” from the old Nice days.

There was quite a bit impromptu banter from the two. At one point, Lake asked for the houselights to be brought up and a mic was opened for an audience Q&A! One 30-something woman told the story of being five and lying under the family piano as her brother played parts of Tarkus, while she lovingly stared at a picture of Keith Emerson. Of course, the crowd cheered as the maestro invited the woman up on stage, to recreate her childhood adventures. You can figure out the rest.

A much unneeded “Pirates,” complete with sequenced drums from that studio engineer, was trotted out before the two left the stage. They returned for an encore of “Lucky Man.”

Sometimes, you have to constantly remind yourself to review the show you saw, and not the show you wanted to see. Then again, I would have been perfectly content with Keith Emerson and Greg Lake playing acoustic piano and guitar respectively, taking questions and playing slightly different versions of classic ELP stuff — instead of attempting to recreate some classic ELP musical moments with pre-recorded backing tracks.

I was impressed with Greg Lake's voice, and impressed to finally hear his bass parts. I was equally impressed with Emerson’s untarnished abilities as a player and arranger. I guess you can say the Keith Emerson and Greg Lake show left me with a good impression. Once they reconvene with Carl Palmer, one can only hope the fireworks will ignite again. When that happens, you gotta see the show.

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