by Danny Coleman
Who recalls their first concert? The anticipation of seeing your favorite band or any band for that matter in a live setting is a memory that sticks with most of us throughout our life-times.
Well, as for this writer, that memory was of a progressive power trio with an absolute beast of a keyboard player who would play his instrument upside down and backward, a bassist whose vocals were as smooth as they come and a drummer who is widely considered to be one of the best of all time whose solos and stick work captivated audiences around the globe.
That threesome was Emerson Lake & Palmer but with the unfortunate passing of Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, there will no longer be an opportunity to see their amazing talents on stage together once again; or is there? According to drummer Carl Palmer, who has kept the band’s music alive and well with his “ELP Legacy,” the band is getting back together assisted by the power of today’s technology.
Recently, a very enthusiastic Palmer elaborated about the upcoming “Welcome Back My Friends-The Return Of Emerson Lake & Palmer” tour which kicks off November 18 at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, PA.
“Yes, it’s the Emerson Lake & Palmer show; would you like me to tell you all about it? So, what happened was, I decided to work on some live footage of the band playing; Emerson Lake & Palmer at the Royal Albert Hall in London in the ‘90s. There was a DVD which was released of the show and it didn’t actually show that well because it got released during the takeover from Sanctuary to Universal. I had a look at this and I was really impressed with it but prior to this I’d gone to see hologram shows like Ronnie James Dio and Whitney Houston and it just didn’t feel right, it didn’t seem realistic because it’s not the artist it’s somebody dressed up looking like the artist and it wasn’t right. So, a couple of years down the line I certainly come up with this idea of this footage, I’ve seen the footage, I know that it was recorded on five cameras at the Royal Albert Hall, it was Emerson Lake and Palmer and I know all the audio was recorded individually and we put it out as a DVD and we were happy with it. So, to cut a long story short, what happened was, I spent about nine weeks editing and finally got it all done. I’ve got a situation where I can have Greg and Keith on a huge screen stage left and stage right and I’ll be playing in sync along with them. I’ve got about six tunes and what I’m gonna do is integrate those six songs like “Lucky Man,” “Paper Blood,” “Knife-Edge,” “From The Beginning” and so forth and oh, “Welcome Back My Friends” is another one. I’m going to introduce them into the show along with my band playing as well and we’ll play another six or seven pieces of music. So, that’s going to be the show; it’s going to be a way of bringing back Emerson Lake and Palmer and it is them and they’re real and nothing has changed. There they are, it’s them, live on stage at their very best and that’s the most honest way to do it and on top of that, I’ve got the blessing from the Lake family and the Emerson family. This is something they really wanted to see happen and I know that Greg and Keith would have wanted to use the technology we’ve got available to us right now on this level. So, I’m already very pleased to get this started and it’s all happening and we’ve got 10 concerts in America starting in Philadelphia on November 18 and we’ll see how it goes. I’m looking forward to it and if it goes well maybe we’ll bring it back and play more concerts but we’re just going to do 10 for right now.”
Putting together something of this magnitude where split-second precision is called for in order to sync with his former and new band mates; Palmer revealed that there will be relatively limited rehearsal time before hitting the road.
“We are only rehearsing at home at the moment,” he explained, “We’ve got four days of rehearsal up in Philadelphia and we’ll take it from there; it’s all been set up, all of the editing is done and everyone knows basically what they’re going to do. So, we’re practicing at home at the moment and then we will get there and give it a solid four days and get it all up and running. I mean, all of the stage plots are done and we know what we’re doing so it’s just a case of doing it altogether now.”
So; what about the show itself? What can we expect?
“The show is about an hour and 40 minutes at the moment and is still featuring Paul and Simon; they have their solos and Chapman’s solos; it’s not going to be an incredibly long show; it’s not like a 3-hour event or anything like that but there’s about 13 or 14 pieces of music that we play and six of them are with Emerson Lake & Palmer. That’s where we are, I still play a full-length version of “Tarkus” with Paul and Simon and that’s the way the whole thing goes and “Canario” and we do “Hoedown” and then I play “Welcome Back My Friends” with Keith and Greg and we’ve got “Lucky Man” that we play together and there’s even a piano solo which was so good from Keith called “Creole Dance;” I’ve got that in the set and we play “Paper Blood,” as I say there are six or seven pieces that we played together.”
“You have to realize that we’re not losing these people,” he continued. “I mean, bringing back Keith and Greg on this archival footage which is of upmost quality; I can’t say it’s IMAX quality because it was done in the mid ‘90s but sonically it’s absolutely superb because everything was recorded individually. Don’t get me wrong, the visuals are great! I mean, we released it as a DVD and I think this is something you’ll see more of in the future. McCartney did it the other day by bringing back Lennon and having him singing at the back of the stage on a huge screen and McCartney sang with him. I think you’ll see more of this because this is honest; this is the real deal it’s not a hologram. This is the artist themselves performing at their very best, looking their best and sounding their best.”
Not only is Palmer reuniting with Emerson and Lake but he is also celebrating 50 years of ELP and another important anniversary as well.
“Yeah, we’re celebrating 50 years and also next year I’ll be celebrating 40 years of Asia and Asia is coming in around about February of next year to celebrate that first album and it is a double header with Alan Parsons. We’ve got a different singer and lead player; the guy that was in in Keith Emerson’s band, Marc Bonilla on lead vocals and guitar and that’s gonna be interesting; Geoff Downes on keyboards, myself on drums so that should be quite a good time; Steve Howe won’t be joining us on that one.”
Wow! Forty years since Asia’s debut album, 50 years of Emerson Lake & Palmer; what can possibly follow-up something such as that?
“I had offers come in two or three weeks ago for Switzerland for the Montreux Jazz Festival, so we’ve had offers coming in; I think yesterday we had one coming in for Israel. So, there are offers but we haven’t planned anything yet. I think it’s good to go out there, produce the show, play 10 concerts and see how it is and if it works in America and people enjoy it then obviously, we could go around the world with it or we could come back to America next year with it. I mean, I’m open but we only have 10 scheduled at the moment”
“Everyone who’s listening or reading or whatever the situation is here in the magazine; let them know that these tickets are available at Emersonlakepalmer.com and it’s not Emerson Lake and Palmer it’s just Emersonlakepalmer.com or carlpalmer.com and there are tickets available there and the other thing is obviously Ticketmaster and all the normal channels. I just thought I’d drop that in there because this is a one-time hit at the moment and there are no plans to do this again; this is just 10 shows at the moment.”