Tarkus to the Limit
Emerson rounds up his Nice buddies to noodle out a bunch of old favourites, before the metamorphosis into...a counterfeit ELP.
Keith Emerson & The Nice
Carting Apollo, Hammersmith, London
KEITH EMERSON INSISTS THAT THE REBIRTH of The Nice is about expanding the boundaries of progressive rock, or something like that. So please dont dare to suggest that The Nice - keyboard wizard Emerson, bassist/vocalist Lee Jackson and drummer Brian Blinky Davison - have united after 32 years due to the unavailability of Emerson Lake & Palmer, right?
Bizarrely, Jim Davidson warms up the audience with a few one-liners, encouraging punters in the less-than-full stalls to move forwards while somebody walks Lee Jackson around the car park to sober him up. As the audience tire of his banter (That your missus, mate? No wonder you tried to sneak her in in the dark), the Apollo rise to see Emerson embrace the (alleged) comedian, and the show begins.
Commencing with America/Rondo, the West Side Story anthem they broke through with in 1968, was a brave move, as some people may have headed for the door after America, believing it to be the bands only work of real significance.
America aside, the shows first half is hit-and-miss. Much of The Nices original material has failed to stand the test of time, and Jacksons vocals on Tantalising Maggie and the twee Little Arabella (the latter introduced by Emerson as about a very accommodating lady - and I dont mean she ran a bed and breakfast) are quite woeful.
Emersons prowess on keyboards remains breathtaking. But the thread that holds things together is actually David Kilminster. Known as a prog rock hired gun - hes played with John Wetton, Ken Hensley and Carl Palmer - Kilminster gives a modern twist to the role of absent guitarist Davey OList, his runs flashy yet fluid, somehow not sounding out of place amid the classical overtones of Sibeliuss Karelia Suite. After a short interlude and three solo Emerson piano pieces, Kilminster plays an impressive solo spot and his own composition Just Crazy. With some peoples attention probably starting to wane by this point, Jackson and Davidsons places are taken by Phil Williams and Pete Riley respectively, and the hall erupts as Emerson announces nonchalantly: Were going to play Tarkus - all of it.
As the 1971 behemoth unravels, Kilminster initially interprets Greg Lakes words via the frets (ironic, as Carl Palmer has also hired a guitarist, Shaun Baxter, to recreate Emersons own contribution to the ELP classics). But as the song reaches the Battlefield section, Kilminster takes to the mic, and even drops in a line or two from King Crimsons Epitaph.
From there, The Nice (ahem!) can simply do no wrong, and the set concludes magnificently with Touch And Go (from the Emerson Lake & Powell album), Hoedown and the inevitable Fanfare For The Common Man. Save for a superfluous drum solo, the show is hard to criticise, although amid the denser, more pompous strains of Touch And Go we soon realise that Kilminster will never match the effortless power of Greg Lakes voice.
Honky Tonk Train Blues, from ELPs Works, Volume 2 is a great encore, and with Lee and Davison returning, and Emerson unleashing a frantic, squealing Moog solo, things end in a mood of riotous celebration. If only Lake and Palmer had been there to share in the glory.
~ Dave Ling
|The Cry Of Eugene|
|Hang On To A Dream|
|A Blade Of Grass|
|A Cajun Alley|
|Touch And Go|
|Fanfare For The Common Man|
|Honky Tonk Train Blues|