ELP "In Miniature"
After having seen the Emerson Lake & Palmer show last summer at the Olympic Stadium, including the symphonic orchestra, I had the impression of seeing ELP "in miniature" while attending their recent performances given January 16 and 17. Without the support of the 63 musicians making up the symphonic orchestra, the fact that ELP is only a trio is very apparent. The trio's music is truly at its fullest value when it is performed by an orchestra of 63 musicians. Works such as "Pictures at an Exhibition" sounded a bit stark naked at the Forum. But it is now well-known that ELP has lost a lot of money dragging around a symphonic orchestra with them. It's an expensive luxury. They're allowed to have it once. That's for sure.
Even so, I found that with ELP made miniature at the Forum, the average concert goer on January 16 & 17 surely didn't share my opinion. The audience was young enough, a sort of second generation of fans who came after those who discovered ELP the first time. They cheered each time a special effect was used. As for me, when the same special effect has been seen 5 times, the surprise isn't so intense. The formula the ELP show follows has been the same for some time - in the first part ELP plays the good old pieces (Hoedown, Tarkus, Pictures at an Exhibition) where Keith Emerson uses his ribbon controller/smoke launcher, and the second part where ELP plays their new pieces (Second Impression of Brain Salad Surgery, Pirates from Works Vol. 1, Tank) where Carl Palmer now performs his famous drum solo, a highly colored climax.
However, they announced a totally new show. There was little new that I could see.
Obviously, the fact that they didn't have the 63 musicians diminished the positive of the ELP show. On last summer's tour, there were 140 people who traveled with Emerson, Lake & Palmer. On the present tour, the number is much less. The personnel has been reduced to around forty people, thirty for the lights, sound, and equipment set-up and about ten for administration. Transport of the equipment is done by 5 trucks. ELP takes along its own stage, their own lighting and sound system. Moreover, it must be emphasized, the personnel in charge of the special effects are 80% Quebec natives. A detail of the sound system - the better half of the loudspeakers (16) are suspended behind the stage; the amplification power is 36,000 watts.
And all that is set up and taken down almost every day. The present tour takes place between January 16 and February 28. There's not more than 2 days of rest. It will go to cities like Kitchener, Chicago (4 nights), New York (2 nights), Toronto. The United States will be especially visited. After February 28, ELP will return to the studio. In May, a new tour will visit West Coast America and probably end up in Quebec. Europe won't get an ELP visit until the end of 1978.
At the time of an interview with CKOI-FM, Pierre and Bertrand Pare of Audio Analyste (responsible for ELP's sound) said they had an "incredible surprise" at the start of the show I don't wish to treat them as liars, but at the start of the show on the evening of January 16, I didn't notice anything which resembled an incredible surprise.
I didn't see anything at all. Except having heard ELP open the show with the old Sixties hit entitled "Peter Gun". This version is amusing, but nothing like an incredible surprise.
Unless the surprise in question was the use of the ribbon controller which Keith Emerson handled like a veritable demon. No, no, I don't think that was it. Keith used that already at their first show in Montreal at the Place des nations. Except that the for the prior shows, it was a ribbon controller-flame thrower. I don't see where it was an incredible surprise between smoke and flames. Perhaps also the incredible surprise rehearsed for the show couldn't be executed because of technical difficulties at the last minute? Mystery and bubble gum.
After "Hoedown", ELP launched into an interpretation of "Tarkus", their greatest masterpiece according to many fans. This piece has lost nothing of its biting sound and has maintained its power and diabolism through the years. The poised and very lyrical voice of Greg Lake has retained all its charms. With Jon Anderson (Yes) it is on of the most enchanting voices of progressive rock.
That is evident in "C'est la Vie" and "Lucky Man" where alone with the acoustic guitar, Lake seduces the crowd with his distinctive sound.
To the eyes of the general public, Carl Palmer's drum solo during the second part is surely the highlight of the show. The solid technique and ultra-fast drumstick play, the stage on which his drumset is mounted pivoting 360 degrees, the numerous lighting effects accompanying it are among the reasons for the overwhelming superexcitement in the audience.
But it is in the piece "Pirates" where ELP show its most contemporary side. It start the show's finale: 3 powerful explosions echoing first and re-echoing throughout the Forum. Two hot encores in which the famous "Fanfare of the Common Man" which was ELP's summer tour's theme last July. In the 2 nights in Montreal, the Forum was 2/3 full. After its 3 years of absence, ELP is again in the hearts of Quebecois.
A Little Party with Emerson Lake and Palmer
As with most of the rest of the world, the ELP show impressed me. There are few shows in that vein. After the second night, Warner Brothers organized a reception for the group at the Meridien hotel. Almost 75 people were gathered about 11 o'clock at the Salon des Arts. You could look at ten or so excellent photos of ELP in concert on the walls. Our heroes came to join the party about 11:45. Without warning, congenially, they threw themselves into the mini-crowd. Of course, everyone had the chance to chat with one of the other of the guys. As many have remarked before me, the three musicians are very approachable and well spoken. I asked Keith why he hadn't played his piano passage in "Tiger in a Spotlight". He told me he liked the sound of his Yamaha GX-7 for the song in concert. Quite frankly, I asked him if there was a reason for the black and white covers for "Works Vol. 1" and "Works Vol. II". With a laughing tone, he retorted "Are you superstitious by chance?" The group simply wanted to make a difference, that's all. The most likable one in the group is Greg Lake. Greg is much more attractive in person. He always has a smile on his face. The singer never complains of the routing of interview, photos, or parties.
At the time of the party, the record company recognized the award of a Canadian gold album for the sales of "Works Vol. I" This double album is not far from going platinum. The new "Works Vol. II" should also go Canadian gold within some weeks. What a memorable occasion!
[Many thanks to Donna for finding and translating these files from the original French!]