Legendary drummer Carl Palmer concluded a 13-date autumn and winter UK tour titled “Emerson, Lake & Palmer Lives On!”, honouring the legacy of the iconic progressive rock supergroup, on Sunday 3rd December. On Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd December, he paid homage to his late former bandmates Keith Emerson and Greg Lake at Trading Boundaries in East Sussex.
Palmer teamed up with guitarist Paul Bielatowicz and bassist Simon Fitzpatrick under the name Carl’s Palmer’s ELP Legacy. Anyone who’s seen one of their shows can’t have any doubt that Bielatowicz and Fitzpatrick are two of the finest British musicians of the younger generation.
It’s not easy to find a keyboard player who can do justice to Emerson’s genius. Although it can’t be much easier to find a guitarist who can do the same, Bielatowicz accomplishes just that: the sounds he produces with his instrument are explosive and almost surreal at times, displaying a mind-blowing palette of technique and skill. Although the genre is often criticized for its focus on technical ability over emotional self-expression, Fitzpatrick’s playing, and especially his incredibly memorable solo performance of ‘Take a Pebble’, was precise and truly heartfelt at the same time. Without a singer, Bielatowitz and Fitzpatrick shared the task of reinterpreting Lake’s original vocal lines. Their masterful interplay rested firmly on top of Palmer’s powerful drum storm, which hasn’t been damaged by the passing of time at all.
The majority of the pieces performed appeared on ELP’s 1970 self-titled debut album, ‘Trilogy’ (1972) and ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ (1973). It’s hard to name a few highlights, as every single one of the compositions was special in its own way. Nevertheless, especially moving were the Leonard Bernstein cover ‘America’, which Emerson had recorded with the Nice as their second single, and ‘Lucky Man’, ELP’s first hit, which Lake had written as a child. However, as Palmer pointed out, no one knows for sure how old Lake really was when he wrote the song; when asked about it for the first time, he answered “five or six”, and on another occasion he said “twelve or thirteen”. Nonetheless, what made the performance of this number so incredibly touching is the fact that Lake had played his last ever show on that very stage.
We also heard a rendition of King Crimson’s ’21st Century Schizoid Man’, included in the setlist because it was the first track ELP ever rehearsed together. The ultimate highlight could have been the performance of ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ in its majestic entirety. When introducing it, Palmer recounted the significance the Modest Mussorgsky composition held for the trio: it was a piece of music all three of them loved, and discovering this mutual passion helped them bond and realize that they were indeed meant to work together.
Tragically, both Emerson and Lake passed away in 2016. One couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute to the two unforgettable legends as the one conceived by Palmer. In between songs, he got up and walked to a microphone to detail some fond memories of his time with the two musicians. Before the UK tour, the band visited Europe and North America.
Palmer received the Prog God award at the 2017 Progressive Music Awards in September. In addition to the ELP Legacy, he’s also a member of Asia, along with Geoff Downes, Sam Coulson and Billy Sherwood, with whom he performed earlier this year when the Legacy tour dates allowed.
Trading Boundaries started 21 years ago when director Michael Clifford began importing furniture, handicrafts and textiles from India. Today their beautiful showroom is housed in a Grade 2* listed building, and it’s also home to the official UK retail store for Roger Dean’s work. They also regularly host live music events – previous performers have included John Wetton, Rick Wakeman and Martin Barre. Steve Hackett is playing acoustic sets on 9th and 10th December.