Performer: Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Songwriter: Alberto Ginastera (adapted by Keith Emerson)
Original Release: Live at the Royal Albert Hall
Definitive Version: None
Emerson, Lake & Palmer always have been one of my favorite bands, and I can say that, because I first was exposed to them when I was 7. I make absolutely no apologies for this preference, although I took some ribbing about it from Dave and John while I was at the Journal.
Both New Yorkers, they were pro-punk, pro-alternative, very, very anti-prog rock. To them, ELP was the embodiment of pretentious art crap rock. Maybe, but so what? I embraced that mockery. In fact, when ELP released a two-disc retrospective called The Atlantic Years in 1992, I made a tape of the choicest bits and called it “Pomp & Pretension” with two critics specifically in mind.
(By the way, The Atlantic Years apparently is so out of print that Wikipedia, which typically is reliable—seriously—as far as its rock-release information goes, doesn’t make any mention of it. I just looked, for fun, and it takes you seven pages on Amazon before you find it. Heck, the rightly derided Love Beach comes up sooner than that.)
Up until that retrospective, I hadn’t listened to a lot of ELP lately, because, well, there wasn’t much to listen to: I had bought everything I had wanted by 1983. I upgraded Trilogy and Welcome Back My Friends … to CD, and there wasn’t really anything else. ELP had been dead for some 14 years at this point. But the retrospective had just enough different material on it, that I added that to the collection.
But I needed some preparation material, because I was going to be seeing ELP that summer. I couldn’t believe it when I heard they were back together. Seeing them live would be the realization of a dream that I had had while at college. At the peak of my ELP love, I dreamed that they were reuniting and touring. I couldn’t wait, but when I went, it was like seeing Spinal Tap only worse. (And this was while This Is Spinal Tap was mere words on sheets of Rob Reiner’s paper.)
They were in, like, a high-school gym; I was in the front row, and I didn’t care. They came out and went into some blistering bombastic song … for about five seconds and stopped cold because something was wrong with the monitors or who knows what. All of a sudden, the show broke up and no one had any idea what happened or why. It was like, something went wrong, and the band and crew through a hissy fit of Axl Rosian proportions. The dream was a nightmare.
But now ELP were reuniting for real: the tickets said so. It would be held at a small outdoor venue in Cleveland called The Nautica. Scott and I would be on the ground, about 15 rows from the stage. (This was in the midst of Scott’s glorious ticket-obtaining run.) I couldn’t wait.
I just hoped that the equipment held up this time.