Emerson, Lake & Palmer Lives On is the title of drummer Carl Palmer’s current tour: He will bring “the show that never ends” to the South Orange Performing Arts Center, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m., and The Iridium in New York, Nov. 19-20 at 8 p.m.
“Everybody has got a band that is the landscape of their sort of being, as it were — one that brings back the time, the memories, the feelings, the place, the moments,” he says. “I have it with certain pieces of music that I hear, so I understand it completely. It’s completely natural. That’s what music is all about — dealing with emotions — and it’s a nice thing to be part of … for such a long time.
“I was part of a movement that was fresh and new. I mean, prog-rock was relatively new in the ’70s and I was at the forefront of that with ELP and if I was to go back a bit farther, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown was at the height of that period, which was the psychedelia period. That was when theatrical sort of approaches to presenting a rock concert, as it were, were being put in place: long before David Bowie or Kiss. So I’ve been part of a few sort of quite big movements in my time, and I’m very proud of that.”
If the live performances and custom-made films aren’t enough to satiate your thirst for some of the best progressive rock music ever made, there’s a look back through the camera lens via the now international release of Pictures at an Exhibition, documenting a June 2016 concert in Miami paying tribute to Palmer’s ELP partner Keith Emerson, who died in March of that year. (Greg Lake died later in 2016.)
Former Genesis member Steve Hackett and Vanilla Fudge co-founder Mark Stein were among those making guest appearances at the show. “There was also a dance group that we used in ‘Pictures at an Exhibition, and we used a local choir to sing on ‘Jerusalem,’ which was always a big favorite of the group,” said Palmer. “There was a CD which had some slightly different material on it, and there was the DVD, which was the exact show that was happening that night.”
So what comes next for one of the world’s most recognizable drummers?
“Next year is the 50th anniversary of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and we’re about to put in place various things involving orchestras and using film of Greg and Keith and me playing with them onstage along with (guitarist) Paul (Bielatowicz) and (bassist) Simon (Fitzpatrick). Possibly holograms as well. The Emerson and Lake families have agreed to use holograms so we might do that. To what extent, I can’t say right now. We are literally experimenting now and looking at what the possibilities are, and there are obviously some rather large companies which have come to the table who I can’t mention just yet, who are very interested in doing it. So we are still under discussion at the moment, but it is definitely moving forward.
“We have some unbelievable archive footage which could be involved in the show once I’ve got the technical side of this sorted out to the point where Keith and Greg could be playing with this band at the same time. With the various click tracks and things that we can put together, we are just about to dive into it now … We could actually incorporate this in a a bigger way to celebrate the 50th anniversary and, obviously, if we get it right we will probably tour it globally as well.”
All the tours Palmer does are different. He says, for instance, that the current tour differs from other recent tours because “there’s some different pieces of music that we are playing, there’s different video footage that we’re using on the back wall, there’s different solos from Simon Fitzpatrick,” he says. “The shows differ all the time because we keep changing the repertoire. We play a lot of ELP original music and we also play a lot of new classical adaptations, so it’s constantly evolving.”
At a venue such as SOPAC, the well-oiled machine of the Emerson, Lake & Palmer Lives On Tour can spread out and bring its full cinematic production to the audience. But when the stage gets smaller, as is the case with the Iridium, how does the band adjust?
“It’s a bit small for us but we decided that we would do it again,” said Palmer. “We had a good time there. We can’t really put on the complete show: We can’t really have the full-length screen there, so the cinematic approach that we use in the concerts, we can’t really fulfill that side of it … But the people are very nice and it’s in the middle of New York City so I suppose it’s in a place where a lot of tourists end up going.”
For more about Palmer, visit carlpalmer.com.
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