Keith Emerson & Band
21st October 2004
Everett Events Center
Article by Michael Hurst
Photos by Cal Reeks
Before proceeding with this review I must state in fairness to all reading this that Keith Emerson is the singular reason I became a musician some 25 years ago. During my studies at the Royal Conservatory and the 1000's of gigs since, I've followed his career from The Nice through ELP, his subsequent projects in film, and other various band incarnations. Still, even after all my years of tearing apart Bach Fugues, Beethoven Sonatas and Bartok Hungarian Peasant songs, Keith Emerson's compositions- most notably Tarkus, Pirates, and Karn Evil 9 still amaze me. Also, his Piano Concerto, while maybe a few notches below the concertos of say Bartok or Gershwin in form and development, is an astonishingly mature and challenging work from a "pop" musician- vastly underrated and underplayed. Finally, the live version of Hoedown is just so f**king fast!
Having said all that, it is with a reluctant heart that I must say last night's show at the Everett Events Center-while far from being bad or boring, was a show by a musician stuck in his own former glory and either unable (because of his hand surgery) or unwilling to move on. The 45-minute set consisted of chestnut after chestnut, which he has been performing in various configurations, for the last 8 years or so: Hoedown, Bitches Crystal, Tarkus, and Fanfare for the Common Man. The only "new" addition was Living Sin- a lesser-known song from the Trilogy album. Although all the songs were well performed, guitarist David Kilminster seemed to enjoy doubling Keith's melody lines whenever possible- an effect which- while showcasing his considerable guitar talents- became somewhat irritating after a while. He is also quite a decent singer, although for some reason, Stones of Years, and Mass from Tarkus were performed as instrumentals. He did sing Battlefield however, and incorporated the old Greg Lake trick of singing the verse from King Crimson's Epitaph. I believe I heard one hoot of recognition at that point- unlike the subdued but respectful applause, which greeted Mr. Lake on the ELP live album.
The overall sound - while not too muddy - consisted mainly of BASSANDDRUMS with Guitar and some keyboards thrown in-not the most ideal mix for music of such harmonic and dynamic complexity. His Modular Moog Synthesizer (yes, he still carries that monster around) cut through however, and provided some of the best moments in the set - most notably in Tarkus and the end of Fanfare. Also, during Fanfare-, which had been greatly improved with a straight-ahead funky rock beat-, Keith's keyboard parlor tricks were out in full swing. While the stabbing of his Hammond organ with daggers seems to have been mercifully put to rest, he still insists on playing Bach's D Minor fugue while facing the keyboard from the back. I dunno, maybe he never learnt it the right way round. I remember seeing him do that back in '74 although I believe the organ was actually pinning him to the floor at that point. Anyway, it was cool then, it's dumb now.
I do wish Emerson and whatever musical configuration he wishes to work in would leave the Rock Star fold and pursue more intimate venues in which to perform. The idea I hear he toyed with back in the late 70's of doing a piano, bass and drums format would be ideal now. Maybe a bit of Moog Modular Synth thrown in for good measure, but what we really want now are some new works which show the same pushing of musical boundaries he accomplished so magnificently in the 70's and 80's. Keith Emerson is still an incredibly talented and dynamic performer. We wait and hope that soon the same thing can be said about Keith Emerson the composer.
Keith Emerson - Keyboards
Dave Kilminster - Guitar & Vocals
Pete Riley - Drums
Paul Williams - Bass