Keith Emerson & The Nice
15th October 2003
The Opera House, Newcastle, UK

By Bob Mulvey

Second Elpings

First of all I have to admit that I had not intended to write a review of this concert. Why? Well, for several reasons but the first of which was for purely selfish reasons. I decided that I wanted to fully take in the concert and not spend precious time scribbling notes in the dark. Other issues were that, on paper, this was to be a repeat of last years concert, at the same venue and with the same cast. But although much of this was true, the concert itself turned out to be a delight and therefore inspired this (somewhat shorter) review.

What immediately struck home and before the band appeared onto the stage was the somewhat more elaborate stage presentation and extensive lighting rig. I mention this merely as it conjured memories of Keith Emerson's more elaborate and extravagant stage set-ups of the past. That thought lingered with me for the entirety of the evening's performance and added a welcome sense of nostalgia to the concert.

A little after eight Keith Emerson, Lee Jackson and Brian Davison appeared on stage accompanied once again by Dave Kilminster - the "original" four piece line-up rekindled in spirit. America segued with Rondo set the scene for the evening, replete with both worked out and improvised passages from both Emerson and Kilminster. What a difference a year had made, the band seemingly more relaxed and at one with each other, whilst the playing gelled more freely - this was to be another great evening. Nice favourites included Little Arabella, The Cry of Eugene, Country Pie and the Karelia Suite. I was pleased to see Dave Kilminster more embodied into the music as not only is he a wonderful player (although the sound of his guitar was somewhat harsh and a little predominant in the mix) but his understanding of chordal progressions added much to Emerson's passages.

After a short interval we were treated to Keith's solo spot on the Grand piano. Following this and by way of a preamble (whilst the piano was rolled from view), Keith Emerson took the microphone and with his gentle manner recounted his first meeting with Dave Kilminster - at a Carl Palmer concert! As this delightful story ended, Dave played one of his own pieces on acoustic guitar and vocals - shades of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. This in itself formed a fitting introduction to the ELP instalment of the evening's performance.

As with The Nice's set, Dave Kilminster had undertaken a greater role within the music, which one year later I felt gelled much better with Emerson's playing. Particularly exciting during Hoedown as both Emerson and Kilminster traded "licks". The inclusion of Touch and Go was a welcome addition allowing a bit of foot stomping from the audience. However the piece de resistance was Tarkus which flowed so effortlessly and at a tempo that allowed it to be fully absorbed. Pete Reily's drumming was truly awesome here - a wonder to behold. A mute point but there were mixed emotions from my friends as to whether or not the vocal passages would have been better served by being sung, rather than the melodies played on the guitar - a matter of opinion and further debate. No longer do we have the organ wielding or the knives, but it was good to see the Moog ribbon controller again. The evening concluded with both Jackson and Davison re-entering the fold for extended versions of Fanfare for the Common Man and finally Honky Tonk Blues.

I'm glad I made the effort to go and see the band again as this proved to be truly rewarding evening. Not wanting to wish Mssrs Jackson and Davison back into the annals of history, but I couldn't help wanting to hear this band perform more of ELP's other great material. Perhaps another Emerson project for the future?

No setlist I'm afraid, as I did not take pen nor paper. This probably wouldn't have made any difference as even with these aforementioned tools, I still believe that I added an "un-played" track to last years concert - not a note of which was played! None the less another great evening of music and I'm back to the Opera House again on Saturday - but that's another review.

A final mention that there is a triple CD with this line-up recorded at Glasgow last year, entitled Vivacitas. Well worth checking out, altough it does not quite catch the magic of the band. So all we need now is the DVD!!!!


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2003 DPRP