Welcome Back My Friends: The Return of Emerson, Lake and Palmer
50th Anniversary Tour
Penn’s Peak, Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
November 20, 2022
Concert Review By Bob Turri
Having never seen Emerson, Lake and Palmer during their peak of popularity in the 70s, I jumped at an opportunity to see Carl Palmer billed with Emerson and Lake holographically on a special tour. Carl Palmer is one of the greatest rock drummers still playing today. At 72 years of age my mouth dropped for most of the concert watching his polyrhythmic attacks take place. The show I witnessed was at Penn’s Peak, a really nice venue in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. For those of you who have never been there or maybe never been to PA, Jim Thorpe is a mountainous northeast Pennsylvania town, known today for numerous shops and tourists from New York and elsewhere coming to enjoy a small-town vibe in an idyllic setting. There are nature trails and mountains everywhere. The town has an extensive history like a lot of northeastern Pennsylvania towns but now mostly relies on the tourist trade and small business owners.
Penn’s Peak, the concert venue, sits high on a mountaintop, hence its name, and has an interior wooden structure that reminds one of being in huge log cabin. The show was scheduled for 8 pm and looking around the crowd was mostly male, not surprising, but a fair number of women were in attendance as well, hopefully not against their will. The show started pretty much on time, with some interesting and funny video clips of the Simpsons, Cheers, and one other. A little humor is a good thing.
The images of Keith Emerson and Greg Lake were projected onto the screens, not holographically, but real video images, and “ELP” broke into their first song. The guitarist and bass player in Carl Palmer’s band also joined the stage and the night began. Carl Palmer played the MC as well as in my estimation one of rock’s all-time great drummers, and they played a handful of ELP songs, some quirky some consistently challenging, such as a rousing rendition of “Tarkus” for most of the evening.
Early on Carl explained as he left the drum throne after every song to address the audience, that the idea of representing Keith Emerson and Greg Lake holographically really didn’t work and instead they had decided to use live concert footage of the two performers from a Royal Albert Hall concert performance. You could tell as he reiterated a few times that this tour was very near to his heart, and he was able to evoke the memory of his bandmates in a touching way. One couldn’t help feeling at various times during the show though a feeling of being frozen in time with only one third of these three musical giants still with us.
My original interest in ELP was developed listening to the Pictures at an Exhibition album about a thousand times during my high school days. I was struck by Keith Emerson’s excellent arrangement of the Mussorgsky classic, which more than likely having never have heard the original, I was spellbound. The band didn’t play anything from that album. I was expecting this, but the rendition of “Tarkus” was stunning. Palmer’s drumming was frenetic but controlled, and he never broke a sweat! Not sure how he does it, but it might have something to do with his English blood. The two musicians who accompanied him were also excellent, and each got a chance to step out and play a solo tune on their own.
Simon Fitzpatrick was on bass and the Chapman stick. I had never seen anyone play the Chapman stick before, and I didn’t realize the range of tones and beautiful sounds that could come out of it. He played “Take a Pebble,” and it was majestic. The guitar player and vocalist, Paul Bielatowicz, also shined, and he also contributed an Emerson Lake and Palmer song on solo guitar. He displayed a very cool smile for most of the show which made you realize how much fun these guys were having. The bass player also had a unique style and some of his facial expressions were hilarious.
When it came down to it, the interplay between live onstage Carl Palmer and via video Keith Emerson and Greg Lake was uncanny, leaving you wondering what was this like when the three of them played together. Palmer had his moment to shine with a very interesting drum solo that utilized his entire kit, different shapes and sizes of cymbals and even at one point played his sticks, which I had never seen before! All in all, it was a master class on drums. No dry ice, no smoke, very little or no smell of pot anywhere, an incredible night for all.