EmersonLakeMarquee

…guaranteed to blow your head apart…rest assured you’ll get your money’s worth…

Last night’s Lakewood, Ohio concert by Keith Emerson and Greg Lake was the stuff of dreams.  I should know, for as a longtime fan of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the prog-rock trio has literally appeared in my somnambulistic scenarios no less than three times.  In one ridiculous dream from years ago, they arrived at my house for the purpose of playing a game of Scrabble on my deluxe, $500, Franklin Mint Collector’s Edition board.  In another, I sat on a gym floor and watched them perform to hardly anyone from mere feet away.  More recently, I dreamt that I stumbled across ELP playing an outdoor set in a park, and I simply ambled up to the front of the stage.  I suppose hours and hours of listening to Brain Salad Surgery and Tarkus will do that to the sleeping mind.

So when I heard that two-thirds of my favorite band were due to appear in a high school auditorium near Cleveland to kick off an unprecedented series of intimate, semi-unplugged shows, I was intrigued.  It sounded like something I would dream.  I checked the date and was surprised to find that it coincided with the very beginning of my Spring Break;  I could conceivably head up north after school and catch the show.  Then, when I got in on a fan club presale and purchased a single ticket, I was definitely excited.  I would be sitting in the middle of the first row.  Like my actual ELP dreams, this reality was strange, wonderful, and maybe too good to be true.

Yesterday’s weather was unseasonably warm, and I sped up I-71 under a vibrant, blue sky.  It was a wonderful feeling knowing that I had a good break ahead of me, and what a way to start it.  The sun was still bright as I pulled into the small parking lot of Lakewood High School.  Doors would open soon at 6:30, with the show to follow an hour later.  I was delighted by the unconventional venue, and once again the situation seemed too good to be true.  But there I was, my journey complete, ticket in hand.

A few dozen people had gathered by 6:30, a mostly older crowd with a few ELP t-shirts stretched across the ample abdomens of aging boomers.  The presence of security personnel seemed almost laughable considering the mellow group that waited out front.  If it weren’t an Emerson and Lake show, it might have been Grandparent’s Night at the high school.  It was not surprising, then, that everyone took it in stride when the opening of the doors was delayed by fifteen minutes due to an unfinished soundcheck, nor did anyone seem too perturbed when a second fifteen-minute delay was announced.  After all, it was a beautiful evening outside.  What’s more, the head security guy told us that we would be permitted to bring in cameras if we promised to not use a flash.

At last we were allowed to enter, and I stopped by the swag table on my way to the auditorium.  Among the offerings were t-shirts and coffee mugs emblazoned with the curious phrase, Manticore Hall.  I was contemplating the meaning of this as I passed through the doors and headed toward the stage, whereupon I was stunned to discover the very opposite of what the words acoustic and unplugged might suggest.  I was expecting nothing more than a grand piano and a stool against a black backdrop.  But there at stage right was Keith Emerson’s five-keyboard rig, anchored at the rear by the legendary modular Moog in all its patch-cord glory.  Stage left was adorned with an electric bass guitar, and in the wings the necks of five more guitars peeked above their storage unit.  I had not brought earplugs, expecting not to need them, but it looked like things might get loud, indeed.

I took my seat in the center of the front row, separated from the stage by three rows of portable chairs that formed the orchestra pit, populated by those who were willing to drop $90 for the privilege, and some who ponied up $250 for the added perk of attending an after-show meet-and-greet.  As I relaxed in the smug comfort of my $45 seat, I marveled at the backdrop that dominated the stage.  It resembled a stone wall, with a pair of red-curtained, Gothic doorway arches at either end.  Perhaps this was Manticore Hall?  Most remarkable was a bay window that protruded from the center to reveal what appeared to be either a broadcasting booth or a recording studio within.  This interior space featured a pair of bubbling lava lamps atop – what? – a mixing console?  A grand piano?

The unexpected set and gear coupled with the fact that this was the very first night of a tour unlike any previous ELP-related efforts had the audience in a giddy state of high anticipation.  When you’ve been a fan of anyone for a good length of time, there are inevitably performance elements that become routinely predictable.  But this was wonderfully perplexing.  What would they play without Carl Palmer?  What would the arrangements sound like?  Why all the keyboards?  What’s with the keyboard at center stage?  What on earth is behind that window?  I had no idea what was going to happen, and I loved it.

As it happened, we all had plenty of time to think about it.  7:30 came and went, not unusual for a rock concert, but the audience was primed for action.  Occasional outbreaks of whistling, yelling and clapping underscored their enthusiasm.  Roadies made last-minute adjustments, tuning Emerson’s modular Moog and setting out a bottle of water for Lake.  A mist of dry ice wafted under the lighting rig.  One impatient soul in the pit barked, “Emerson!  Lake!  Where are you guys?!”

Shortly after 8:00, with the house lights still up, a pair of women walked onto the stage and stood in front of Emerson’s rig.  The younger one held a microphone, and the older one watched her gravely.  “Due to circumstances beyond the control of Lakewood Civic Auditorium, the artists, and Live Nation, tonight’s performance has been canceled,” the young woman announced sheepishly.  It being April 1st, her further words were interrupted by catcalls of “April Fool!”  She advised the audience to retain their tickets and made a clarification for the confused before leaving the stage.  “It’s no joke.  It’s not going to happen.”  Any further doubt was removed by the roadies who immediately began to strike the set.

Already dreamlike, the evening became surreal as stunned concertgoers stood up and aimlessly walked about.  Many congregated at the front of the stage, snapping pictures as the equipment was getting torn down.  One roadie shrugged his shoulders as fans asked for answers and obligingly took their cell phones to take souvenir close-ups of the modular Moog.  I asked a friendly security guard if he had heard the sound check, and he nodded.  “It didn’t sound like much of a sound check, more like they were getting things sorted out.  It kinda seemed like they were still trying to put the show together.”

Ah, too good to be true.  There was something nagging at me from the moment I bought my ticket that it just wouldn’t happen, or somehow I wouldn’t be able to be there.  Even as we waited for the doors to open, I wondered if the “unfinished soundcheck” excuse was valid.  Once we were in our seats for forty-five minutes and the dry ice started flowing, though, I thought the dream was finally at hand.

I hesitate to speculate, but as we were given no explanation, what else can a fan do?  Some wondered if the infamous acrimony between the yin and yang of ELP had reared its ugly head again.  Others thought that perhaps it was due to Emerson’s recurring carpal tunnel problems, which forced him to cancel a solo tour last summer.  Would the concert be rescheduled?  Would the rest of the tour go on as planned?  Will the one-off ELP reunion in London really happen this July?  Time will tell.

I try not to take for granted that anything I’m eagerly anticipating will actually happen.  In this case, the habit served me well.  Sure, I was very disappointed.  But as I walked out into the warm April night, I thought about the collateral advantages.  I would be home a few hours earlier than I’d thought.  Oh, and my ears felt great.

EmersonLakeStage

Disappointed fans gather before the enticing – yet unused – stage.

23 thoughts on “Come Inside, The Show’s About To Start…

  1. A real shame if they are having personal problems again. Im from London and have tickets for the reunion show…..Come on guys sort it out for us long term fans

  2. We’ve got tickets for tonight’s show in Glenside, PA. I anxiously searched this morning for reviews of last night’s opening concert and landed here. Makes me wonder with a different sense of anticipation about what tonight will (or will not) hold! Thanks for taking the time to post this.

  3. Robert…thanks for sharing your observations on the evening. Very well documented. I, too, was at the show, having driven 3 hours from Detroit to attend. As a fellow ELP fan, “from the beginning,” I can say that I shared many of your thoughts, feelings and intrigue about the concert as well. As I was walking out of the auditorium, my initial reaction was that maybe there was a breach of contract somewhere that pissed E and L off and they refused to perform. Nonetheless, I decided to drive home, instead of staying in the Cleveland area overnight. Thoughts of what went wrong weighed heavily on my mind as I drove. I couldn’t help but speculate whether E and L had a disagreement about song selection or something similar. The comment you heard from the security guard about the sound check makes me wonder how much pre-tour rehearsal took place? I can’t recall seeing/hearing any reports from E and L on facebook or their web sites about the progress of rehearsals. On every ELP tour, they were very well rehearsed, so this kind of scenario would be extremely surprising. Hopefully, there’ll be an official statement from someone in the ELP camp soon.

  4. Wow. Thanks for the link, Steve. I sure hope there’s more to the story than this, because if not, fans can be justifiably angry.

  5. Wow Bob, you’re getting quite the following. I will always remember the show you, John G. and I went to at Riverbend in Cincy. Especially the Yngwie Malmsteen fans that were very disappointed to see a very unlucky comedian open up instead of Yngwie. The concert that did follow was one of the best I’ve even been to.

  6. Very good blog, but way too kind. I , too, left baffled with my son who was hoping to meet or at least see the man who inspired him to play the keyboards. Today I find out that they were fighting and showed no professional class at all by going on with the show. It was sad to see 1700 fans get up from their seats and walk away stunned and disappointed. These guys don’t deserve to have any devoted fans after last night. Emerson and Lake should be ashamed of their behavior and simply call it quits. My band performs no matter what and we’ve yet to be paid for any gig. These two guys are two more overpaid, ego-inflated rock stars who have no sense of the real world that the fans live in. I stopped going to see Bob Dylan because he didn’t mind showing how bored he was during concerts. From now on, I’ll pay to see someone who doesn’t mind giving me a show. You can have these two birds.

  7. badmouthing keith and greg,when the true reason hasn’t been revealed, consider the fact that the tour has been announced to continue-(which to me suggests something perhaps peculiar,something unsuspected, or gulp clandestine—-on a specific
    night,when the reason comes out…and if they resume the tour. I think you may end up feling quite silly.come on were talking E&L if you’r really a fan..hold on to you britches…..whatever the reason the music is still uncannily fantastic and unique. shame on you.

  8. I traveled from Baltimore to Glenside PA for the show that was cancelled last minute, the day after the Cleveland ordeal. We got to town early to get dinner before the shoe and found out in the tavern that the show had indeed been cancelled. No notification was sent out other than an e-mail at reportedly 3PM. At 5:45 the e-mail had not yet hit my inbox and by 3 we had already set out on the journey. We had attempted to get tickets for the Annapolis show but they had sold out already being a really small venue. When we went to the Keswick they management had said that they had not been officially notified until 3PM also. They also said that equipment started showing up that was then quickly retrieved. What a mess.

  9. UPDATE – The following was released by Keith Emerson via his newsletter on 4/4:

    LETTER FROM THE FRONT

    I must apologize for the very last-minute cancellation of the show in Lakewood, and also of Glenside and Ridgefield shows, and for my absence of an issuance of any sort of statement.

    The production we had hoped to put on was lacking in its musical and technical preparations. I was too distraught and embarrassed to come on stage to perform or even to announce the sudden cancellation myself, and to issue a statement immediately. What we were embarking upon was completely new ventures for both of us. I could not appear in front of an audience with high-expectations so unprepared. At that particular time, the quality of music I wished to present was more important to me than my reputation or financial gain. I now realize fully that the decision had a devastating effect on many including fans, my crew, staff, the promoters and the venues.

    I will make every effort to fulfill our commitments to fans and friends at the re-scheduled dates in May for the cancelled shows.

    I realize that I have disappointed my loyal fans. I know that many of you have traveled afar, used your precious vacation days, and spent your hard-earned money just to see the show. I am very sorry not only to those who came to Lakewood and those who bought tickets for Glenside and Ridgefield shows, but also all fans for whom I have deep respect.

    I hope you can accept us delivering good shows, starting on Monday, April 5 in Annapolis, as a form of sincere apology.

    Keith Emerson
    Annapolis, 3 April 2010

  10. UPDATE: And then Greg Lake said this on his website:

    To all my friends and fans: It is with great sadness that we were forced to cancel our shows in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

    I am pleased Keith has admitted the reasons behind the cancellation, and I trust we can leave it at that.

    The performance was ready; many of you heard or saw the sound check. Keith and I are both perfectionists.

    You will see that Keith has released a statement on his site explaining he felt the need to cancel because of his worry that he couldn’t perform up to standard. Keith is not the first performer to have experienced stage fright, and my heart goes out to him.

    This has been a difficult time and we are now moving forward with a show we both believe is technically and musically wonderful. The crew and performers rehearsed non stop through February and March. I have dedicated my life to trying to make you happy through my music and nothing saddens me more than to see that you have been disappointed by anything I was involved in. Please accept that these cancellations were entirely beyond my control and know that I am doing everything possible to ensure that these shows are rescheduled as soon as possible.

    I am looking forward to seeing each of you again. I take my fans, music, and personal and professional reputation very seriously.

    Thank you for all your kindness and support.

    Greg Lake

    ——————————
    And then came this from the Keith Emerson camp, added as an introduction to his previous statement:

    While this site is managed by Keith’s assistants, but the statement below is indeed written by Keith himself. And for the record, the reason for the cancellation was NOT stage fright. No matter what you hear from other sources, the band was not ready to perform.

  11. I didn`t want to see them perform the same set, as montreux 1997, `cause it`s bore to me, that they always play the same stuff. For that reason, I sent Greg a setlist including songs from ALL albums (even from love beach). I got an reply, though I don`t know if he answered himself, that he found the setlist very interesting …. must have been to Greg`s taste, `cause I`m an Greg Lake fan and I go for classics, songs and ballads as well and not only for piano-doodling. I know, that Keith Emerson is great and so I don`t know, why he still needs to prove himself again and again. His expectations on him, already didn`t work on the works tour, so I wondered, why Greg wanted to it again. Their musical opinions are so different. Keith goes for HIS kind of art, and Greg goes for art and good songs as well. If they seriously found away to get the different tastes together, I wonder, why they should fall in fights again? Wasn`t everything cleared out? What does that mean for the rest of the tour and especially for the E.L.&P. gig in the UK?

  12. I couldn’t agree more Mycha. These guys are great, they know it but still loose sight of the what the fans want. I am not buying either’s attempt at explanation or apology. I found it lame, unfounded and almost insulting to us! Even in pain there must be gain! Come on guys – get your collective act together – you have nothing to prove to a single one of us – if we didn’t enjoy the music we wouldn’t be concerned.

  13. thanks joe, for your statement, that`s the setlist I talked about:

    1. intro Fanfare for the common man(with announcer: welcome back my …)
    2. Brain salad surgery
    3. Still you turn me on
    4 A time & a place
    5. Take a pebble
    6. Living sin
    7. Knife-edge
    8. The miracle
    9. Stones of years
    10.Better Days
    11. From the Beginnung
    12. Taste of my love
    13. Karn Evil 9 (part of)
    14. Hoedown
    15. Lucky man
    16. The score
    17. Street war
    18. Footprints in the snow
    19. Jerusalem
    20. Pictures at (Part of)

  14. You have to be kidding guys! Go back across the pond and come back when you are sane, lucid, and able to go more than one show without a catastrophe!
    Thank God for Carl !
    06 April 2010

    Rescheduled Birchmere show (Alexandria, VA), April 6th – New Date: May 9th

    Those of you at the Annapolis show may have heard that Greg was performing with laryngitis.

    This has dramatically worsened overnight to the point where he has no voice and after a visit to a specialist today, is under doctor’s orders not to sing again until April 8th, Thursday at the Nokia Theatre in NYC. The doctor’s decision was made at 5.00pm. We had hoped that the doctor would be able to provide a solution that would allow Greg to go on but that was not medically possible.

    We apologise.

    P.S.
    Keith Emerson tried to go to the Birchmere on behalf of Greg and himself to tell fans face to face and meet with those who were patiently waiting and were on their way, but unfortunately there were legal and security issues which prevented him from doing so.

    Naturally both Keith and Greg feel horrible about this turn of events and the Birchmere show has been rescheduled on May 9th.

  15. Mycha – I like your setlist much better…..
    maybe they should include “show me the way to go home”

  16. I saw the NYC show last night at the Nokia Th. They didn’t cancel, but they didn’t go on until 8:50!!!

    Then they shined this infuriating laser light in our direction. People were screaming for them to turn it off. And Lake is talking this whole time. Finally they playing “From The Beginning” and all was forgiven. Great show. They did “Pirates”, “Take A Pebble”. But no “Endless Enigma” or “Still…”, which would’ve been great choices for this “intimate” evening.

    They responded about the earlier cancellations and were sorry. Lake said he coming off laryngitis. Keith likes things to be technically perfect (whatever that means to him). But his wrist problems seem better.

    They had a Q&A. I didn’t get to ask any questions, but if had, I might’ve asked:
    Hey Greg, why did you leave King Crimson?
    Hey Greg, how did Pete Sinfield get to do some of your lyrics?
    Hey guys, will E.L.P. ever get into the R-n-R Hall of Fame?
    Do you mind being called a “progressive rock” group?
    Will progressive rock ever get respect?
    Hey Keith, did you ever listen to Vincent Crane from Atomic Rooster?

    Respond if you wish.

  17. Thanks for the review, Frank, and glad to hear you enjoyed the show. I’m looking forward to the rescheduled Lakewood date on May 5.

    I’d put a twist on one of your questions and ask, “Who will get into the R&RHOF first, ELP or the modular Moog?”

  18. Robert,
    They really promised to make up the canceled dates. Greg kept saying that ELP was never the type of band to cancel shows on whims. I like your question , but forgot to add another one. I’d ask:

    Hey guys, why on earth did you do the sexy pose on the “Love Beach” cover??

    Honestly, it’s the dumbest, lamest, most retarded cover ever! And they knew it. And the sales suffered. And then there wasn’t anything good until Cozy Powell came in.

    FG

  19. Ha, ha – so true about the “Love Beach” cover! As I was born in ’68, I didn’t get into ELP until the early 80’s when I discovered “Pictures at an Exhibition”. Prior to that, I remember coming across LB in the record racks and thinking – based solely on the cover – “THERE’S a record I’d never care to own!” I thought it must contain the sappiest soft rock on the AM dial. The irony is that much later, after acquiring all the essential ELP, I picked up LB and found that I like a great deal of it. “Canario,” “The Gambler,” and “Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman” are all worthy additions to the ELP canon.

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