As the last man standing (or should that be sitting) and fittingly final letter in Prog Supergroup ELP, Carl Palmer is preserving the legacy of this much-loved band by fronting his own trio’s choicest, cherry-picked selection of ELP classics.
Belying his 68 years of age, Palmer’s strong physical exhibition of percussive prowess is worthy of a Hercules with sticks. Linking the show together, he is also an entertaining storyteller who reels off anecdotes between songs with a self-deprecating humour.
The rattle-tattle of snare drum paradiddle on Abaddon’s Bolero opened a set that revealed a masterclass of musicianship by all three onstage players. Astounding guitarist Paul Bielatowicz and remarkable exponent of the Chapman Stick and six string bass Simon Fitzpatrick, both re-imagined Keith Emerson’s keyboard parts to miraculous effect.
But it was Palmer, whose drum kit took up most of the centre stage, who put on an up close and personal performance of percussive techniques that held tonight’s healthy turn out in the palms of both of his hands.
Of note, his dynamic display of cymbal rattling and drum rim tapping on encore Nutrocker, complete with his twin gong bashing finale, popped both the eyes and ears of his dedicated audience and was almost worth the price of admission alone.
However, nobody could put a price on what preceded during this evening’s extraordinary set.
Bielatowicz elegant, jazz-infused finger tapping approach breathed new life into the non-vocal instrumental re-make of this canon of songs. His animated and engaging facial expressions revealed a talented player at ease with his abilities as he and Simon Fitzpatrick’s extraordinary Chapman Stick skills blended together with sonic majesty. This is very difficult music to play made to look easy.
Tank exploded through the clear and pristine sound system to adjust the room’s ears to the melange of musical sounds to come. The drum clinic pounding deftness on Tarkus was a wonderment of stick smith exhibitionism par excellence.
Lucky Man soothed the by now supercharged senses of an overwhelmed and appreciative audience.
But it was the siren call intro to Fanfare Of The Common Man that had the definitive final word as the band exited the stage to a joyous wave of appreciative noise.
In the end, though, It was the concussion of percussion that ultimately delivered a masterly knock-out performance.
Words: Paul Davies Photos: Eric Duvet