By John Curley
Carl Palmer’s long and storied career includes stints in The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Atomic Rooster, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Asia. Now, at age 69, Palmer leads ELP Legacy, which performs songs from Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s catalog. ELP Legacy’s current tour, dubbed “EMERSON LAKE & PALMER LIVES ON!,” arrived at The Iridium in New York City's Times Square on Tuesday, November 19th for the first of two performances on consecutive nights.
Palmer’s drum setup features double bass drums and a pair of gongs, which were not just for show, behind him. Accompanying Palmer on this tour are guitarist/vocalist Paul Bielatowicz and bassist Simon Fitzpatrick. Bielatowicz and Fitzpatrick proved their mettle from the start of the show with their performances during the Emerson, Lake & Palmer song “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 2.” It was an outstanding way to open the performance as the three members of the band each had a spotlight moment during the song. And Palmer, despite being a few months away from his 70th birthday, has lost nothing off of his fastball. He plays with the ferocity and fire of a drummer four decades his junior. His performance throughout the show was jaw dropping. It was quite a treat to see a talent like Palmer perform in the intimate setting of The Iridium.
A cover of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Tocata and Fugue in D Minor” was up next. The instrumental had the trio firing on all cylinders. The crowd loved it. After the song, Palmer got up from his kit, walked to a microphone set up at center stage and introduced Bielatowicz and Fitzpatrick and then discussed the next song, which was Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s “Knife-Edge.” The band delivered a heavy-duty, scintillating performance of the song that was quite a crowd pleaser. Palmer then went to center stage once again to introduce Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s “Trilogy.” The performance of the song started out soft, with some guitar noodling by Bielatowicz and then exploded into a heavy rocker. The band delivered a terrific take on the song that was highlighted by Palmer’s fiery drum work.
Palmer and Bielatowicz left the stage to Fitzpatrick for his bass solo spotlight, which he performed on a ten-string bass. It was excellent and got a big hand from the audience. Once the full band was back onstage, Palmer introduced Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s “Lucky Man” by talking about how Greg Lake had written the magnificent song at a very young age. During the performance of “Lucky Man,” Fitzpatrick played Keith Emerson’s keyboard part on his bass. It was quite impressive and received a big cheer from the crowd.
Palmer told the crowd that a cover of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” was the first song that Emerson, Lake & Palmer ever played. And he joked that Lake had an advantage, since he had been a member of King Crimson prior to joining ELP while Emerson and himself were tasked with learning what was a fairly difficult song. The incendiary performance of the song that followed was spellbinding.
Palmer and Fitzpatrick then left the stage to Bielatowicz for his guitar solo. Bielatowicz told that the crowd that he was going to play some Beethoven and proceeded to show considerable chops. He is quite a demonstrative musician, and the crowd gave his solo a nice hand.
The show entered the home stretch with the long and fantastic performance of Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s “Tarkus.” Palmer’s drumming during the song was exemplary. It was a great band effort. And Palmer’s percussive artistry continued on Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana / Rondo.” The veteran drummer put on a virtual clinic during the song. I first saw Palmer perform at a 1983 Asia concert, and it is quite clear that he remains every bit the talent that he was back then.
The show concluded with a pair of Aaron Copland covers, “Hoedown” and “Fanfare For The Common Man.” The performance of “Hoedown” was both jaunty and ferocious. It received quite a reaction from the crowd. “Fanfare For The Common Man” featured a blistering, extended drum solo by Palmer in the middle of the song that had the crowd roaring. Palmer made use of everything at his disposal during the solo, including the pair of gongs behind him. The loud cheering of the crowd continued as the band took their bows and exited the stage.
Throughout the performance, a screen at the side of the stage featured video projection of images from Palmer’s art collection. The video was put together by California’s Scene Four Art Studios.
Palmer’s tour concludes with shows in State College, PA on Friday, November 22nd and Plymouth, NH on Saturday, November 23rd. Additional information about Palmer, including tour dates, can be found at https://www.carlpalmer.com/.
The setlist was as follows:
Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 2 (Emerson, Lake & Palmer cover)
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Johan Sebastian Bach cover)
Knife-Edge (Emerson, Lake & Palmer cover)
Trilogy (Emerson, Lake & Palmer cover)
Lucky Man (Emerson, Lake & Palmer cover)
21st Century Schizoid Man (King Crimson cover)
Tarkus (Emerson, Lake & Palmer cover)
Carmina Burana / Rondo (Carl Orff cover)
Hoedown (Aaron Copland cover)
Fanfare For The Common Man (Aaron Copland cover)