ELP’s Carl Palmer Captures Band at Full Power on Tour
WARREN, Ohio – Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s 1992 reunion concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall was a momentous event, and the band spared no expense in capturing it for posterity.
The show was filmed with a five-camera setup with the audio recorded separately. The ensuing DVD floundered, however, because the band’s record label was sold a few weeks after its release.
“It sold 12,000 copies and then got lost in the wash,” said Carl Palmer, drummer for the 1970s prog-rock supergroup, in a call from his London home.
After languishing for three decades, that video footage and audio recording is getting new life.
Palmer and his team used it as the foundation of a concert tour that includes a stop at Robins Theatre in Warren on July 21. Tickets range from $40 to $154; click HERE.
Palmer is the only surviving member of ELP; singer-guitarist Greg Lake and keyboardist Keith Emerson both died in 2016.
To mark the band’s 50th anniversary and pay homage to the two late members, Palmer put together the show – “Welcome Back: The Return of Emerson, Lake and Palmer” – using video footage and audio for Lake and Emerson from that 1992 concert.
For a segment of the show, Palmer plays live along with his two late bandmates on 12-foot-by-8-foot screens on either side of the stage.
It’s a seven-song segment of the show that also includes a bassist and guitarist. Palmer and his accompanists then perform select ELP cuts live for the remainder of the set.
Finding the video and audio tapes from the 1992 concert were a revelation for Palmer, who at first considered using holograms of Emerson and Lake for the tour. But he was put off by the limitations and gimmickry of holograms, and scrapped the idea.
“When I decided that I didn’t want to use holograms, because it was too much fakery, dishonest, I thought that if I could find footage of when we were at the top of our game, that would be great,” Palmer said.
The Royal Albert Hall tapes were perfect. They not only showed his bandmates in their prime, but their audio tracks were recorded separately and could be remixed.
Still, altering and excerpting the tapes for use in the tour was time consuming.
“It took me nine to 11 weeks to get it right,” Palmer said. “I had to take myself out of the audio and the visuals, remix the remaining camera work, and present it in such a way that I could perform with it in situ.”
A third giant screen on the stage is trained on Palmer, performing live with the edited footage of his late bandmates.
The tour has the blessing of the estates of Emerson and Lake, which are also financially involved, Palmer said. Among the group numbers is a piano solo by Emerson and a bass solo by Lake.
The show first hit the road for a mini-tour of the United States that was met with approval by old and new fans of ELP.
“We took it out last year for 10 shows, had a great time and got good testimonials,” Palmer said. “They were bowled over.”
The upcoming July tour will hit 10 more U.S. markets. “Then we’re going to take it around the world,” Palmer said.
The show has a quality that simply would not be present if he had used holograms for Emerson and Lake.
“The kind of quality of a five-camera shoot and separate audio is not something that all artists have,” Palmer said with a healthy dose of understatement. “I’m lucky to have it.”
He attended a Frank Zappa hologram concert, and it helped convince him that that was not the way to go.
“I was disappointed,” Palmer said. “I’m a Zappa fan, but I didn’t think it was honest. The hologram looked great, but it’s not better than seeing actual people. What our show has is Keith and Greg at their very best. “It has a different sentiment, an emotional quality. There are different camera angles and aerial shots.”
Creating a hologram performance requires the use of an actor who is filmed. The character he is portraying is then superimposed on the actor.
“If you’re not looking at it straight on, it looks kind of shallow,” Palmer said.
Palmer, 73, recently underwent a medical procedure called an ablation to correct heart defibrillation. He said he is healed and fully able to play drums as he did in his ELP days.
In its heyday, ELP was among an elite group of progressive rock artists who rose to superstardom level. The list includes the likes of Yes and Pink Floyd.
Like those bands, ELP was known for its lyrical themes.
The band’s 1973 masterpiece “Brain Salad Surgery” dabbles in ominous science fiction – specifically, a world in which man becomes physically subservient to computers.
In recent weeks, the growing embrace of artificial intelligence was brought to the attention of Congress, presented as an existential threat that requires governmental oversight.
Palmer is fully aware of how the scary scenario of “Brain Salad Surgery” appears to be on the verge of coming true.
“We were always thinking in front,” he said. And once again, Palmer intends to stay in that position.
“It’s quite possible that a film could come of the artificial intelligence situation and ‘Brain Salad Surgery,’” he said.
He is in the “embryonic” stages of getting a script written with that theme. The film would use “Brain Salad Surgery” music as the soundtrack.
“‘Brain Salad Surgery’ was way ahead of its time because it said that machines could take over,” he said. “To make this [film] project stand out as elite will take time. If the script is right, the music will support it with the lyrics directing [the plot].”
Palmer said there is unreleased ELP music that could also be used in the project.
Pictured at top: The stage setup for the “Welcome Back” tour includes video screens on either side of the stage that show the late Keith Emerson and Greg Lake performing.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.