Prior to the release of his latest album “Keith Emerson Band feat. Marc Bonilla” Emerson toured in Eastern Europe in 2008 with Tony Pia on drums, Travis Davis on bass and backing vocals and Marc Bonilla on guitar and vocals. Finally a recording of his concert at the Moscow Theatre is available on DVD and double CD.
As usual the concert begins with the synthesizer bleeps of the 1973 ELP classic ‘Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression Pt. 2)’ with the famous opening line “Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends”. The predictable yet still good opener is followed by a surprise: the ‘3rd Movement’ of Emerson’s ‘Piano Concerto’. Originally an orchestral piece it has been transformed into a powerful piano- and guitar-driven rock track with a great jam in the middle part. There Bonilla even plays some lines from Dick Dale’s ‘Mirsilou’, the famous opening theme of the film Pulp Fiction. After the fast and yet again piano-driven ELP song ‘Bitches Crystal’ finally the band plays a new track from the recent album, ‘Malambo’, and guess what? The piano is once more the central instrument. Nevertheless the solos of this track are wonderful just like the band’s tight playing.
A rather unusual song is following with a long intro: Emerson, Lake & Powell’s ‘Touch And Go’, going all the way back to the 80’s with surprisingly uncheesy synthesizer sounds, followed by the classic ‘Lucky Man’. This one is played in a totally reworked version with a length of almost ten minutes, due to Emerson’s very long synthesizer solo at the end. This new rendition is fantastic and in my opinion the best version of that song to date! After this classic a sequence of new tracks is played. While even on the studio album both parts of ‘Miles Away’, ‘Crusaders Cross’ and ‘Fugue’ actually are one song, ‘Marche Train’ and ‘Finale’ are connected here. All these new songs are working very well on stage with ‘Finale’ now having the right drive I was missing on the studio album.
Continuing with ‘The Barbarian’, the band finally gives this song the heaviness it deserves since being first heard on ELP’s 1970 debut album, thanks to the powerful sound of the band. Especially Tony Pia’s drumming on this one is great. But the band tops this with the epic ‘Tarkus’, being a 36 minute long and stunning tour de force all the way through. The final song is ‘Nutrocker Suite’, a very nice rock’n’roll adaption of Tchaikovsky themes.
With this live album Keith Emerson and his great band deliver a really powerful and tight show that keeps getting better and better with every song. The only downside is that three songs of the original concert have been omitted but the featured songs are stunning all the way through.