Legendary ELP, Asia, Atomic Rooster, and Crazy World of Arthur Brown drummer Carl Palmer and his band made their way across the US for a short tour this summer, and stopped at New York City's BB Kings for a stunning trio set of instrumental progressive rock and fusion. Covering Palmer originals, classical, and ELP songs, the trio of Palmer, guitar prodigy Paul Bielatowicz, and bassist Stuart Clayton, blazed through an energetic and sometimes pretty aggressive two hours of music to the delight of the New York fans. Sea of Tranquility's Pete Pardo and Ken Pierce were on hand and bring this concert report!
Pete Pardo-The BB King Blues Club was packed to the gills this night with dedicated prog fans who have obviously been following Carl Palmer throughout his long and illustrious career. Probably close to 700 or so fans made their way to the show (and honestly, they could have fit more had the venue decided to put less tables out) and were treated to many ELP classics in a stunning two hour set. Palmer's band featured the virtuoso guitar talents of a very young Paul Bielatowicz, whose two hand tapping technique recalled a hard rock version of jazz great Stanley Jordan, and bassist Stuart Clayton held down a solid groove and also contributed many acrobatic lead bass lines. Carl proved to be a very entertaining character, coming out from behind the kit after each song and telling stories plus the occasional joke to the delight of the audience. However, his drum work of course took center stage, as he led the band through hard rock & fusion like versions of songs that are featured on his two solo live releases Working Live Volumes 1 & 2.
The Carl Palmer Band
Tunes such as "Trilogy", "Hoedown", "Barbarian", parts of "Tarkus", "Fanfare for the Common Man", "Tocatta", 'Tank" and a few other classics were given royal treatment, and it was really interesting to hear these songs without keyboards. Paul's guitar work was crisp and powerful, with his Stanley Jordan meets Steve Vai style running rampant, replacing Keith Emerson's keyboard parts at every angle. Palmer originals like "LA Nights" and "Carmina Burana", which have a very heavy fusion vibe to them, really rocked hard with the band grooving on full throttle. They even threw in a fun version of the "Peter Gunn" theme for good measure. Solos from all three players were simply amazing, but before you knew it the band was saying their goodbyes ending a surprisingly rocking and loud set of classically insprired instrumental prog rock music by a legend of the genre. With Keith Emerson and his band making their way through town as well shortly after, the New York and much of the US has been treated to a lot of ELP classics lately, which is a pretty good thing in my opinion.
Ken Pierce- If you grew up in the Seventies and followed Progressive Rock music then you certainly would have been aware of the band Emerson, Lake & Palmer. For years they tested the limits of how Prog-Rock could be delivered and are held as legends in the genre for their accomplishments. Keith Emerson was super-human on his synthesizers while Greg Lake sang and played bass, the three-piece puzzle was complimented by the one and only Carl Palmer who was nothing short of a drumming genius. The mere mention of his name causes most percussionists to bow their heads and mumble utterances as to their lack of worthiness – all of it well-deserved. Like most bands, people move on and ELP has not been around for about 10 years - allowing the individuals who made up the group to explore their own artistic direction and continue on the musical path. Tonight at B.B. King Blues Club, the legendary drummer Carl Palmer would be bringing a set of music to a sold-out room. Walking in we found tables for this one, and it was a shame since I know many people who were not able to get tickets for this. Seeing a drummer such as Carl perform in such an intimate venue is not something one would expect to do sitting down, so I snared a spot on the side and began to enjoy myself. The band would simply be Carl Palmer on drums and commentary, Stuart Clayton on bass and Paul Bielatowicz handling the guitar duties. Right off the bat I knew this would be interesting, as there is no keyboard player in the touring band. With so much of this in ELP music it would have to be piped in on tapes or performed somehow by the guitar player. The latter would be the case and the audience would find themselves treated to an amazing player on the axe with an almost Alan Holdsworth/Steve Vai level of skill. Song after song, he translated the Keith Emerson keyboard runs into guitar parts and the biggest surprise of all – he is 16 years old. Yes, Carl Palmer's guitarist was the age of some of the kids who attended the show with their parents tonight and this kid was incredible to say the least. Despite the young man's talent, everyone was there to see Carl, and he would be both drummer and emcee this evening. Sitting behind his blue vistalite Ludwig's Carl would show everyone in attendance the level of play he is capable of and it is nothing short of astounding. Oddly enough it would be a much smaller kit than he ever used with both ELP and Asia, yet it worked on all levels for the set he would play with the band tonight.
All of the material would be intrumentals and as you can see by the set list included a number of compositions from the ELP catalog. Palmer would stop playing in order to come up front stage to the microphone where he would tell stories from his career along with a joke or two about the scenario before jumping back to the kit to play. Among the interesting and more amusing tales was the instance where Palmer described the band looking like the BeeGee's for their recording of "Love Beach" and looking like an L.A. Pimp while living in the area during the late seventies with his Cadillac, gold chains, white shoes and other attire that fit the lifestyle. The audience clearly was enjoying his congenial and fun nature and the stories just added to the overall appeal of the evening. Towards the end of the set (which ran just about 110 minutes) they rocked with "Fanfare For The Common Man" and were led into a blistering drum solo as only Carl could deliver. The closer would be rocking rendition of "Carmina Burana", which I actually did not enjoy all that much since I am so used to that being an orchestral number often seen with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It was a really interesting show to attend and I think everyone in the place left satisfied. Carl is a terrific drummer and showman who I recommend Progressive and Rock fans in general make sure to attend when he returns.
Peter Gunn Theme
Enemy God Dances With the Black Spirits
Paul & Stu solo(w/ Flight of the Bumble Bee)
Romeo & Juliet
Fanfare For The Common Man
Carl's drum solo – encore
Carmina Burana - encore