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Emerson, Keith & The Nice: Live At Glasgow 2002 Vivacitas

ELP remains in limbo, but each letter's been keeping busy: Keith Emerson is currently on the road with his band, supporting the Scorpions and Tesla; Greg Lake recently performed with Robert Plant and is set to lend his bass skills to The Who's next venture; meanwhile, Carl Palmer has followed up Qango with his new trio, Palmer Qango guitarist Dave Kilminster is now in fact a member of the Keith Emerson Band. K.E. also composed the score to the newest entry in Toho's Godzilla film franchise, Godzilla: Final Wars.

After hopes for another ELP reunion were dashed again several years ago, the next-most-unlikely thing happened: Emerson reunited with his old Nice bandmates, drummer Brian Davison and bassist-vocalist Lee Jackson. A special U.K.-only engagement found The Nice in front of an audience for the first time in over thirty years! However, new live Nice turned out to not be isolated nor incidental, and though American dates never materialized, this multi-disc release from Sanctuary Records called Vivacitas (Latin for "liveliness") presents the Glasgow performance: as per the evening's format, CD1 features The Nice and CD2 contains several of Emo's solopiano pieces and the headlining set by the K.E.B. [CD3 is a 2001 interview with Emerson, Jackson and Davison.] Copious liner notes from all the musicians involved make for a good read.

Apart from Refugee, I've never been a fan of Lee Jackson's voice, with or without The Nice. The poor guy's obviously a bassist first, and vocalist a distant second. Even hypothesizing a foundation as a blues singer, Jackson's gravelly pipes have never done much more than irritate, at best, and decades later he comes off at times like a laryngitis-stricken Brian Johnson two octaves lower. Really, "She Belongs To Me" isn't so bad; so long as Jackson plays it safe and avoids reaching, the overall effect isn't that off-putting. The opening medley of "America/Rondo" is very familiar to ELP fans, and for that reason, too familiar for this soul. After a few more Nice staples like "Hang To A Dream" and "Country Pie" (with Dave Kilminster stepping in for Davy O'List) , things wrap, well, quite nicely with the pastorally-charged, solo-laden "Karelia Suite," a high point in the band's repertoire.

"A Blade Of Grass" and "A Cajun Alley" are piano-only, and the former is probably the best moment on the entire set. Emo's recovery from his mid-1990's hand and wrist problems is nothing short of admirable he attacks the ivories with the same fervor, finesse and velocity he always has. Kilminster comes back out with the rhythm section of drummer Pete Riley and bassist Phil Williams; these youngsters are the best things to happen to Keith, short of Greg and Carl. The crew rips through ELP standards "Tarkus" (about all of it), "Hoedown," "Fanfare For The Common Man," and "Honky Tonk Train Blues." The rendition of the "Tarkus" suite is lean, mean and spirited; Kilminster, also an alum of both John Wetton's and Ken Hensley's bands, is on fire, covering about half of Keith's originally key-exclusive lead lines. Whether Kilminster's vocals live up to Lake's or not will prove to be a personal matter, but a great deal shouldn't be made of it. A complaint must be registered where Keith's strings patch on "Fanfare" is concerned: it's pitifully thin, and clips, or has a decay that too rapidly follows up the attack. Nothing's perfect, and most listeners won't even pick up on this.

CD1 of Live At Glasgow 2002 Vivacitas will surely hit the spot for Nicefans, especially those (and there are quite a few) who aren't fond of ELP. And listen for the "1984" chords to pop up, all you old Van Halen nuts. I won't say where, because that's half the fun.



1. America/Rondo
2. Little Arabella
3. She Belongs To Me
4. The Cry Of Eugene
5. Hang On To A Dream
6. Country Pie
7. Karelia Suite


1. A Blade Of Grass
2. A Cajun Alley
3. Tarkus
4. Hoedown
5. Fanfare For The Common Man
6. Honky Tonk Train Blues


*K.E. & The Nice Interview with Chris Welch (2001)

Added: December 8th 2004
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
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Language: english

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