Back in 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, who were a relatively new band at the time, decided to do a symphonic rock take on Mussorgsky's classical composition "Pictures at an Exhibition", which turned out to be quite successful for the band and resulted in an album that is still beloved by fans to this day. That same year, the band performed the entire composition, as well as some early favorites, at the Lyceum in London, and that entire performance is included here, as well as a set from Belgium TV in 1971.
For many, ELP's performance of "Pictures at an Exhibition" from this time period will no doubt show the band at the peak of their powers. It's not hard to see why, as this prog-rock supergroup at this stage in their career were all about proving to the world that they were the real deal. Play they certainly could, as their chops were perfectly on display throughout this set, as each part of Mussorgsky's composition contained lengthy solos, especially from Keith Emerson, whose array of Hammond organ, Moog synthesizer, piano, and clavinet never fails to impress. With all the bombast going on, you can really appreciate the quiet moments, like on "The Sage", when Greg Lake is at center stage with his acoustic guitar and gorgeous voice. Though he is more remembered as a singer, his guitar skills on this piece are quite remarkable, and his sinewy, often times muscular bass lines during the rest of the show also command plenty of respect. Towards the end of the set the band dips into a few tracks from their debut, such as "Take a Pebble" and the more raucous "Knife Edge", before launching into The Nice staple "Rondo", complete with Emerson's freak out on his Hammond and a gymnastic drum solo from Carl Palmer.
Though the quality of the concert is very good considering how old it is, there's one major problem. The director decided to superimpose all sorts of psychedelic effects, filters, and montages (even some of Marvel Comics suoerherous & villians of the 60's-WTF?!) over lengthy stretches of footage, especially near the half-way point of the show and up to the end, which at times makes it completely unwatchable. This perhaps is the biggest tragedy ever to befall a classic prog rock concert film document. At times the effects completely cover up what is going on and you can't even make out the band underneath all of it. I know this sort of effect was popular back then in the psychedelic era, but watching it today makes it look so dated, nevermind the fact that it is completely overused. A travesty really.
The bonus Pop Shop set from 1971 thankfully has none of these annoying effects, though the footage is not nearly of as good quality, but it's a great set nontheless. Brief interviews with the band kick this part off, and here you really see just how young the band were at the time. An especially rocking "Knife Edge", a gorgeous "Take a Pepple", and the always hyperactive "Rondo" highlight this concert, plus you get an inspired "Nutrocker" as well, which is not in the Lyceum show.
Throw in a nice little booklet and you have a 'must own' DVD for your ELP collection. Despite the ridiculous 60's effects that plague the main set here, this is still a fabulous collection of vintage live footage from one of the most important prog-rock bands of all time.
Live at London's Lyceum, December 1970
The Old Castle
The Hut of Baba Yaga
The Curse of Baba Yaga
The Hut of Baba Yaga
The Great Gate of Kiev
Take a Pebble
Live on Belgium's Pop Shop 1971
Interview with the band
Take a Pebble