Live From Manticore Hall

Keith Emerson & Greg Lake

The dynamic duo of Keith Emerson and Greg Lake (two-thirds of Emerson, Lake and Palmer) went on tour in 2010. Four years later, Live From Manticore Hall captures nine intimate versions of ELP tunes, a little King Crimson, and even a Q&A. The tour would serve as a precursor to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 2010 High Voltage reunion in London, speculated to be the final ELP reunion.

“From the Beginning,” which starts off with some inspiring piano work from Emerson, flows with a strong Greg Lake vocal and it’s clear at once that this is the strongest his voice has been in a while. When Lake plays his acoustic and Emerson counters with some laidback piano, it demonstrates how the two musicians challenged themselves by changing up the arrangements in some fun and unusual ways. Lake goes on to introduce the King Crimson classic “I Talk To The Wind” as a song he hasn’t performed since 1969. On this version, his voice sounds wonderful and Emerson’s piano runs behind and under Lake’s acoustic fill in beautifully.

Emerson offers a funny anecdote about ELP’s origins (“The Nice what?”) before launching into “Bitches Crystal.” This one sees the keyboard wizard’s speedy dexterity, along with Lake’s first turn on bass, in a solid barrelhouse send-up. “The Barbarian,” from ELP’s 1970 self-titled debut and introduced as an “annoying” instrumental that “grows on you,” finds Emerson switching between Hammond and piano with some gurgling synths and drums from the engineer supposedly behind an on-stage glass partition — as if Emerson and Lake were in a recording studio.

“Take A Pebble” features Lake singing at the high end of his range with Emerson recreating his piano parts to the letter. Just before the acoustic guitar break, Emerson starts the distinctive left hand runs-on, seguing into the “Tarkus” suite. Lake’s vocals are strong on “Stones of Years,” and there’s some truly inspired bass and piano dueting on “Mass.” Emerson switches to synth for a rousing “Aquatarkus” to end the whole concoction.

When I caught this tour in New York City, I thought “Pirates” was a strange choice for the setlist, and overall I would have preferred more piano and acoustic guitar duets. On this CD, the song suffers from the canned drums, though Lake and Emerson are in fine playing form. It’s especially nice to hear Lake’s bass parts front and center. The CD ends with “Lucky Man.” Lake tells a story of the song’s origins and Emerson “experiments’ with a synth solo before playing a lush piano opening. And yes, the synth lead at the end kicks ass as it always does! Live From Manticore Hall is a treat for ELP fans who love the original trio, will take a duet when it happens, and want to relive an evening filled with classics.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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