Vivacitas: Live At Glasgow 2002

Keith Emerson & The Nice

At 60, Keith Emerson has more on his plate than most men half his age. Never one to rest on his laurels, Emerson actively records on his own or in collaboration. Of late, he’s also been a road warrior of sorts, jamming with various musicians, young and old, as well as several of his comrades from the past. Vivacitas: Live At Glasgow 2002 is the culmination of Emerson’s ambitions, featuring a Nice reunion with bassist Lee Jackson and drummer Brian Davison, and addtional interludes that showcase the keyboardist’s extraordinary, undiminished talents. This three-disc extravaganza captures the many sides of Emerson – from powerhouse organist to honky tonk piano player to suave interpreter of classical suites. The first disc spotlights the Nice with a well-intended repertoire that slips and slides its way to a thundering reprieve. Augmented by Emerson’s clutch band, one may assess that the merger with Jackson and Davison is based primarily on nostalgia, rather than artistic merit. Suffice to say, Jackson’s parched vocals – supposedly a sore point with Emerson when he left the Nice to form ELP – leave much to be desired, making it difficult at times to get through “Little Arabella,” “She Belongs To Me,” “The Cry Of Eugene,” and “Country Pie.” Fortunately, the arrangements and interplay between the musicians on numbers like the opening “America/Rondo” makes the Nice disc a bit more palatable.

Where Emerson truly comes into his own is on the second disc. As a world-class pianist, he has never compromised his abrasive dexterity or artistic fortitude. All of which signifies the brief and beautiful “A Blade Of Grass” and jazzy, meteoric lines of “A Cajun Alley” as strong indicators of the master’s prowess. After that, a new set of players (presently dubbed The Keith Emerson Band) assemble on stage and launch into “Tarkus.” The classic opus receives an edgy, metallic overhaul as Emerson and guitarist Dave Kilminster exchange blazing solos over a tempered rhythm provided by bassist Phil Williams and drummer Pete Riley. The momentum carries over for “Hoedown” and “Fanfare For The Common Man,” a pair of Aaron Copland compositions that virtually took up residence on the ELP set list. The third disc is a bonus for hardcore Nice fans – an interview with the reunited trio reminiscing about a variety of topics including knife throwing, pyrotechnics, singing in key, and orchestras. Even as the embers of Emerson, Lake and Palmer are continually stirred up by compilation and live CDs and DVDs, it’s refreshing to see Keith Emerson pushing forward. For as much as Vivacitas: Live At Glasgow 2002 revisits the past, it also provides a resounding glimpse into the future.

~ Shawn Perry

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