Emerson, Lake & Palmer | Pictures At An Exhibition (Special Edition) – DVD Review


When I first saw Pictures At An Exhibition, it was 1976 at a midnight movie screening, doubled-billed with Pink Floyd’s Pompeii. Back then it was called Rock N’ Roll Your Eyes and touted as “a concert performance at movie prices.” It came out on video tape in the 80s as Pictures At An Exhibition, but that’s all it had — “Pictures At An Exhibition.” The additional songs featured in the film were not on the tape. I skipped the first DVD, but now to celebrate 40 years of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, a special edition of Pictures At An Exhibition, back in its origunal and complete format, has been reissued. And yeah, there’s some sweet additional footage too.

Filmed during a nonchalant performance at the Lyceum in London in December of 1970, Pictures At An Exhibition marks the first year of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, an ambitious power trio on track to changing the attitude of those who didn’t believe rock and roll could be germinated with classical music. The purists ands critics scoffed and chipped away; but art rock sophistos and ham-fisted hell raisers alike became enamored with ELP. Even with such a drab backdrop as the Lyceum, a young Keith Emerson, bedazzled in a shiny suit of turquoise, turned in some of the most invigorating keyboard performances ever filmed. An exceedingly young Carl Palmer is brazen and on fire behind the drum kit. Meanwhile, Greg Lake is as a cool as a twig, plucking out heavy bass lines and adding lyrics and acoustic guitar to Mussorgsky’s 1874 piano suite without a care in the world.

If you can claw through the annoying psychedelic effects and animations, you’ll see ELP at their most merciful and daring — especially when they veer into “Rondo,” a wild-goose showcase of Emerson and Palmer’s instrumental antics. Hard to believe a band so young and new could be so monumental and musically promiscuous. As a bonus, the DVD features a previously unreleased 1971 live performance from the Belgian television program Pop Shop, as well as the original theatrical trailer. This footage might be the best reason of all to pick up this release. Emerson and Palmer push the throttle again, while Lake holds court and weaves it all together. This special edition of Pictures At An Exhibition is also a great way to celebrate the group’s recent reunion, not matter what the future holds. If only they could time travel back to 1970.

~ Shawn Perry

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