Greg Lake: 4/25/2012

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“If you were stranded on a desert island with just one album to listen to, what would it be?” If you are my age, I’m sure you’ve answered this question many times. My response was pretty standard: Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake and Palmer. Throughout the years, I have owned this on vinyl (twice), on cassette, on 8-track, and on CD. It is an album I never tire of listening to.

I dug out this stub because Greg Lake passed away a couple days ago. He died the same year that his bandmate Keith Emerson also died. 2016 has been a terrible year for musicians.

I went to this concert with my friend Bill, a former bandmate of mine and a writer for various music publications. He had acquired a pair of complimentary tickets, which included a pass to meet Greg after the performance. I have to say, I was pretty excited to meet someone who has inspired me musically for most of my life.

We drove to Raleigh, got some food, then went to the venue. The manager there was very accommodating and invited us in early, gave us more food and beverages, and made us feel like VIP’s. The venue was intimate and we had great seats. Finally, the lights went out and Greg Lake took the stage.

This was his “storyteller” tour, so it was just him on the stage, playing bass and guitar along with recorded tracks, and of course singing. He also spent a good deal of time between songs telling personal stories about bands, recordings, and life as a musician. I felt like I got to know him on a deeper level and gained a more rich understanding of him as an artist. He played a broad selection of music from his early days in King Crimson through ELP and solo material. For me, it was an amazing experience, but it got better.

After the performance, we went to the VIP guest room and waited for Greg to arrive. After a bit, he showed up and people queued up to meet him and ask him questions. I of course had to bring a copy of Brain Salad Surgery, which he graciously signed for me. I felt a little intimidated meeting him, but he was pretty relaxed. I asked him what new bands he listened to. He said none, really. I felt a twinge of sadness for him. There are some great musicians out there now, and I thought he might find enjoyment and inspiration from listening to them. To quote his song: “C’est la vie” (which he played).

Greg Lake will be sorely missed, but he has gone on to join the great gig in the sky. Godspeed.

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Emerson, Lake & Powell: 10/5/1986

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Keith Emerson was my favorite keyboardist of all time, and sadly, he died yesterday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. So, I figured it was appropriate to write about one of the times I saw him perform.

I was never fortunate enough to see Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but this show was pretty close. For the tour, Cozy Powell replaced Carl Palmer on drums. Powell is no slouch on the drum kit, and he was probably the best person to fill in.

The concert was nothing short of spectacular. The set included a nice mix of pieces spanning ELP’s career. Some of the high points were “Pirates,” “Pictures at an Exhibition,” and “Fanfare for the Common Man.” But the pinnacle of the show for me was the encore, which included “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression Part 2.”

“Karn Evil 9” is from the Brain Salad Surgery album, which is one of my all-time favorite album. Throughout the years, I’ve owned multiple vinyl copies, CD, cassette, and have even owned it on 8-track. It is just a phenomenal album. So how can I convey what it was like to see Keith Emerson perform this?

The band rocked through “Karn Evil 9,” and then Emerson went into a wild solo on the keyboards. He was like a madman! He was soloing, and then turned around and continued playing backwards, not missing a beat. He then extracted a pair of daggers from his belt and stabbed them into the keys, holding and sustaining notes while playing over the sustained notes. Then he hoisted the keyboard onto his back and began running around the stage playing the keys backwards and over his shoulder. I was floored! I had never seen anything like it, and I have never seen anything like it since. It was almost beyond belief.

Keith Emerson will be sorely missed. He was a virtuoso musician who pushed the boundaries of rock music. Here is a video of him performing. Be inspired!