Category Archives: Brians Modern Prog Blog

The modern face of Progressive Rock

02Apr/10

Emerson Lake – first 3 shows cancelled!

I have said it before many times: you get little reward for being a fervent ELP fan. It’s bad enough that (if you live long enough) you wait 15 years between tours then when the tour comes round it stutters to a false start.

Some people in Cleveland are a bit pissed off that that they drove 200 miles to the gig to be told it was cancelled at the last minute. I have spent months making all sorts of arrangements, and a fair amount of money, to fly from Glasgow, Scotland to New York to see the gig at The Nokia Theatre.

How angry do you think I’ll be if that gig is cancelled!

For sure it must have been incredibly disappointing and frustrating to get to the gig and waiting on it all happening only to be told that there is no gig. I have never heard of such circumstances in all the gigs I have  attended over 30 years.

It seems particularly irksome that there seems no good reason forthcoming at this point….. at least not yet anyway. There is a lot of speculation about in fighting but I personally don’t believe that. They must have been rehearsing for weeks before the tour and would have cleared up all artistic disagreements before this point.

Furthermore after the amount of time they have been in the business, they must have a degree of professionalism that would have overcome petty arguments.

I mean, even Roger Waters and Pink Floyd played music together at Live 8 in a professional manner and look how much abuse they had hurled at each other over the years. Even if you hate each other it is still entirely possible (and good for your career and reputation) to get over that and go and get the  job done. Yes the show must go on. Its is an entertainment cliche but it is true

My view is that it is some kind of health issue, bureaucratic issue or something more important than Emerson and Lake swinging handbags at each other. The management press release mentioned at cleveland.com states that the tour will continue from Monday at Annapolis MD. If you have an arguement you don’t generally agree a date for  a truce do you?

In the modern business/celebrity arena people are very cautious about opening their gob until they have worked out the ‘best outcome scenario’: check out Tiger Woods or these English footballers and their wives. And given how little ELP ever tell the world anything, it is not suprising that no info is forthcoming. I mean they barely told anyone about the bloody tour! All the fans had to find out via the jungle drums and private detectives and then passed information around the  Secret Society!

Let’s hope the tour continues on Monday and the long suffering fans get what they deserve: some ELP music played by EL(P): that’s it – surely not too much to ask!

Otherwise any one fancy a beer with a jetlagged scotsman in Time Square NYC on Thursday night?……. cos I may have a few spare hours to spare!

28Mar/10

ELP set to continue working beyond 2010?

In an interview for the first Emerson Lake gig of 2010 at Lakewood Civic Auditorium the website cleveland.com spoke with Keith and Greg and got some hints that we may see more from the duo/trio following this tour and the High Voltage gig in London in July.

Everyone knows that they have been writing together and the only reason to write is to record and release new music. This is very exciting since their creative output has been fairly minimal since their real ‘Imperial period’: the last real album was in 1994′s In the Hot Seat. Whilst the album certainly does have it’s moments the widely held view is that it is not an ELP landmark.

But then given the arm problem Keith had at the time and the ‘post tour syndrome’ they always seem to suffer these days it is hardly a surprise.

It sounds like both players have may have mellowed with age and realise the ‘chemistry’ the have (described by Greg Lake in one of his online chat sessions) is actually worth cherishing and hopefully they can find a way to give the long suffering ELP fans a reward for their endurance.

And given the amount of crap music we all have to suffer these days in mainstream media (including the internet) we could really do with some quality music to listen to. My Brian Salad Surgery CD (an album which is impossible to listen to enough) has been played so much it is as worn as my vinyl  – now that takes some amount of playing.

I personally can’t with to go to NYC next week to see the new gig format and have them chatting to the audience too!!!! wow. Like a rare warm scottish summer it looks like 2010 is gonna be a bumper year for ELP fans.

25Mar/10

Frankfurt Music Prize 2010 for Keith Emerson

Keith was awarded The Frankfurt Music Award for artistic and technical innovation. The award was given to Keith at Frankfurt’s Town Hall ‘Römer’on the eve of the annual Frankfurt Musikmesse, 23 March 2010.

See some German TV coverage of Keith arriving at the event, preparing for and playing at the event on Tony’s blog

The Frankfurt Music Prize was founded in 1980 and is awarded annually on the occasion of the international Musikmesse in Frankfurt by the Trustees of the Frankfurt Music Prize Foundation (Kuratorium Stiftung Frankfurter Musikpreis zur Internationalen Musikmesse Frankfurt) to personalities from the world of music for special achievements in the fields of interpretation, composition, musicology and teaching

18Mar/10

The problem with Emerson Lake

Hunting for ELP information over the years has always been a slog. In the early 80′s I used to scour newspapers, magazines and libraries for any scraps of information I could find on ELP.

Being a generation too young I missed the early 70′s and did all this in the early 80′s after the band had split and the (always negative) British Music press were banging on about how punk changed the world (yea for about 2 weeks possibly and then they all disappeared into obscurity again), how brilliant Spandau Ballet’s clothes were and how exotic and expensive Duran’s Durans videos were.

There were a few ‘hardliners’ that I came across  who were dedicated to the cause and we shared whatever information we could get.

It is now an incredible irony that in this 2010  tour we are searching for information on Emerson Lake. The problem is that search engines (despite what Google and Bing have you believe) are still pretty crap. They really aren’t that clever at all such that I found myself searching for Emerson Lake and find a lot of information about watery lakes in the US. (surely a good enough reason for everyone to adopt the Scottish version of Lake and use Loch and we would all understand what we mean;-)).

I decided that I would try and clarify where the Emerson Lakes are for a bit of nonsensical and irrelevant fun. So here is what I found. If you have anything else to add please let me know

Emerson Lake, Allegan County, Michigan
Emerson Lake Fishing in Mason County, Michigan
Emerson Lake Fishing in Collin County, Texas
Emerson Lake San Bernardino County, California
Emerson Lake in Watonwan County, MN
Emerson Lake Inn – a restaurant in Walhalla, MI
Emerson Lake – Clark County, Wisconsin

What if they played an outdoor gig at each venue?
Emerson Lake do a tour of Emerson Lakes playing Emerson Lake compositions.
Ha Let see how the search engines deal with that!

16Mar/10

Nik Kershaw at Oran Mor, Glasgow 6 March 2010- Review

Nik Kershaw at Oran Mor, Glasgow 6 March 2010

There is a common saying about great songs being able to stand up to a simple arrangement ie no matter how heavily orchestrated, produced or arranged a good song will still be a good song when sung with a simple accompaniments (eg acoustic guitar or piano) or even with a solo voice.

Nik Kershaw proved this point on Saturday 6 March when he performed an acoustic set at Oran Mor in Glasgow’s West end. In a set of old and new songs Nik Kershaw demonstrated exactly how to deliver his songs using his masterly songwriting and performing abilities.

Although most of his material has more colourful arrangements  he played a range of songs from throughout his career using just an acoustic guitar occasionally accompanied by a Roland sequencer which he records live parts to and played/sang over.

OK  a lot of people may not consider Nik Kershaw Prog Rock but here is an artist who, for me, knows no boundaries, has a unique approach and can write great songs, play and perform: that’s good enough for me.

Most of his eighties material contained synthesisers and drum machines he gave them all a new life in the ‘No Frills Tour 2010′. His songs are so well written and constructed that every single one of them sounded awesome and some even excelled beyond the original in terms pure emotional delivery (Have a Nice Life is a classic example whereby he mentioned that it often has grown men in tears).

Don Quixote is an awesome song which has a very distinctive rhythmic character and orchestration but with only a simple bass drum pattern backing he gave the song a whole new life.

Wounded has a very intricate Latin arrangement on record and also stood up to the unplugged treatment while Human Racing sounded miles better with guitar with all the chords and stark key changes being really emphasised in the bare sound.

In a style reminiscent of Neil Finn, Nik had some great banter and introductions to songs. Sure this always works better in a smaller gig and more intimate environment but a lot of musicians would do well to watch the likes of Nik Kershaw and  Neil Finn and learn how to provide an engaging performance with the audience.

With the ability to make fun of himself and his career ups and downs he gave an excellent performance on songs old and new. Highlights for me included Oh You Beautiful Thing,  Fifteen Minutes, Billy, …..erm in fact the entire gig was a highlight and every song was excellent.

Having said all that I would still love to hear all these songs with the ‘Festival Band’. As the songs can easily stand up to simple acoustic arrangements they would be equally powerful with a full and and some nice new fresh arrangements.

Oh and I would also love to get the keyboard gig in the band for that tour!

Requests for the next tour would be Wounded Knee, Radio Musicola, Can’t get Arrested, Show them what you’re made of, When a Heart Beats…..and your entire repertoire.

06Mar/10

It Bites, O2 ABC2 Glasgow 5 March 2010


It Bites at Manchester Academy 6 March 2010 (until someone posts a Glasgow video)

The John Beck Grand Entrance
I don’t know if John Beck considers himself to be the ‘leader’ of It Bites. His grand entrance after the three other members of the band on to the stage of O2 ABC2 in Glasgow  on Friday night would certainly suggest it.
Especially when he did it twice!

After the intro sequence broke down and had to be restarted  he walked off stage again to make the second big entrance, by which time the moment was gone. Truly bizarre!

He continued some more bizarre behaviour by going to John Mitchell during the show to whisper is his ear to announce that they were running out of time. C’mon John you have mic in front of you  – just talk to the audience, we are happy to listen , I mean we all  wanted to attend the gig!

The Show
Anyway apart from that the show as once again an awesome show of playing and performance by the leading ‘prog’ band in the UK (if not the world, in my opinion).

Opening with 1 or 2 favourites (Bullet in the Barrel, All in Red) some of the highlights for me were Underneath your Pillow, Old Man and the Angel (full version) Oh My god, Fahrenheit (first time live) and, at last Glasgow gets to hear Once Around the World, since we missed out on that tour last Autumn.

The remainder of the set did consist largely of tracks from The Tall Ships which is fine as it is an all round excellent album.

It Bites is always a great gig with a powerful display of great singalong songs, superlative playing and enough great ‘prog element time signature oddities to keep the proggers happy. A great balance between melodic songs, innovative arrangements and interesting forms.

The players
Lee Pomeroy is a player who clearly enjoys his time on stage. In addition to being an excellent bass player he bounds around the stage enjoying the gig which always provides a good feel good factor for the audience. Bob does his job at the kit mainly poker faced and concentrating hard on his drumming and backing vocals

John Mitchell has certainly settled in and is well accepted as part of the band and seems very comfortable in the band , even announcing that he was changing the words in Underneath your Pillow (Frankie don’t mind…)

It is always a hard gig when you follow such an iconic front man in a band. Witness, the following (any others which I have not mentioned?)

  • Alan Reed following Euan Lowson in Pallas,
  • Benoit David following Jon Anderson in Yes
  • Phil Collins following Peter Gabriel in Genesis
  • Andy Sears following Geoff Mann in Twelfth Night
  • Paul Rogers following Freddie Mercury with Queen

The Venue (and the bloody curfew)
In the It Bites forum the band are getting a little stick for paying a really short set. This, of course, may not always be the fault of the band due mainly to being a curfew set by the venue.

Given that this happened last year too you would think that the band (or at very least the promoter) would have spotted this failure and either ditch the support (maybe the band need the money from the tour ‘ buy-on’) or get a better venue, or start earlier.

There are a lot of options for venues in Glasgow than having to put up with a shitty 10 pm curfew.

I think Oran Mor would be a great gig for It Bites. Right size, better layout, good sound and good locations for pre/post beer. The Classic Grand would also be an option for a crowd of this size.

Still, all in all  a brilliant gig for the leading lights of British Progpop. Lets get the new album out and play Oran Mor next year!