On This Day (December 17)…ELP at MSG, Part 1

Emerson, Lake & Palmer performed at Madison Square Garden on this day in 1973.

Poster for the concert and one on the following day. Retrieved from here.

This concert was the first of two shows they did at this location in the leadup to Christmas. They would be the last concerts ELP undertook in 1973, a year which had seen them go on not one but two different tours.

ELP were at this time on tour in support of their most recent album, Brain Salad Surgery. During this tour, they played the newest album in full, interspersed with popular (and playable!) songs from previous albums. Every album up to this point was represented by at least one song. “Pictures at an Exhibition” appeared in abridged form.

During this tour, the band reportedly traveled with over 200 items of equipment, valued at around $100,000 in total. This included Greg Lake’s much-derided Persian Carpet.

Ticket for the show. Retrieved from here.

This very special show and the one which took place on the next day were designed to invoke the spirit of Christmas. As Greg Lake had yet to write his own famous Christmas song, the band had to make do with including “Silent Night” during “Pictures at an Exhibition”, plus chorus and even fake snow!

ELP reportedly at Madison Square Garden. Retrieved from here.

This show is said to have been recorded, though not officially released. There is also a recording claiming to be of the next day, the December 18th show. Oddly enough, while fan releases often have the December 18th date, bootleg cover websites only have the December 17th date. I cannot independently verify whether the two recordings are the same or not at this time; notes about recordings from this date suggest the sound is fairly poor, while the December 18th recordings have fine sound.

Front cover and insert from the bootleg. Retrieved from here.

The Venue

Madison Square Garden, the venue where these shows took place, is a rather legendary place in its own right. It’s tagline is the most famous venue in the world, which may not be far off!

Madison Square Garden in June 2019. Photo by Ajay Suresh. Retrieved from here.

The current Madison Square Garden is actually the fourth venue to bear that name. The combined gardens have stretched back continuously since 1879. Hilariously, this current Garden is not on Madison Avenue. It broke ground in 1964, and opened officially on February 11, 1968. The opening was hosted by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. The venue was renovated in 2013. It’s capacity has been given variously as around 18,200 and 20,000 for concerts.

A great many acts have found their way here. ELP alone performed at Madison Square Garden seven times: once in 1971, this and its followup in 1973, and four concerts in 1977. Both their 80s spinoff groups, ELPowell and 3, found their way here as well. All of these concerts managed to be incredibly memorable career highlights in their own ways.

Another progressive rock titan, Yes, played here a staggering twenty-two times, including four dates in 1978 and a date in 1994. Their spinoff band Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe performed here as well.

As of this writing, events are still being held here and can be found on the MSG site.

Post Sources

Venue Sources

  • Edit on 2020-09-10: Updated formatting. Added information about other concerts at this venue. Optimized for new site.
  • Edit on 2020-12-17: Minor formatting changes.

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