Emerson, Lake & Palmer performed on this day in 1971 at Theater 140 in Brussels, Belgium.
This concert and the one they played the night after came at an interesting time for ELP. The group was already enjoying wild success thanks to their intense debut tour throughout England and Central Europe. Their debut album was a success, they had a charting single in “Lucky Man”, and had their sophomore album, Tarkus, waiting in the wings. A tour which took them throughout England before bringing them to the United States for the first time was on the way as well. Within the band members’ personal lives, good things were happening as well; Keith Emerson had become a father just about six months prior.
However, they were also plagued by serious issues. According to Keith Emerson’s autobiography, the band was actually in debt at the time. This may or may not have contributed to Greg Lake’s supposed reaction to the recent recordings of Tarkus, which had taken place over five difficult weeks. Lake had, according to Emerson, threatened to walk out of the band over the title track. He himself admitted in his book to being uncertain about it and worried it wouldn’t appeal to audiences.
This concert shows that despite difficulty whirling around them, the group were able to settle their differences and put on one hell of a show for their audience!
Oddly enough, neither of the nights seem to include “Pictures at an Exhibition”, a staple of their setlist at the time. Also excluded is any material from their upcoming album. Perhaps, like all of us, the band was burned out on the new material and wanted a break from it before jumping in full throttle for their next tour. It’s also possible that the group did indeed play “Pictures” and cuts from Tarkus and they simply were not recorded.
Perhaps just as fascinating was the short interview recorded on one of the two nights. All that is reflected is a trio of individuals deeply absorbed in their own music, to the exclusion of practically all else. It is this incredible single mindedness which would take the three to the top of the rock music world and would keep them reigning supreme throughout the decade.
Portions of this concert were recorded and released for Belgian Popshop, with later official releases often incorrectly labeling it as having taken place in Zurich (I’ve covered the issue here). It isn’t known which night is which. One can reasonably assume both nights were recorded in full, and that the remainder of the footage is somewhere.
Most of the information that I can find about the venue at which they performed, Theater 140, is in French. It was founded by Jo Dekmine and opened in 1963. According to Wikipedia, it seats around 600 people.
Dekmine called the theater a “fair booth” in reference to the variety of acts which found their way to the stage (source). A great many rock bands were included in this, including Yes and Public Image, Ltd. Public Image, Johnny Lydon’s post-Sex Pistols band, in fact debuted here! (source).
It is still in operation today, according to its website.