Emerson, Lake & Palmer performed on this day in 2010 at the High Voltage festival at Victoria Park in London, England.
This was the first and only show that ELP would perform in the twenty-first century. It was also the first show the group had undertaken since splitting up in 1998. While some members of the group had worked together in the recent past, namely Keith Emerson and Greg Lake on their short Emerson-Lake Tour, overall there had been very little interaction between the group since their last schism.
This was a significant contrast to the first time the group had split in 1978; in the fourteen years between the release of Love Beach and the release of Black Moon, the trio had all worked on projects together in groups of two. However, since their 1998 split, they had barely even had contact. All of this made this last reunion all the more special.
The band rehearsed together for five weeks before taking the stage. On the night of the concert proper, they honored every major era of their history. The setlist focused on their “golden age” of the first four years of their career. However, there were also some surprising inclusions; “Farewell to Arms” from Black Moon made an appearance, the only number from the the 90s to do so. Even more interesting was the inclusion of “Touch and Go”, a song that ELP proper didn’t even write. Emerson, Lake & Powell had written it for their sole album in the 80s; it’s the only song to have made the jump from one of ELP’s 80s spinoff bands to ELP proper.
Carl Palmer admitted to being dissatisfied with how the final product turned out, and claimed he sent a letter to Keith Emerson and Greg Lake afterwards to let them know he was done with the band for good. By his telling, while Emerson was relieved, Lake was upset and had hoped to continue on in some form. Lake, for his part, claimed he felt a sense of duty to fans to keep performing, though even he admitted the reunion was somewhat difficult. All three members of the band seemed to be in good moods immediately after the concert, if backstage footage can be trusted! The concert itself had ended with Emerson and Lake, who had sometimes had a contentious relationship, embracing onstage.
The concert was recorded and has been officially released. Audio and video versions both exist.
ELP After High Voltage
After High Voltage, each member of the group went on to their own projects. Keith Emerson released one last album, Three Fates Project, in 2012. This album saw him return to some of ELP’s great classics, including “Tarkus”, with an orchestra; new songs by Emerson and bandmate Marc Bonilla joined these reworkings.
Greg Lake went on a tour entitled “Songs of A Lifetime” in 2012, wherein he took a very different approach to ELP’s catalogue. He performed as a one-man show, sometimes joined by a few guests, and mixed ELP numbers with other songs he himself was fond of.
Carl Palmer returned to his self-titled band just three months after High Voltage. The post-High Voltage lineup of Carl Palmer, Paul Bielatowicz, and Simon Fitzpatrick has remained stable for ten years now. They play various numbers from ELP’s catalogue, and always include lengthy drum solos!
Keith Emerson’s untimely death in 2016 ended fans’ hopes that there would one day be another event like this. Greg Lake’s death just nine months later killed any lingering possibilities of even partial reunion. Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy is the last available option for fans who want to see a member of the group onstage.
Postscript: Musical Afterlives
Even though the show for ELP has finally ended, the music still delights fans across the globe. Several tribute acts have stepped up to the plate, most famously Noddy’s Puncture. Rachel Flowers has emerged in the last decade as another famous carrier of ELP’s flame, rising to fame with her masterful covers of the group’s music.
In these past ten years, new people have continued to discover the group’s work. I myself didn’t know about ELP until the autumn of 2012 when I first heard Three Fates Project, for instance! Many people are still listening, learning to play the music, and otherwise honoring the legacy of this legendary band.
Perhaps the show will never end after all…