On This Day (March 23)…Tarkus Rolls to Bradford

Emerson, Lake & Palmer performed on this day at St. George’s Hall in Bradford, England.

Poster for the show. Retrieved from here.

ELP had just begun their Tarkus Tour, the second tour the band undertook. Before their 1978 hiatus, they would end up on six major tours in total. The Tarkus Tour arguably set the stage for their overall touring practices in the 1970s and beyond, being the first major tour of theirs to visit multiple continents. However, by this date, they’d only done Tarkus-related concerts in their native England.

The Concert

There is no known setlist for the night, but presumably it took the general pattern established on this tour. The Tarkus Tour was the last tour on which ELP’s treatment of “Pictures at an Exhibition” was performed in full. It served as one of the big pieces on the setlist along with “Tarkus” and “Take A Pebble”. These were backed up by shorter numbers—“The Barbarian”, “Knife-Edge”, the marginally-shorter “Rondo”, and “Nutrocker”. As an interesting bit of trivia, all of these pieces took at the very least their main themes from other sources—“The Barbarian” from a piano piece by Béla Bartók, “Knife-Edge” from a brass piece by Leoš Janáček, “Nutrocker” from a ballet by Peter Tchaikovsky, and “Rondo” from a jazz piece by Dave Brubeck.

Show ticket. Retrieved from here.

The latter two long pieces were major improv solo spots for keyboardist Keith Emerson. Drummer Carl Palmer also received a long solo during the closing number, “Rondo”. Singer and bassist Greg Lake, who reportedly was less keen on improv, had shorter solo sections than the other two. His most famous number, “Lucky Man”, had yet to make it onstage; for now his main ballad spot was “The Sage” from the “Pictures” segment. He also got a shorter acoustic spot during “Take a Pebble” about a dog named Blue, which usually featured some of his most technically proficient work. During “Tarkus”, he also got a chance to perform on electric guitar, one of the rare times he did so with ELP.

There is no known recording of this concert.

The Venue

ELP performed on this night at St. George’s Hall, an old Victorian public speaking venue. It was built in 1853, opening on August 29th in that year.

The exterior of the venue in September 2011. Photo by Jon Farnam. Retrieved from here.

Originally, the capacity of the venue was 3,000. At some point, it was reduced to 1500. As with many other venues throughout the UK, this building briefly served as a cinema from 1949 to 1953. It’s interior was remodeled after World War II, and again in the 1980s after a fire.

Many notable performers have found their way to the venue, including Deep Purple and Yes. Here are some of the other performers who made their way there over the years. ELP themselves had already performed at St. George’s Hall the previous December. They returned one more time the following November.

This theatre is still in use today, having recently undergone yet another major refurbishment. Its website can be found here.

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