On This Day (March 28)…Tarkus Rolls to Lewisham

Emerson, Lake & Palmer performed on this day in 1971 at the Odeon Theater in Lewisham (a portion of London), England.

Ticket from the show. Retrieved from here.

ELP were at the time on the first leg of Tarkus Tour, promoting the album of the same name. If the debut tour they undertook the previous fall was the way they introduced themselves and built incredibly high hopes among the listening public about their future, this was the tour upon which they proved beyond a doubt that they were more than just a set of reasonably well-known musicians who could coast on fame accrued from previous bands.

Besides keeping to a punishing schedule throughout the year, they recorded a total of three albums in part or in full during 1971. The first, Tarkus, had been a studio effort which would be released in June; it was this album which they were touring in support of. The second, Pictures at an Exhibition, had been recorded two nights prior and was their first live album. The third, Trilogy, would be recorded in part later that year between tour legs.

As one can imagine, the group thus had a remarkable amount of material to introduce audiences to. Based on setlist info from the time, three songs from their debut album, all from the first side, were on the setlist. “Pictures at an Exhibition” also was a nightly feature, as was the title track from the forthcoming Tarkus. Two other songs, “Rondo” and “Nutrocker”, rounded things out. Setlist.fm’s entry for this night is blank, so I can’t verify exactly, just extrapolate based on what information we do have.

There is no known recording of this concert.

The Venue

The Lewisham Odeon, the venue at which this performance took place, was a cinema initially named Gaumont Palace. Initially having 3,050 seats, it was the largest movie theater designed by W.E Trent, who was assisted by James Morrison and Keith P. Roberts. Indeed, it was apparently the largest of the over twenty cinemas in the borough and one of the largest cinemas in all of the United Kingdom!

Exterior of the Lewisham Odeon in 1981. Retrieved from here.

The theater’s interior was done in Art Deco style, featuring a large stage. From its initial opening on December 12, 1932, the venue was a dual cinema-and-stage-show location, though stage shows were brought to a halt briefly during World War II. In fact, the theater itself received minor bomb damage during the London blitz, though it reopened not long after. The first film shown there after its damage was The Great Dictator, one of the earliest films to criticize the Third Reich; this was a fitting choice for a theatre damaged by the Luftwaffe! After the war, the theatre came into use as a concert hall as well as a movie theatre.

Interior of the venue at an unknown date. Retrieved from here.

The theater was damaged again by a fire on February 27, 1962. This time, the theatre was forced to close for a longer period for restoration, finally reopening as the Lewisham Odeon on July 29, 1962. Once again, it played host to movies. Concerts also came to the Odeon, now by acts like the Beatles (twice!), Deep Purple, and Yes. Here’s a list of some of the other bands which played here over the years.

Sadly, over the years it became harder to get people in the door, and the Odeon fell out of use in 1981. After laying vacant for ten years, it was demolished in June 1991.

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Venue Sources

  • Edit on 2020-09-17: Optimized for new site.
  • Edit on 2021-01-27: Added second Beatles concert.

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