On This Day (September 19)…ELP Debut at Malvern

Emerson, Lake & Palmer performed on this day in 1970 at the Winter Gardens in Malvern, England.

Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, playing at Malvern Winter Gardens, 19 September 1970
Photograph of Keith Emerson onstage at Malvern. Photograph by Alfie Stokes. Retrieved from here.

This was the very first concert the group performed after their legendary appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival the previous month, and only the third concert the band performed overall. After this concert, the band performed concerts as their debut tour wound through England. They spent the remainder of September and the majority performing fairly regularly.

Poster for Emerson Lake and Palmer at Malvern Winter Gardens, 19 September 1970
Promotional poster for the show. Retrieved from here.

The Concert

While no setlist definitively is known, one can be extrapolated based on the known setlists of other nights, where the band performed the entire first half of their debut album, which had yet to be released. They also performed “Pictures at An Exhibition” in full and brought in “Rondo” from Keith Emerson’s former band, the Nice. “Nutrocker”, originally by B. Bumble and the Singers, was usually the encore. For the first year and a half of the band’s history, a song simply known as “Preacher” Blues” sometimes served as a second encore.

Even early on, ELP also showed off their solo and improvisational abilities which brought them such notoriety throughout their careers. Keith Emerson performed a longform improvisation during “Take a Pebble”. Greg Lake also took a short acoustic guitar break during the same number, during which he usually sang about “a dog named blue”. Carl Palmer performed his famous drum solos during “Rondo”; these solos often stretched out ten minutes or more in length!

Ad for the show. Retrieved from here.

There is no known recording of this concert. Ironically, despite its early date, this makes the concert at Malvern Winter Gardens the first public ELP concert to not survive in any form–as far as we know.

The Venue

This was the first and only time ELP ever performed in Malvern. The Winter Gardens, where they performed, first opened in 1885 as part of the Malvern Assembly Rooms. It was purchased by the city in 1927 and became famous for performances of the work of Sir Edward Elgar and George Bernard Shaw. The Winter Gardens themselves were one of the two theaters on the premise and only had temporary seating; the Festival Theatre, the other theater on the premise, had permanent seating.

Theater exterior. Retrieved from here.

The Winter Gardens began being used as a dance hall in the 60s when a variety of pop acts came through. Later in the sixties, a set of great promoters came through who brought in bigger acts. The specific promoter which brought in ELP was Plastic Dog, a Bristol-based agency. Other groups which came through in this era include Deep Purple, Yes, the Hollies, ELO, and Black Sabbath. Here’s a list of other performers who were at Malvern.

The venue was redesigned and in 1998 without the Winter Gardens, though the Festival theater remains. It is now joined by another smaller theater and a cinema.

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