Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Tarkus is one of their most celebrated albums to this day. Throughout their history, it enjoyed prime spots in their live shows. Only two of the tracks on Tarkus were never performed onstage (namely “The Only Way” and “Are You Ready, Eddy”). Here’s a quick(ish) look at the live history of the album.
ELP performed the album’s title track was performed practically every night in the early 1970s. They did so intermittently in 1977, 1978, and in the later 90s. The song was also one to make the jump to some of Emerson, Lake & Powell’s stage shows during their sole tour. Furthermore, Keith Emerson’s post-ELP live shows sometimes included it as well.
Greg Lake sometimes included snippets “Epitaph” from King Crimson’s debut album during his moment in the sun, “Battlefield”. Interestingly, “Battlefield” is only one of two electric guitar solo spots that Lake would have during ELP concerts. Most of the time, when on guitar, he preferred acoustic.
Most famously, one of the improv jump-off points for the band came during “Aquatarkus”, which would sometimes end up stretching for fifteen minutes and including over the years everything from “In the Hall of the Mountain King” to ‘Norwegian Wood’, not to mention the main theme from ‘Star Wars’ after 1977.
I included one of my favorite early performances of “Aquatarkus” here. At this point in its development, it was still mostly used to show off different Moog Synthesizer effects.
Performed far less often than the title track, “Jeremy Bender” nonetheless got a chance to shine onstage as well. During the 1973 and 1974 tours, the ‘comedy’ section would often consist of this and The Sheriff, another of ELP’s lighthearted songs, played back-to-back.
ELP debuted “Bitches Crystal” onstage later than any other song they ever did from Tarkus. The song only started being played in the late 90s. However, it was well worth the wait, considering the thunder ELP could still bring to the song.
The song was modulated down a whole step for these performances, presumably to accommodate Greg Lake, whose vocal range had lowered by this time.
Infinite Space, the conclusion to ‘The Only Way’, sometimes showed up in improvisations done by Keith during the first part of Take a Pebble. Sadly, I couldn’t find any isolated footage/sound on YouTube.
A Time and A Place:
Keith Emerson said in the 90s that “A Time and A Place” was a new arrival onstage. However, it served as an encore for a couple of shows in Canada in the summer of 1971 when the band was on their Tarkus Tour. I could similarly find no copies of the ’71 versions currently available to the public via YouTube; hopefully one shall soon surface.
Note: This was originally published on June 14, 2018 on the blog forever-ELP. It has been slightly modified from its original form.
- 2020-05-04: Information added, formatting updated.
- 2020-07-12: Formatting updated
- 2020-07-30: Optimized for new site