Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s album Trilogy is composed of nine tracks of the group at their best. The album was the favorite of one of the three members of the group, Greg Lake, and is generally considered one of their classic works.
Despite the fact that Trilogy was noted by the band themselves for its performance difficulty, it actually enjoyed a fairly major place onstage with ELP. Only one of the nine tracks on the album never made it to the stage with the band proper. Here’s a quick(ish) look at the live history of the album.
The Endless Enigma, Pt. 1 + Fugue + The Endless Enigma, Pt. 2
“The Endless Enigma” was performed in full during the Trilogy Tour, with the three portions often not differentiated on recordings of concerts where it is included. There’s very little deviation between the stage and studio versions, though the stage version was often taken at a somewhat quicker clip. It first appeared on the European leg of the tour in the summer of 1972.
The song only had a short life onstage, being dropped from the setlist for good after the tour concluded. Much later, it showed up at Keith Emerson’s final concert, at the Barbican Theater in London.
From The Beginning
Greg Lake’s beautiful ballad, the song which would get ELP their highest ranking in the Hot 100 ever at #39, first reached the stage in 1977 on the Works Tour. Lake would play accompanied by the orchestra.
The song made the jump to Emerson, Lake & Powell’s sole US tour, during which Lake would be accompanied by Cozy Powell. By the 90s, “From the Beginning” was a concert staple.
“The Sheriff” first showed up on the Trilogy Tour in the spring. On the Get Me A Ladder Tour in the spring of 1973, it was performed back to back with another light comedy song, “Jeremy Bender” from Trilogy’s immediate predecessor, Tarkus.
“The Sheriff” actually made a surprise return to the stage in the 90s on ELP’s last-ever tour in 1998 on a few dates when they joined forces with Dream Theater and Deep Purple.
“Hoedown”, named after the portion of Aaron Copeland’s Rodeo that it adapts, was actually the first tune from Trilogy to appear onstage, first showing up in 1971 on the Tarkus Tour in the late autumn. From my understanding, it was because this song was first recorded in September of 1971, at the beginning of the recording sessions for Trilogy. It proceeded to appear on practically every ensuing tour, becoming one of their most popular pieces to perform.
This was one of the pieces which made the jump to the band 3 during their sole North American tour.
Despite being the album’s title track, “Trilogy” got very little time to shine onstage. This was because the Moog Synthesizer was still just a monophonic instrument—it could only play one note at once.
Despite the difficulty, the group did indeed attempt it a handful of times onstage. To do so, they would take prerecorded portions of the song and play along to it, proving that even playing with a backing track can constitute true performance with the right crew undertaking it. This attempt to do the nigh-impossible was quickly dropped, perhaps because Emerson admitted in-concert after one extant performance that they couldn’t actually hear the backing tracks! Even so, recordings which survive suggest they brought their usual stage quality to the performance.
A simple arrangement of this song was revisited by Greg Lake on his “Songs of a Lifetime” tour.
“Living Sin” is the only song from Trilogy never to be performed onstage by ELP to my knowledge. There is, however, an addendum, in that the Keith Emerson Band performed it in the 2000s.
The closing track from Trilogy album first began appearing onstage in the spring of 1972, being recorded at their notable March 22 concert at Long Beach. This concert also saw one of their few attempts at “Trilogy” detailed above.
This song is actually a good analogue to “Trilogy”, as like that song it features overdubs. In fact, this song features even more overdubs than the title track, thus making it quite difficult to perform. The group dealt with different ways to get around this difficulty, including what sounds based on recordings to be backing tape once more piped through the sound system. Such performances did not always go all that well; the abovementioned March 22 concert included the group getting out of sync with the tape.
It appears that the piece was used as “walk-on” music later on in the tour, as recordings which include it sound like pretty much exact matches to the studio version.
A different approach was phased in later on on the Get Me a Ladder Tour, where it was used as an opener based on some of the extremely rare concert footage from this period. Greg Lake can clearly be seen on mellotron on video from their excellent April 15 concert in Zurich. This of course meant that the interesting, varied bass line the song boasts is absent, but sometimes sacrifices must be made in the name of performance!
The piece finally appeared in 1977 during the orchestral concerts of the Works Tour, where the overdub issue was finally solved for good with the orchestra taking up large parts of it.
On Keith Emerson’s final album, The Three Fates Project, he revisited this orchestral team-up with a new arrangement of orchestra plus rock band. Like “The Endless Enigma” before it, it showed up at the Barbican concert.
- Edit on 2020-09-22: Optimized for new site.