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Keith Emerson

Band - Featuring Marc Bonilla – Moscow

Review by Larry Toering

I've seen my share of Keith Emerson live. Based on the performance captured here, I would would say I haven't seen his best. This is one serious performance by the keyboard master and band members Marc Bonilla (vocals and guitar),  Travis Davis (bass and backing vocals) and Tony Pia (drums). Together they all turn in a musical experience like no other. There seems no way to outdo the power, energy and conviction that was displayed on that stage at the Moscow Theater in Russia in 2010. This is music that speaks for itself and can't be summed up shortly. The songs are so evenly arranged together that it's like a dream band for all involved, not just Emerson. They play together like the masters they are. If this set proves one thing, it's that music can can be an ageless and timeless beast.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression Pt.2)

 

A tiny particle of synth wizardy quickly dances off Emerson's fingers and you know instantly who is playing. This is no ordinary performance, though, as he brings his all to this and it makes for as good a version as I've ever heard. It captures both the old spirit and a revitalized one, and the vocals are spot on. Bonilla displays an amazing vocal resemblance to Greg Lake. Still, he adds his own dimension to the song as well, and proceeds with zero loss as the show wears on. I would rate this right up with any of the times I have seen ELP perform it, yet I would also add a notch. It's that good.
Piano Concerto (3rd Movement)

Usually performed in succession by ELP, some things never change, but Emerson's fine form here once again sets it a cut above most performances I’ve heard. I can't imagine an ELP show without this great number, so I'm not surprised to see it included in this set as well. If this does not amaze, nothing will.

Bitches Crystal

Piano misleads things into a frantic version of yet another classic. It's just so easy to get hooked on Bonillia, but it's more instrumentally dominated, as they go into spinning mode at maximum speeds.

Malambo

This is a lively number done in a smooth way, with Emerson in completely sublime form. It cruises along nicely with cool drums and a Moog solo that leads into a guitar solo which is killer. This is such a refreshing thing to listen to, that it would make anyone appreciate classical and modern jazz music.

Touch And Go

This contains a keyboard riff that, when I saw them perform in 1986, did not sound up front. It was rather subdued for some reason I will never understand. It's nice to hear him do it the way it should be done. Since I have yet to view the DVD, I cannot tell if he is using the dueling Hammond organs or just Moog. This is a serious powerhouse version, totally awe inspiring to say the least.

Lucky Man

Once again Bonilla does Lake like no other. I know it's cliché, but the comparisons must be mentioned. It's a sheer testament of his professionalism, not an insult or limitation of any kind. As par for the course here, it's another rendition in the “ELP on steroids” fashion, which is a good thing because sometimes a fresh take on something old is just what it needs for growth. I simply can't imagine anyone who loves this tune as I do, denying its amazing delivery in this  performance.

Miles Away Pt 1

This is a spectacular two part number composed by Bonilla. This half is a mellow introductory piece. 

Miles Away Pt 2

Part two is where things really cook and don't stop. It starts off with a beefy rhythm section that holds the groove all the way, with Emerson providing both a heavy bottom end and some light synth and effects and even some piano. Bonilla shines over it all with his vocal performance. At this point the band is completely on fire.

 

Crusaders Cross

Another high energy work-out quickly races by here with more ferocity and sheer bombast. A few extra minutes of this would have been appreciated. This contains everything from jazz to prog and hard rock.

Fugue

This one is an even shorter piece, as Emerson commands the stage and the crowd gets a spot at the end for a bit for their reaction.

Marche Train
One of two Emerson / Bonilla songs to be featured in the set, this is an absolutely epic prog number and could easily contend as the peak of the entire show, with a skyrocketing jam. This is just a huge number that is as good as anything I'm hearing in progressive rock music today.
Finale

This one is an instrumental with a drum solo by Pia that leads into a fast funky motif. Then it turns into a keyboard and guitar melody that soars into another crushing section with lead guitar flying into some insane dueling Hammond and synths. Then it’s back into guitar and a church organ burst into an amazing grand “Finale.”

Disc 2
The Barbarian

This is a simply fabulous part of the show, with a grinding Emerson performance of this Bartok piece. By this time it borders on mesmerizing as they all just kill the crowd with another stomper.

Tarkus

This was always the leading epic number at ELP shows, perhaps because of its length. Whatever the reason, it's always awesome, and this is no exception. To describe this musical journey would be like doing a thesis, so I'll leave it at this point.

Nutrocker

Once again it's an out and out spectacle of a performance put in by all, and it's as if they're playing at their most energetic point in the show. That’s a testament of their massive energy and precision skills. The whole number ends in nice rock 'n roll fashion with strings and guitar, the works. If there is one thing that could possibly be better, it would be to see it all on DVD.

Moscow Fantasia

This is the first bonus track and it features a sparkling lead performance by Emerson with keyboard flurries galore.

Malambo (Orchestral Version)
The second (and final) bonus track, this is an orchestral performance turned swing style. It is one of the smoother numbers in the set, and turns out to be in a completely different ball park. That doesn't hurt a bit as it tops the brilliant show off in style.
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