Emerson, Lake & Palmer – College of Wooster

by AirC Images

This 1972 US tour stop at the College of Wooster was my first opportunity to see ELP after ELP-TIcket-Stubhearing the debut album the previous summer. To think that this sonically killer recording was being produced by only 3 three musicians was astounding. As a 17 year old high school senior heading for graduation in a few months time, I was irrevocably hooked on the bands’s sound!

As to that Sunday afternoon’s performance, I still posses my ticket stub, along with the advertisement that appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, both of which I hope can be posted with this recollection. The opening act was Dr. Hook & The Medicine show who was riding the wave of success with the track, ‘Sylvia’s Mother’.

ELP-Wooster-PosterSeated in the upper section of the gymnasium, my sight line to Keith was blocked by the left PA stack, while Carl was buried behind his black and gold Ludwig Octa-Plus kit. The only time I saw either of them during the performance was during Keith’s flailing about with the ribbon controller or wrestling his Hammond L100, or Carl’s upraised arms as he laid into his huge Pasite symphonic gongs. Greg was the only one visible during the entire performance. At one point during the quiet middle passage of ‘Take A Pebble’, alluding to Keith, Greg mentioned to the audience, “I can’t help it, that’s the way he wrote it”, with the comment eliciting resounding applause!

As the scent of jazz cigarettes smoke wafted through the venue, ELP tore into a fierce, white-hot set. I’m assuming they did a few tracks from Trilogy as that album was destined to make it’s way onto my turntable by July of that year. My brother and his friend were able to sneak into the venue and closed in towards Keith’s side of the stage, nearly copping one of Keith’s daggers, until one of the road crew saw what they were up to and snagged it out of reach.

To complete the afternoon I had only wished I could have had a recording of that show. Later on I was able to buy the double album, ‘Mar Y Sol Festival’ which had an excerpt of ELP’s performance, along with other bands from the festival line up.

With the late 2011 release of of ELP’s complete performance heard on the ‘Live at The Mar Y Sol Festival cd, recorded six days prior to the College of Wooster tour date, along with a recording of ELP at The Academy of Music, in New York City the  next day, I now have bookend recordings of how they sounded when I heard them for the very first time.

All totaled, I have seen ELP in 1972, 1977-78, 1986 (ELPowell), 1992-93, 1996-97.  With the recent High Voltage Festival dvd, released in 2011, showcasing their rather less than potent final performance of July 2010, ELP’s entry has long since entered the pages of rock music history.  The collective narrative of this band has ended.  What a memorable journey it was.  “Welcome Back” anytime.

– AirC Images, February 2012


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