Karn Evil 9 Exhibition (Highland HL129#EL7)
Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY – July 26th, 1974
Disc 1 (72:53): Hoedown, Jerusalem, Toccata, Tarkus, Take a Pebble, Still…You Turn Me On, Lucky Man, piano improvisation, Take A Pebble (conclusion)
Disc 2 (72:53): Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression), Karn Evil 9 (2nd Impression), Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression), Pictures At An Exhibition
When ELP would approach the closing nights of a tour they would expand the improvisations on stage, using their well rehearsed songs as a launching pad for off the wall improvisations and jams. The July 26th show in Buffalo occurs about a month before the extremely long Brain Salad Surgery tour that began the previous spring. This is a very good to excellent audience recording with fantastic atmosphere. It was first pressed on Impressions (Tumble Weed Recordings TW 53001/2) in 1993.
Highland issued two versions of the tape. The first came out in 1996 as Brain Salad Surgery Tour (Highland HL074/075#EL2). The second, Karn Evil 9 Exhibition, was released in November 1998. Not having heard the earlier versions it’s hard to tell, but this is assumed to be an improvement over the others. But the sound quality is good enough that Manticore Records released this Highland title officially as My Darling Nemesis…The Illuminati in the Original Bootleg Series From The Manticore Vaults Vol. 2.
The tape cuts in during “Hoedown,” is cut at the very end of “Tarkus,” has a cut in “Karn Evil 9” between the first and second impressions and a cut before “Pictures At An Exhibition.” “Benny The Bouncer,” which was normally played after “Tarkus,” was dropped from the set.
Eric Clapton and The Band’s show on July 4th was the first rock concert at Rich Stadium in Buffalo after it opened in 1973 (and a show notable for a very drunk Clapton). Emerson, Lake & Palmer was the second. They were supported by The James Gang and Lynyrd Skynyrd and they play the standard set but it is simply one of the best ELP concerts caught on tape. There is such a wonderful atmosphere to the recording but the passion in the performance really hooks in the listener and doesn’t let up for two hours.
“Jerusalem,” the first song off the new album played, sounds intense and mysterious in this setting. “Toccata” is a showcase for both Emerson and Palmer with his synthesized percussion. Lake, however, has a rare electric guitar break and comes close to stealing the number from them. This is one of the very few times an ELP song relies on the guitar for its strength. “Tarkus,” reaches more than a half hour and is an amazing spectacle.
The long piano improvisations include Friedrich Gulda’s “Fugue” and Joe Sullivan’s “Little Rock Getaway” among other snippets of well known melodies. “Karn Evil 9” is almost complete in this recording, something that is unusual. The first impression goes on for quite some time, reaching almost twenty minutes. The tape flip between the first and second impressions is very small, losing very little music. The entire piece reaches thirty-five minutes, one of the longest renditions on tape. The “Pictures At An Exhibition” encore features Emerson in a very heroic mood, playing many grandiose melodies and flourishes as the bombast comes to an end.
This comes packaged in a double slimline jewel case and use of the Pictures At An Exhibition motif with band photos. At the time this was the best ELP title to have, but its inclusion in the official boxset makes this obsolete. Buffalo is, however, not only one of the best ELP concerts on tape, but is one of the best progressive rock shows ever. It is a convincing statement of the musical forms intention and power to hold a sold out stadium full of fans in attention.