Roll Up See The Show (Blue Café-105A/B)
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – December 17th, 1973
Disc 1: Introduction, Hoedown, Jerusalem, Toccata, Tarkus, Benny The Bouncer, Take A Pebble, Lucky Man, piano improvisations (incl. Jingle Bells and White Christmas), Take A Pebble (conclusion)
Disc 2: Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression), Karn Evil 9 (2nd Impression), Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression), Pictures At An Exhibition (incl. Silent Night), (outroduction)
After the release of Brain Salad Surgery ELP toured the US three times. The first tour began on November 14th, 1973 in Florida and ended with two dates at Madison Square Garden in New York on December 17th and 18th. Roll Up See The Show, among the many recent Blue Café CDR releases of ELP tapes, is a very clear tape of the first of these two final concerts. The taper was some distance from the stage but Emerson’s talking between songs is really the only thing that suffers. The audience is mostly very quiet with some minor muffled conversations as is common with tapes made at this venue. During “Toccata”, for example, we can hear someone buying a soda for seventy cents (truly a bargain!) This tape, as unique and important an ELP tape that exists, has never seen a release on the silver disc format. The cdr label Ayanami released it several years ago on Silent Night (Ayanami-096) in a sound quality comparable to this.
Given that this is the end of the tour the band put on a great performance with some unique surprises. The set list is usual for this tour but all of their pieces are beginning points for their off the wall improvisations. “Tarkus” is only twenty-three minutes long, comparatively short for a piece that routinely lasted more than a half hour. Ever since the epic premiered on stage the “Battlefield” section ended with Lake singing a line from King Crimson’s “Epitaph” to rapturous applause. For some reason at the last minute he chooses not to sing it. Maybe it didn’t fit with the holiday mood? Whatever the case is this is the only show I’ve heard where it isn’t included and is unique. Emerson throws in “Norwegian Wood” during the “Aquatarkus” section. “Benny The Bouncer”, which sometimes alternated with “Jeremy Bender”, is the light song before the seriousness improves in “Take A Pebble”. Emerson throws in references to “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas” to celebrate Christmas before returning to the main theme. The “Karn Evil 9” epic lasts more than a half hour and is introduced as a history of man and technology from the stone age to computers. (Yes it is pretentious but still cool).
It is played like the studio version with the addition of Palmer’s energetic drum solo in the second impression. As with most tapes from this era there is a tape flip between the second and third impressions eliminating the jazzy beginning and picking up in the Caribbean drums section of the third impression. The “Pictures At An Exhibition” suite is played as the encore. At ten minutes into the piece, right before the “Great Gates Of Kiev” section, the band launch into the first stanza of “Silent Night” accompanied by a full choir dressed in Christmas robes and fake snow falling in the Garden. It is a contrived but magical moment. The piece ends with Emerson playing Chopin over the moog frenzy. The closing music pumped through the PA is tracked separately on this release although not noted on the track listing. Blue Café manufactured Roll Up See The Show with paper labels on the cdrs and one-sided artwork that isn’t the best looking. But they have been releasing some impressive ELP tapes of late and this one is definitely worth having. (GS)If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)