Those in the bar were given a 5-minute countdown to the performance at 20:40, but still we managed to miss the initial Fanfare which, as usual, ran into the first Asia number of the evening, Time Again. It was obvious immediately that Wetton's voice had improved overnight, sounding almost as good as he had at the Robin 2 and Bridgend. The rest of the band seemed in good spirits, happier in a proper concert hall no doubt. Sole Survivor followed swiftly, the band fully relaxed and smiling widely.
During the instrumental mid section of Bitches Crystal Dave Kilminster kept himself amused by swapping his neck hand from playing as normal, to playing from above the neck, then alternating between methods a few times. Some people find guitar playing too easy!
Before introducing Dave Kilminster's Guitar solo Carl took time to tell us that “It sounds really good up here to us! It’s good to be in a theatre”. He certainly seemed happy to be there, much more so than he had appeared at some of the smaller venues, Milton Keynes in particular, on the previous tour. I have the feeling that the hall was much better acoustically for the band, making them much more comfortable with the performance. The sound for the audience was certainly very good.
Dave’s solo features the usual Pictures excerpt, though there were only a couple of cheers of recognition from the crowd. Perhaps most of them were Wetton or Asia rather than ELP fans. At one point he played for about 20 seconds with just the neck hand. Impressive stuff. As the solo drew to a close John Wetton returned, picking up his acoustic guitar for the next track, before saying, “Dave Kilminster! Actually, I was his brother last night - Lemmy” in reference to the husky vocal of the previous evening. I’m not sure how many people caught the joke though: Lemmy being bass and vocalist with Motorhead, real name Ian Kilminster. After that it was straight into an acoustic version of The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, the pared down presentation highlighting Wetton's vocal recovery from the previous evening. Carl Palmer appeared just as the track finished, announcing “John Wetton, ah yes!" Wetton retaliating with a mock jump of surprise.
Before beginning the Dylan classic All Along the Watchtower Wetton thanked Martin for the guitar, the Martin in question (I assume) being Darvill, chairman of Liscombe Park and old friend of John’s. Why he should have provided a guitar I’m not sure, perhaps John’s normal one had been damaged in some way after the previous show. An excellent version of Battle Lines, title track of the eponymous Wetton solo CD from several years ago, followed, a touch of echo added to the vocals to add depth and enhance them. Carl is now in his stride and begins the drum beat of the track as Wetton back introduces both Battle Lines and All Along the Watch Tower.
Walking on Air is next, the first track new to most of the audience (those not at the Astoria show a few months previously) and it seemed to make a good impression with it’s powerful, bassy sound and catchy chorus and verses. It’s not a complex lyrical track and you soon find yourself singing along, especially after a couple of listens. John Young was certainly enjoying himself tonight, singing along outwith the harmony sections (off mic) and smiling broadly between verses. It was his turn to impress the audience next too, “We’ve arrived at that time again, Mr. John Young” was how Paddydog his keyboard solo was introduced. The crowd were slow to cheer the start of the solo so he gave his usual ‘audience participation required’ warning as well as promoting his forthcoming solo show in Effingham the following week. (The Effingham show had to be cancelled on the night as the radio microphone packed up after John set up his equipment.) The audience did participate at the appropriate time and the solo then led onto an evil-sounding section in which keyboard took a serious bashing, rocking from side to side on it’s stand. No keys were broken this time though, unlike the previous London show when Keith Emerson broke 3 of them. Someone, at an earlier show, asked Carl if Keith had ever stumped up the cash for the repair, “No” was Carl’s reply. Nice to know that your friendly, keyboard smashing, fellow musicians help out their less well off peers repairing the damage they caused!
As everyone else returned to the stage John Wetton introduced Only Time Will Tell as “a little tear jerker” to which an incredulous Young replied “to you maybe!” I don’t think any tears were shed during it, but you never know. Another song and another intro from Wetton, “Here’s one by Aaron Copeland about a barn dance and inbreeding and things”. Not a bad tale considering that Hoedown is an instrumental! It is a bit of a barnstormer of a track though, Young and Kilminster rattling through it with some nifty interplay. The crowd obviously enjoyed it, giving the loudest cheer of the evening as it ended.
Wetton, “You liked that one then!. You’ll hate this one, it’s one that John Young and I wrote together”, Last One Home. Not hate, just a little disappointment that John Young didn’t get to sing the track again tonight. I guess John Wetton is the vocalist and felt he should sing everything if possible, though it would have been nice to have them alternate verses or split the song in some way. However, the track is a long slow building masterpiece, and it gives Carl a chance to do some percussion work, rather than straight drumming. This gave the man a nice break before the onslaught of his solo in the following number. during the middle instrumental section Wetton moved back behind John Young to motion for a drink, ready for the forthcoming break care of Palmer. Dave Kilminster altered his solo quite a lot this evening, cutting most of his ‘Dave Gilmore’ inspired parts. Perhaps he felt inspired having seen his girlfriend that afternoon, the first time since the beginning of the tour. He certainly looked happy throughout the show, not that it is unusual - he seems to enjoy every performance.
Before the solo however was the small matter of the third ELP tune, Fanfare for the Common Man, introduced by Wetton as “and now, a song featuring a promising young drummer who I’ve personally known for 70 years!” “This week!” noted Palmer and so the silliness continued until someone said “Stop It”. The fun continued into the track with Wetton and Kilminster touching heads during the ‘jangly’ keyboard solo section. Dave played a particularly long ‘teeth’ section tonight, actually using his teeth I believe, certainly no battery as he’d forgotten it. The stage was vacated to allow Carl Palmer his drum solo and he must have felt particularly comfortable in the venue, as tonight was the first time on this tour that he’s used the tambourine during it. This came out after the section where he plays one of his cymbals from above and below with different sticks, to cheers of appreciation from the surprised audience. Towards the climax of the solo Palmer stopped briefly, the audience shouting “go on" before he continued with a smile large upon his face. The other trio returned to join in with a brief reprise of Fanfare ... before taking their bows and leaving the stage.
The audience, of course, wanted more, several folk now running down to the front of the stage to join the lonely fan who’d been there since the start of the set. A couple of minutes later everybody was back on stage ready for Heat of the Moment except Dave who held them up by not being ready with his guitar. He soon got it together and they launched into a cheery version, Wetton waving his arms in a dragonlike fashion during the appropriate sections of the lyrics. Carl was still having fun, standing up during the clap-along section, hitting his drumsticks in time then mock missing several ‘beats’ on the trot, smile upon his face. And so ended a most enjoyable show. As they’d all obviously enjoyed themselves it was a slight surprise that Don’t Cry failed to feature as a second encore but I guess they’d decided that they just weren’t going to do it on this tour by this point. A shame but I suppose John Wetton didn’t want to push his voice more than he had to after the previous evening, having a seventh show on the trot to do the next evening.
This was a great night, the band obviously relaxed in a decent venue and probably glad the Wetton’s voice had returned to most of it’s glory. Their happiness was obvious in the performance, both in the quality of play and in the larking about between and during numbers. A great improvement on the previous nights show, just a shame that John Young didn’t get to perform Last One Home. Ah well, you can’t have everything I suppose.
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