By Tim McCoy
Carl Palmer is a man on fire. His energetic playing style was the heartbeat of the 1970’s progressive rock supergroup Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, (ELP), and then for 80’s rock band Asia. These days, he is still going strong with his current project ELP Legacy which comes to the Harvester Performance Center on Friday night.
I was able to grab a few minutes of the drummer’s time as he travelled from Melbourne, Florida to Atlanta as part of the North American leg of this year’s tour. Palmer is a cheerful, albeit busy man, and he fired answers back the way he plays his drums, fast-paced and with a rhythmic precision. It quickly became clear why he has accomplished so much over the course of his five-decade career: he does not stop moving. The ELP Legacy show has been touring almost continuously since June of 2016, and continues to add dates, including two just this week in North Carolina.
For his current band, ELP Legacy, Palmer needed to find a guitarist and bassist who could keep up with his pace of touring, and the highly technical compositions of ELP. Palmer wanted the best.
“When I was forming the band (in 2003), the best place in England is to go to the academies and find out who their top students are,” said Palmer.
That’s how he found Simon Fitzpatrick and Paul Bielatowicz. The Academy of Contemporary Music in Guilford, UK pointed Palmer to a recent graduate, guitarist Bieiatowicz, who at age 24, was teaching at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM). The young virtuoso quickly signed on with Palmer. Bassist, Fitzpatrick had recently departed the Institute of Contemporary Music in London, where he’d graduated as Best Overall Bass Player. The two players compliment Palmer’s energy and skill beautifully, easily playing all of the complex ELP compositions.
The ELP Legacy setlist is a historical trip through the band’s catalogue, which recreates the journey from inception of the trio, to the success of the biggest hits of its decade-long career. Included in the nearly two-hour set is King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man,” which was one of the first tracks Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, and Palmer jammed to when they were considering forming the band in 1969. Also in the set, are the ELP classics “Lucky Man” and of course, “Karn Evil 9…”, ELP’s most popular song. Along the way, you’ll also be treated to the classical music adaptations ELP was famous for, including Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”, and Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn Theme”.
Palmer, at 67, shows no signs of slowing down, and Friday’s show promises to be an energetic display of his talents, as well as fond remembrances of his friends Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, both who passed in the last 14 months.
Tickets are available on the Harvester’s website for this special evening at our region’s premier listening room. Doors open at 7 pm.