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Keith Emerson: A Musical Celebration at Birmingham Symphony Hall - live review

Live Review

Venue: Birmingham Symphony Hall

The great and the good gather to celebrate Keith Emerson's music

There is a considerable buzz in the bar of The Symphony Hall prior to tonight’s concert. Prog hears someone excitedly relaying that they’d heard how some fans had travelled from mainland Europe, the USA and even China. Another voice pipes up, “I used to be Keith’s keyboard tech,” while someone else tells his friend that Lee Jackson, formerly of The Nice, is sitting just a few tables away.

Once inside, with standing ovations from the word go, it’s impossible not to be swept up in a wave of emotion. There is less a sense of build-up than a constant and demonstrative outpouring of love and positive vibes. Comedian and major Emerson Lake & Palmer fan Jim Davidson is both the organiser of the event and this evening’s compère, and his blokey banter helps to keep things somewhat down-to-earth.

The first number is a version of Abaddon’s Bolero with Terje Mikkelsen conducting the 60-piece Keith Emerson Orchestra. Initially it seems to evoke a Disney-style army appearing over the horizon – with a tongue-in-cheek snatch of the old American marching song The Girl I Left Behind – then bass, drums and guitar add to the heft of the sound, building to the intense, slightly menacing finale, with Rick Wakeman on synth.

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