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by Mike Weatherhead
The Lights go down to Glen Miller's "In the Mood" and then as the band take the stage, you hear sampled snippets of classic ELP sounds, which really do set you up for what is to follow.
The first track to no surprise is "Peter Gunn", the classic opener and does not disappoint. Even from this first song you can tell that the band play as a tight unit, true to the form of ELP. Then straight into a storming rendition of "Nuclear Attack" from the Greg Lake/Gary Moore era solo album, with the great guitar riff and powerful vocals this really holds it's own as a rockin' song in the set list.
"Touch and Go" comes next, a real fan favourite which always gets you in the mood, follow this with great covers of "Frankenstein" (Edgar Winter) and "I'm Thinking" (Rare Bird), then onto the next track, Rainbow's version of "Beethoven's 9th", gets the treatment, with Tom reproducing the sound of "Blackmore's" guitar on his keyboard to provide another uplifting song and a way of showing how the versatility of Tom's playing stops them from being limited to just an organ trio.
Back to the ELP set list, which most of the audience are eager for, in the form of one of their most complex tracks "The Score". When they start this song, you almost gasp at the prospect of them bringing this track off, but soon in, you realise that these boys can play, and I mean note-for-note. Ten minutes of real joy followed, like on the album, by "Learning To Fly". I was never a great fan of this track, but the way they blast straight in with no time to applaud the previous excursion into bliss, really works well.
The next few tracks really bring to the fore the equal talents of Tony on Acoustic Guitar/Vocals, teasing us with the opening bar's of "From the Beginning", they move into Asia's "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" with Tom on piano. "Affairs of the Heart" and "Lucky Man" follow, complete with classic Moog ending.
After the gentle ballads back to the business of Classic ELP. Now you have to see this band live to appreciate the way they keep the whole feel of the ELP live show going. When you see Tom sliding the knives into his bullet belt you know what's coming next. Trumpets for "Fanfare" but what really blew me away and has done every time I've seen Noddys Puncture is their rendition of "Blues Variation" (from Pictures), the Mini-Moog and Hammond sounds really bite on this note-for-note rockin' track and then comes the "Hammond humpin' - knife stabbin' excursion" which never fails to put a smile on your face (I often wonder for those people at the gig, who perhaps don't know ELP or have never seen them live, what they must think at this point in the show, but who cares we love it and we never want it to stop).
I have not mentioned the man at the back driving them along, Lez the drummer has his turn now with a show stopping solo, just so, if you had not realised it before these guys really are equals as musicians and although Tom on keyboards is the nucleus, it's Tony and Lez that make it a true ELP tribute band.
Now we really are into the ELP spirit with a medley of "Welcome Back, Tarkus, America & Rondo" finishing with another storming rendition of "Hoedown".
A standing ovation follows and it's hard to believe that ELP themselves could have performed better. The Band give way to the applause and return for another classic seventies cover "Sylvia" (Focus) followed by a "Nutrocker & Honky Tonk Train Blues" medley.
Well done Tom, Tony & Lez.
I'll just end this review by adding that with the demise of ELP we should all thank Tom especially for his enthusiasm and dedication to keep the ELP spirit alive. Please see this band if you get the chance, if you're any kind of an ELP fan, you won't be disappointed.
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