Carl Palmer is thinking a lot about legacy these days.
One of prog rock’s most cherished drummers, Palmer is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the progressive stalwarts who have sold 48 million records. Along with a new book, new art and new multimedia plans for the band, Palmer, 71, is out touring with ELP Legacy, his recent trio dedicated to the works he created with Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, who both died in 2016.
ELP Legacy performs at Tellus360 on Tuesday, Nov. 16. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door.
“It's very difficult after a number of years off, even if you play at home and keep yourself lubricated, as it were,” Palmer says over the phone, the day after only the second day of the first tour back since COVID-19 first hit. “It takes a bit of time to get to match fit. Yesterday was better than the day before, and I'm hoping that tonight will be even better.”
ELP Legacy is a sort of tribute to the work that the trio created in the ‘70s, but with a twist – Palmer is joined by bassist and Chapman Stick (think a bass with enough strings that you can almost play it like a guitar) player Simon Fitzpatrick and guitarist Paul Bielatowicz, who translates the late Emerson’s iconic keyboard lines with the help of MIDI technology.
“As technology has gone by, there's more of what we call plugins, that you can use to sort of get the guitar to trigger keyboard sounds,” Palmer says. “I never wanted to start another band with a keyboard player because it didn't seem like the right thing to do. What I thought was that I'd show how versatile the music was and what could be done with it. After all, orchestras have played ELP music, jazz quartets and string quartets have played the music.”
Audiences can expect a smattering of both the hits that propelled ELP across the globe and a few surprises. Palmer says that he tracks the top-played ELP songs on the radio during the last half century — “Lucky Man,” “Pictures at an Exhibition,” “Tarkus” and others — and creates the setlist accordingly.
Palmer recently detailed a plan to take footage from one of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 1992 shows at the Royal Albert Hall and create a fully functional hologram show. Emerson, Lake and Palmer performed their last proper concert at the High Voltage Festival in London in 2010.
A more conventional tribute comes in the form of this year’s photo book on the band’s history, eponymously titled “Emerson, Lake and Palmer.” Fittingly grandiose, the book comes in three forms — “Classic,” “Signature” and “Ultimate.”
“What we decided is that we wanted to tell a story,” Palmer says. “We searched all the interviews around the first, say, five albums, and when we didn't have enough of a story around the recording of each, then I would be interviewed to fill it in. I also read quite a few interviews people had done over the years that were totally inaccurate. I managed to get all the, really, journalistic propaganda that didn't take place at the time and counter that. It's a nice concept. The photographs are exceptional, a lot of which I had never seen.”
Despite two band members being dead, it can be argued that 2021 was the biggest year for Emerson, Lake and Palmer in decades.
“Prog rock was our contribution to the world, like yours was jazz here in America,” Palmer says. “And it'll always be there, prog, whether it'll be as popular ever again, who knows? I very much doubt it, but there's lots of people that appreciate the music, which is obviously great for me.”
IF YOU GO
What: ELP Legacy featuring Carl Palmer
Where: Tellus360, 24 E. King St.
When: Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $30 in advance, $35 at the door
More info: tellus360.com