Few things excite music fans more than seeing their idol(s) in concert, and the more history there is between them, the more special the show becomes. Considering how revered Greg Lake has become over the last 40+ years (especially in the progressive rock community, as he fronted King Crimson and ELP), it comes as no surprise that his performance this past Thursday night at the Keswick Theatre was as sentimental as it was sensational.
Lakecalls the tour “Songs of a Lifetime,” and considering the mixture of covers and original material, it’s a fitting title. Basically, he played others’ songs that he adored in-between his own hits, as if to say, “I’ll play a song that inspired me and then a song of mine that inspired you.” Just about every piece was bookended with a story (more on that later), and the combination of synchronized lighting effects and backing tracks made the event feel like much more than just a solo act.
In a surprising acknowledgment to modern music, Lake entered the stage as Kanye West’s “Power” (which features a [sloppy] sample of “21st Century Schizoid Man”) played. Of course, he finished the original song as the rapper’s version concluded, and afterward, he greeted the audience. In addition to the opening song of King Crimson’s debut record, Lake also performed a cleverly arranged synthesis of “Epitaph” and “In the Court of the Crimson King,” as well as “I Talk to the Wind.” Of his hits with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, he performed “From the Beginning,” “Trilogy,” “Still…You Turn Me On,” and “Lucky Man.” He also performed a bit of “Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression Part 2” as an encore.
As for the songs that weren’t his, he paid humble homage to “Shaking All Over” by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley, “Hide Your Love Away” by the Beatles, and “Axis: Bold as Love” by Jimi Hendrix. Finally, his set also included “C’est La Vie,” “People Get Ready,” and Emerson, Lake & Powell’s “Touch & Go.”
While the music was excellent (although the deepness of his voice was a bit unexpected), the recollections were arguably more special. Lake recounted several stories involving King Crimson and ELP, as well seeing Hendrix and Elvis live, playing with Ringo Starr and Yes, and conversing with a Russian man who was imprisoned for owning Pictures at an Exhibition. In addition, audience members were given the chance to tell their own tales about how Lake’s work has affected their lives, which was quite touching.
All in all, it was a great commemoration of Lake’s magnificent body of work, and the modesty with which he honored his idols and contemporaries was endearing. While some attendees might’ve found the backing music too unfamiliar, I thought it was interesting to hear modified versions of Lake’s most prized material. Similar to equally famed vocalist Jon Anderson, Lake is proud to share in nostalgia with longtime fans (and introduce newcomers to one of the most important catalogues in progressive rock). Let’s hope more genre veterans start to follow their lead.