[31 August 2011]
You have to give Keith Emerson credit: back in the late ‘70s, when he was storming stadiums as the leading member of prog-rock titans Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, rising legions of punk rockers proclaimed that he was irrelevant and vowed to end his career. Now, some 30 years later, he’s still making a decent living cranking out the exact same brand of bombastic keyboard pyrotechnics that so infuriated the likes of Johnny Rotten (who, it must be mentioned, hasn’t exactly ended up as a paragon of creativity). Admiring Emerson’s longevity isn’t the same as enjoying his music, however, and while Emerson’s ‘70s work is undeniably unique (for better and for worse), his post-ELP catalog is generally forgettable. Moscow, unfortunately, does nothing to change that. The soundtrack to a concert DVD recorded in Russia in 2008, Moscow covers two densely packed CDs and the bulk of both discs is taken up with lackluster renditions of ELP classics like “Tarkus” (35 minutes), “Lucky Man” (ten minutes), and “Bitches Crystal” (six minutes). What’s more, singer/bassist Marc Bonilla (formerly of Toy Matinee) spends most of the concert doing an eerily accurate Greg Lake impression, which only adds to the overall air of déjà vu. Ultimately, Moscow only confirms that for all his formidable talents as an instrumentalist, Emerson needs a forceful collaborator like Lake to do more than just rest on his laurels. And under any circumstances, a five-minute drum solo remains an unforgivable travesty.