Two thirds of a mighty trio strip the bombast to come closer to home.
2010’s High Voltage Festival was the last time ELP arrived before the audience: the effort put into just one performance put Carl Palmer off further concerts with Greg Lake and Keith Emerson but convinced these two they still could work together. So the duo took to the road in a scaled-down format which, as this recording suggests, opened a new dimension to their classic songs. Half-acoustic, resolved to mostly piano ripple and a six-string strum, rockers like “Bitches Crystal” – let alone ballads such as “Take A Pebble” or “From The Beginning” – shine with a newly revealed dramatic vibrancy. One of the most striking metamorphoses comes with the barebone “Tarkus” which, in this minimalistic rendition (possibly inspired by the band’s fan take on it), grows bigger than the piece was when a rich electric seam went through it; there’s a raw jazzy emotion now and subtle hints at the music laid in its foundation, and even the organ spicing doesn’t take away from the epic’s naked elegance.
Yet when Emerson wrings heavier sounds from under his ivories and Lake takes to the bass, while out of nowhere a drums part joins the texture of “Pirates” or “The Barbarian,” the two emerge exactly as what they are without the P ingredient: a cheaper version of a great band. Still, there’s a special layer to this approach, a riveting storytelling one, akin to the method Greg would use for his "Songs Of A Lifetime" experience later on, and it was during this tour with Keith that the former dusted off “I Talk To The Wind” to render it unplugged and more moving than ever – before or since. And if the initially simple “C’Est La Vie” and “Lucky Man” could hardly be changed, they’re still turn one on. The power of the music and the artists’ openness make this recording special, as Manticore, even wounded, can still sting.