The Carl Palmer Band IN CONCERT DVD Review

By Lorraine Kay

Simply titled “The Carl Palmer Band IN CONCERT” their new DVD is a must have for any ELP or prog rock fan. The DVD is the live concert from start to finish as they performed it on September 5, 2004 at the Bucharest Sports Arena in Romania.

Best known as the “Palmer” in Emerson Lake and Palmer and as the drummer for Asia, Carl Palmer is still one of the most awesome drummers in rock and roll or any other music form. And if it were even possible, he seems to get better and more awesome as time goes by. This DVD is proof of that.

The best thing about this DVD, outside of the awesome music, is the camera angles. There were lots of close-up shots of the musicians and their instruments. Close enough that I could see that Dave Marks was playing a 7-string bass. The sound is very good as well and works very nicely on a surround sound system.

This concert featured Palmer on drums, of course, and Paul Bielatowicz on guitar and Dave Marks on bass – an amazing trio. Every song is a masterpiece in musicianship.

This isn’t Palmer’s first time out on his own, (some may remember Qango and a few other side trips), but the first time using his name at the forefront. This band began touring a couple of years before this DVD was made but with Shawn Baxter on guitar. Bielatowicz actually replaced Baxter just prior to this concert when injuries from a car accident made it impossible for him to ever play again.

The main challenge of this gig was to take songs all ELP songs with predominately orchestral keyboard parts and replace them with the guitar.  But according to Palmer both Bielatowicz and Marks enjoy playing the music and are able to blend in to a very tight fit. Talking about the switch from keyboards to guitar, Palmer said, “The keyboards obviously are a lot more orchestral sounding. But on the other hand the guitar has a bit more of a rock element, with more excitement, dare I say.” 

And that it did. Featuring Palmer’s drumming throughout the concert, the whole concert was intense and driving. Something kin to an awesome 90 minute drum solo with the guitar and bass interspersed throughout. Bielatowicz and Marks are out front and do a good job tackling the difficult job of fronting on a totally instrumental gig.

Palmer, a showman at heart, entertained from behind his drums with one powerful and dramatic solo after another with the athletic prowess of a 20 year old. No rising drum platform, but fans were delighted just the same with every little trick that he pulled out of his sleeve like your favorite uncle pulling a quarter or piece of candy out of your ear. The whole concert was something of a mad roller coaster ride with countless extreme points.

In between each song, Palmer took a trip to a microphone placed strategically in front of his drums center stage to connect with the audience and chat a bit or introduce the next song. When asked why he just didn’t talk from his comfortable place at his drums he said, “You have to understand that the music is quite intense. Instrumental music with no vocals at all …the music is to the wall. So to completely counteract the solid force of live music . . .I try to hit the other end of the spectrum by being slightly cute – to slightly humor the audience – to be friendly – to be down to earth – to be real about what’s going on.”

The DVD has 17 songs and runs 87 minutes. Starting with a somewhat whimsical circus fanfare, just to get your attention the band doesn’t play until the announcer introduces them and then there is an explosion into Peter Gunn. That is followed by Barbarian and then the folksy “Hoedown.” “Enemy of God” and then the Joe Walsh writing collaboration “L.A. Nights” was next up, which featured a smokin’ blues jam by Bielatowicz and Marks.

Bielatowicz’s solos and transformation of keyboard parts to guitar was flawless. If the audience was hung up on Keith Emerson’s keyboard parts, their hang-ups melted away listening and watching him work his way through the difficult material. Next up Palmer gave Bielatowicz a chance to strut his stuff leaving him alone on stage to perform a four minute guitar solo that segued in and out of “Flight of the Bumblebee” and some jazz licks with Marks re-joining him on stage for support and for a powerful duet. The transition from classical music to rock and roll and jazz was seamless.

Both guitarists proved to be creative and precise on every song, matching Palmer’s expertise seemingly with ease, something that would have been an overwhelming task for most.

Another short selection and then it was Marks turn to solo. Demonstrating a wide variety of playing techniques jammed for over six minutes flowing in and out of bits and pieces of some familiar tunes.

After taking the audience down memory lane with other ELP selections that included “Bullfrog”, Toccata, Canario, Tarkus, and Fanfare for he common man, during which Bielatowicz and Marks left Palmer alone on stage. This time it was Palmer’s turn to totally strut his stuff for a near seven-minute drum solo, as he juggled his drumsticks and bounced them off the cymbals without missing a beat. After the guitarists rejoined Palmer they went around again before closing the show and taking a bow.

But they weren’t done yet. They returned to the stage for an encore of “Carmina Burana”.

Again this is a must for any ELP or prog rock fan. There are no special features but the concert is plenty. It is also a preview of what can be expected when the band returns on tour in the spring.