Released a year after Greg Lake's passing, Live In Piacenza certainly delvers a double-edge sword of poignancy — recounting the ELP singer’s “Songs Of A Lifetime” solo tour, as well as reminding us that this is one performer we won’t be hearing anything new from any more. Recorded on November 28, 2012 for a sold out audience at the Teatro Municipale in Piacenza, Italy, this concert opened the Musiche Nuove in Piacenza Festival. Both Lake and the audience here are locked in for a very good time across the 15 tunes presented.
The two-punch opener “21st Century Schizoid Man” to “Lend Your Love To Me Tonight,” gives way to “From The Beginning,” all revealing Lake in fine voice, maybe even better than I remember hearing him during the ELP reunion of the early 90s. There’s a surprising amount of covers here, including Elvis Presley's “Heartbreak Hotel,” the Beatles' “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” (the audience especially comes alive during the shouted “Hey” in the chorus), Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' “Shakin' All Over,” and Curtis Mayfield's “People Get Ready” with Lake on piano. Seeing Lake in the States and hearing it again now, one may think the set list relied a little too heavily on covers. But as Lake explained, he was presenting songs he played, sung and wrote, as well as those that influenced him during his life.
Even when the backing tracks get a little heavy, meandering into the land of the midnight karaoke, Lake makes up for it when it's just him and his acoustic guitar. His read of “Trilogy” — one of the gems of his set — and “I Believe In Father Christmas,” are spot-on. When I saw this show, I wish there were more of these kind of acoustic-only moments.
On the requisite “Lucky Man,” Lake is joined by Annie Barbazza, former PFM and Acqua Fragil’s vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti, and Le Orme’s leader Aldo Tagliapietra, with each singing a different verse and layering their vocals on the chorus. “Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression, Part II)” is the encore of the evening. This is another backing track -laden mélange that Lake gets a little lost on, but the crowd seems to dig him managing Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s most popular track. Altogether, there's no doubt Live In Piacenza is a sweet document of a special show from a singular talent.
Ralph Greco, Jr.