The Nice

Newcastle Opera House

15 October 2003

What's that? You've never heard of The Nice? Boo! One of the best progressive jazz bands of the late 60s. Well, sort of classical-jazz-rock band... ok, I don't know how to describe them. Keith Emerson (keyboards (duh)), Brian Davison (drums — how many rock drummers do you know who use brushes?), Lee Jackson (bass and awful vocals), and "youngster" Dave Kilminster replacing David O'List on guitar (whatever happened to O'List? Haven't got a clue).

A few things niggled me about this concert. The format was the same as last year: an hour of The Nice then some ELP music. Last year I thought this was fine — who wouldn't want to see Tarkus performed live? This year, I found myself wishing for less Emerson and more Nice...

The other niggle is that sometimes I thought I was seeing the "Emerson & Kilminster" show. Kilminster is a tremendous player but this time he seemed a bit full of himself, competing for the spotlight instead of backing up the other guys. I don't know... the show didn't suffer for it but it seemed a bit... wrong. (I have to admit, his trick of laying the guitar flat on the stage and playing it like a keyboard is very cool.)

The Nice's one-hour set included America, Rondo, Little Arabella, Brandenburger, Country Pie, Hold on to a Dream, Cry of Eugene, and ending with the (indescribably good) Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite. And, um, probably something else that I forgot. A very similar set to last year, but this is one of those "never play a song the same way twice" bands so it didn't really matter.

A 30 minute break allowed everybody to run to the bar while they wheeled on a grand piano. Emerson then gave us a 15 minute solo piano recital. He's actually rather good

Then we got a bit of stand-up comedy while they wheeled the piano off again — Emerson telling a hilarious story about how he met Dave Kilminster when he attended a Quango (Carl Palmer's band, featuring Kilminster) concert.

Next, a solo acoustic song from Kilminster -- but why? Yes, he's a tremendous player and his voice is very nice but come on: this isn't the Emerson & Kilminster show!

The evening's odd format continues with band number two: Emerson, Kilminster, Pete Riley (bass) and Phil Williams (drums). Again, the same as last year: some ELP tunes. I'm hoping they at least play something different to last year, but nope, it's Tarkus again. On the other hand, it's such an incredible performance of Tarkus that I couldn't really complain. Could have done without the drum solo (competently performed but a bit generic), but it's interesting how they incorporate the guitar and Kilminster's vocals on Epitaph are phenomenal. Oh, and Emerson shoots fireworks from his... stick thing (er... what do you call that stick-thing?)... just to remind us how ridiculous ELP actually were

Next: Touch and Go (Kilminster's vocals not so good on this one) and Hoedown (brilliant guitar/organ duels).

Finally, Davison and Jackson came back on for a two-bass, two-drum attack on Fanfare for the Common Man; an amazing version with a marvellous drum battle in the middle.

The encore was all six musicians again, playing... I think it's called Honky Tonk Blues or something.

Two and a half hours of music all together, and although I've got reservations about the format I can't complain about the entertainment value or the quality of the music or the performances. Definitely worth the price of admission.