Review: Keith Emerson - A Musical Celebration Of Life, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

By Kirsten Rawlins | Birmingham entertainment | Published:

Fans of the late, great Keith Emerson came from across the world for a musical celebration of his life at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.

The show last night was hosted and produced by funnyman Jim Davidson, who strolled out to the stage in a black Emerson, Lake and Palmer T-shirt, before welcoming the packed-out room.

“It’s nice to have all the family here isn’t it?” beamed Jim. “We’re here tonight to celebrate a star who made a difference to us all.”

And with that, the show began.

The concert at Symphony Hall. Photo: Any Shaw.

Music was first provided by highly-talented Keith Emerson Orchestra - a stunning full symphony orchestra which filled the venue’s stage.

Led by conductor Terje Mikkelsen, they serenaded the audience for the first half of the evening, with guest appearances from prog keyboard legend Rick Wakeman and Rachel Flowers - an incredible blind pianist from California.

Joined by a rock guitarist, bassist and drummer, a highlight from the orchestra was a stellar performance of Fanfare For The Common Man - during which Keith Emerson’s son Aaron joined them on keyboard. This was a true feast for the ears, and a stunning rendition of an iconic number.

Another special moment was when the orchestra performed Beyond The Stars - this was the last piece of music ever written by Keith, and the audience last night were the first to hear this beautiful song.


Keith’s ex-wife Elinor was also at the show - and thanked Jim for putting the event together, before revealing the late Greg Lake’s wife Regina was also in the audience.

Next on stage was the incredible 11-year-old Ethan - Keith’s grandson - whose piano playing was intricate and mesmerizing; his fingers trickling over the keys like water.

Rick Wakeman then returned for his solo slot - but not before (hilariously) grumbling that someone had removed the top of the piano, meaning his music had slipped right down.

“I’ll have to play this from memory,” said Rick, before stunning the crowd with a classical compilation on the piano.


Another pianist to grace the stage was French star Thierry Eliez, who first played alone and was later joined by a female vocalist and male cellist. A real highlight of Thierry’s performance was witnessing him strum the chords within the piano - a unique technique which Keith was known for.

After this, despite Thierry’s clear talent, his part of the show dragged a little for me - and I have a particular disliking for jazz, so really did not enjoy the jazz-like piano playing and scatting from the singer. Having said that, many of the crowd clearly did.

Another musician to join the show was Damien Joyce - with whom Keith did his final collaboration.

In between songs, Jim led singalongs with the crowd - who happily chanted the words to hits such as Lucky Man.

And it wasn’t just the musicians who came across the world to celebrate Keith’s life - members of the audience came from as far as Belgium, France and Italy for the show.

The evening was dedicated to raising money for military charity Care After Combat - and soldiers could be seen collecting money in the bar during the break.

An all-round variety of entertainment from a huge array of different acts.

A great, touching tribute to a star who is gone, but not forgotten.

Kirsten Rawlins

By Kirsten Rawlins

Online Entertainment Editor for the Express & Star, Shropshire Star and Native Monster. E-mail me, or phone 01902 319368


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