Band Concert Review
King Crimson!! Park West!!14 Mars!! And I was finally going!!
Reviewed by Patrick Kieran Flaherty & Alfredo Gonzalez
I felt that I was ready for this long awaited King Crimson concert. However, when I got to the show and mingled with the crowd, I discovered that I wasnt completely set: I had to have gotten my hair cut, hadnt I? Long hair on older gentleman was quite de rigueur for the King Crimson show, and I, shortly shorn, kind of felt out of place. The predominance of older/male/longhairs was something I will admit is something I expected on entering the Park West, given that King Crimson have been considered Guitar Gods since the late 1960s. Starting with the album In the Court of the Crimson King, King Crimson has made a reputation as soundmuckers extradonaire. The line up has changed many times over time, although the two mainstays over the last twenty plus years, Robert Fripp and Adrian Below, are in the present lineup. Fripp has been The Guy in King crimson since the beginning; like The Fall and Mark E. Smith, no lineup of the group has not included The Professor. It is his guitar soundscapes, meddlings, and meandering that have been the most notable definition of the King Crimson Sound. It was with the advent of Adrian Below joining the group in the early eighties that made me become an aficionado of the group. With the stunningly great rhythm section of Tony Levin on stick (stick? blimey, only in King Crimson could there be someone on stick instead of bass) and Bill Bruford on drums, King Crimson put out 3 fantastic albums in the early 80s; 1981s Discipline, 1982s Beat, and 1984s Three of a Perfect Pair. This was the lineup I loved: the band was still creating funky and freaked out guitars leads and sounds, but the rhythm section also was able to provide a great base for the guitars to go over. Songs like Thela Hut Gingeet, Elephant Talk, and Neal and Jack and Me sounded great from a cosmic point of view, but they were also the type of songs one could play at a party and have girls dance. It was the combination of structure and sound that attracted me most, and I have remained a huge fan of that period.
When they announced their 2003 tour for the new record, The Power to Believe, I was happy realizing that I finally would be able to see them live. I was hoping that what I knew from the 80s (rocking structured stuff) would be presented to us. I was hoping even more so that Id be able to recognize some songs, since King Crimson has a reputation of being experimental and playing new material in concert.
I recognized nothing; little sounded like the 80s. A lot of the show was dedicated to jamming and starting and stopping, with flourishes of loud heavy guitars giving way to much picking and jamming, and then back to heaviness. There were long stretches where everything would slow down and Fripp or Below would take over. They would pick at their strings for an extended few minutes. Hoping beyond belief that I would be working up a terrible sweat grooving to the songs (as I hope to do at every show Im at), I was left standing watching the stage. Both Fripp, sitting in his chair the whole show, or Below, standing front and center, would take turns picking and slicing, rising and lowering the notes, before going into something else. At times it also sounded like a Shellac show, with the soft stuff suddenly obliterated by razor sharp guitar clashes. The new rhythm section, Trey Gunn on touch guitar (touch guitar?) and Pat Mastelotto on drums, also took part in the jamming and the clashing. Gunns touch guitar oftentimes functioned as a bass, though it had nine strings and often sounded guitarish. For that matter, the other players in the band also had instruments sounding like other instruments, or played several instruments at once. Below had his just guitar singing like Arabic horns, and Fripp had his instrument sounding like keyboards. At other times, the guitar sounded like nothing Ive heard before!
Only once was I able to feel Sixteen Again. In the second of three encores (the show lasted a total of just under two hours), the band finally awed me with a song that gave a cool collective vibe to the audience. The crowd would wait until a verse came in, and then that communion that takes place between players and audience appeared: old men swayed, long hair shook back and forth, bodies moved. Yes, it was 1982 again.
I enjoyed myself very much, even though I didnt get to dance throughout the entire show. All different sorts of art provide releases to the soul, however. The noodling and jamming were good. However, when I danced in the encore, so did my soul. I really wished that this part of the encore had been the greater balance of the concert, however this just proves that although I might wish I was sixteen again, Im not. It would be silly to keep your pet band in the same track that you alone prefer; I found the same that I wanted in addition to a great new diversity.