August 3, 2008

King Crimson: Belcourt Theatre, Nashville, TN 8/2/08

1. [drum duo]
2. ConstruKction Of Light
3. Level Five
4. Neurotica
5. Three of a Perfect Pair
6. Indiscipline
7. Frame By Frame
8. Dinosaur
9. One Time
10. Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream
11. B'boom
12. Elephant Talk
13. Red
14. [drum duo]
15. Thela Hun Ginjeet
16. The Talking Drum
17. Larks' Tongues In Aspic II

18. Sleepless
19. VROOOM/Coda: Marine 475

Adrian Belew: guitar, vocal
Robert Fripp: guitar
Tony Levin: bass, stick, vocal
Pat Masteletto: drums, percussion, electronic percussion
Gavin Harrison: drums, percussion

Folks from all over the world descended upon the tiny Belcourt Theatre for the first King Crimson concerts since 2004, a “warm-up” for the upcoming 40th Anniversary Tour. As we made our way into the tiny theatre and noticed the two enormous drum sets that dominated the stage, Liz remarked, “It’s going to be loud, isn’t it!” Yep. We were in for a pummeling.

The performance itself was exciting, but also predictably rusty, with several near-trainwrecks preventing the music from ever truly taking flight. Nevertheless, there were moments of hair-raising intensity, terrifying displays of raw power, and glimpses of sublime beauty. Highlights for me included newcomer Gavin Harrison’s jaw-droppingly complex drum fills on “Indiscipline”, an achingly tender version of “One Time”, and Tony Levin’s relentless groove on “Sleepless.”

As for the Venal Leader himself, Robert Fripp, he has taken to hiding behind a large stack of equipment, rendering himself virtually invisible to the audience. From our vantage point, we were able to watch his fretting hand if he was playing down by the nut and, occasionally, we could see the top of his head as he made adjustments to his gear or a foot pressing a pedal. He further made a point of exiting the stage from behind a scrim and refusing to come out from behind his rack for a bow with the rest of the band at the conclusion of the performance. Now, Mr. Fripp’s aversion to photography is well known and if these kinds of defensive maneuvers allow him enough peace of mind to continue performing, then so be it; after all, we’re there to listen more than to see (although seeing is nice, too). But this behavior makes even Miles Davis’s notoriously hostile stage persona seem downright gregarious and it’s difficult not to read it as utter contempt for the audience. And yet, a recent diary entry indicates that, despite all appearances, Mr. Fripp doesn’t take himself too seriously.

In any event, the tactics seemed to work: I saw no photography, audio/video recording, or cell phone abuse and that alone was welcome indeed. In fact, the audience was rapturous and the rest of the musicians seemed to be having a pretty good time. So, whatever. I was grateful to be there and Fripp’s guitar playing was typically brilliant, combining raging shards of metallic bombast with delicately intricate flatpicking and otherworldly high-tech textures, sometimes all within the same song. Too bad we couldn’t see him.

I’ll be curious to see if the setlist varies at all over the course of the tour. I suspect the band will work out the kinks and the larger venues should allow the full power and fury of this version of the band to fully blossom. Happy 40th Birthday KC!



Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your review of the warm up performance of the 40th Anniversary tour of the Crimson. I will be seeing (or maybe just hearing them) in Philadelphia on August 11th. It will be my 18th time see and hear Fripp...8th time under the Crimson name.

I am used to Fripp's idiosyncratic tendencies. I witnessed a performance of one of the ProJkects cut short when someone foolishly snapped off a flash photo at just the precise moment Fripp was to begin speaking after the first set. He offered no words, paused, turned and left the stage. One moment later the house lights came on and it was the end of the evening.

I hope the audience behaves and we get treated to a full evening of the onslaught of heavy Crimsoning on the 11th. I must say I am looking forward to hear Gavin. I enjoy the PT stuff.

christopher said...

Hey Rodger!

Interesting review of the show. Even more interesting about Fripp and his oddness. I believe (some of the time) Miles was actually pointing his horn in different directions because it would change the sound; the way it would bounce of objects and people in the room (he had notoriously sensitive ears). Maybe not; maybe he just didn't like people :-)

I recall years ago seeing Bears, the group formed by Adrian Belew after he left Crimson. What sticks with me now all these years later (as well as when leaving the show) was what an insane about of energy! It was almost too much.

Also, thanks very much for all the writing about Robert Pollard. I got Robert Pollard Is Off To Business and listen to it all the time. Great stuff, and totally unknown to me before.