King Crimson weren’t the only ones experiencing a reunion at the Best Buy Theater on September 18: more than 30 years since seeing the Levin + Fripp led combo just a few blocks away in New York, the four of us who “discovered” the Crim during their more Discipline(d) days saw them again. It was a tour de force of early and late stage King Crimson; in stellar terms the show traced the main sequence of “standards” without venturing into the Adrian Belew-voiced 1980s material. Like all good reunions, this one fired any number of unused neurons and lit up some nice memories and thoughts.
My favorite middle school music teacher played “21st Century Schizoid Man” for us in 1975, and I think that was the moment I became a progressive rock fan, although I didn’t realize it until much later.
“Larks Tongues In Aspic” could be the musical grandfather of Animals as Leaders’ entire catalog. The venerable if not slightly clapping-on-the-wrong beats New York Times described Fripp’s guitar playing as “mathematical”, and while “algorithmic” may be a better definition of his use of arpeggios, dissonance and rhythm, it’s the same very heavy elements at the stellar center of “norm core” or “math core”.
I like the ferocity of King Crimson with saxophone rather than violin; much of the 1974 era tours have strings riding alongside the Fripp guitar work; Mel Collins brings a raspy, nasty, intense tone that rounds out the “backline” of this Crimson collection wonderfully.
Tony Levin is fascinating. In my “I wish I were a bass player” high school days, I’d seen pictures of him attacking a Chapman stick and remember being weirded out by the stick (12 string bass played tapping style? Of course, two years later I met Stanley Jordan and what was once weird was normal), his posture (Viscerally, visually and vibrantly leaning into that one), and, well, his physical appearance. He puts on a good show, and the stage set with the drum line in the front and Levin in the center of the back line produced a nice effect – I felt like I was in an orchestra under his baton, while he orchestrated the trio of batteries directly at his feet. His show blogs are a great read, and yes, if you look at the audience shots from the 9/18 show, I’m on the left side.
There’s nothing like seeing a live show with friends. Support musicians by seeing them work their craft. There’s a depth and emotion to it that you don’t get from a recording, even if it’s dampened slightly by Fripp emoting nothing more than facing his effects rack.
Requisite Phish reference: “Dave’s Energy Guide” was written as an homage after King Crimson played Princeton’s Alexander Hall in 1982 (during the Discipline tour, and it was likely the interlocking but not locked in time signatures of “Frame by Frame” that drove the math on that one).
Post-show activity: acquiring some 1970s King Crimson live shows and trying to reverse rhythm engineer “Larks’ Tongues Part II”.