Finally it was “that” time, we are going to see KC "live" again. For me it is (only) the
3rd time that I will watch them live. Previously I have seen them in the Adrian Belew line up in both The Hague and Utrecht, where the majority of the songs came from their 3 consecutive albums with Belew (Discipline, Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair). After
listening to the live CD “Live in Vienna” on which they actually perform a kind of best of from their back catalogue, I could not really ignore to see these Prog Overlords at work. The band still consists of four veterans, namely founder and driving
force Robert Fripp, saxes and flute Mel Collins, bass and (Chapman) stick Tony Levin and drummer Pat Mastelotto. All this with two additional drummers, Gavin Harrison and Jeremy Stacey(with bowler hat, and also played piano on some songs), Bill Rieflin keys
and Jakko Jakszyk vocals and guitar. We chose for the Saturday (July 14) given that the venue for the 13th was nearly sold out and we could not really choose a nice spot. The 14th we could pick a spot nicely set in the middle so you could
oversee the band completely. Also this show was sold out, I just happened to check the website of organisers Mojo that morning. Once nested in the beautiful concert hall in Amsterdam (an experience in itself, really), two chairs away from us came to sit an
older man, alone, but with piercing, and when we started talking (it was still early, most of the spectators still had to come in), he said he really bought the last ticket, apparently there was one left when he made the choice to go "anyway", row 11, seat
King Crimson chose this venue for the fact that their 1973 album "Starless and Bible Black", then still with John Wetton , was recorded live here, and remixed at the
studio. That was 45 years ago.
Well the concert:
As the headline of this article indicates,
those were exactly the pre-recorded words of Robert Fripp prior to the concert. He also reported that an interval of 20 minutes had been planned. Those 20 minutes would start at the end of the first part of the concert and will end at the beginning of the
second part. He also indicated emphatically that it is not allowed to capture photos or film on camera or other (mobile) devices. And there he has a point because it is so annoying when you go to a concert and people in front of you with cell phones
block your view of the stage with them things.
There is a prominent role for the
drum section, which is odd given the knowledge that Fripp is a guitarist. The drums are prominently placed at the front of the stage, behind them the rest of the band. At the beginning of the show, after a very dramatic appearance of the band members
from their quarters (they walked down a stairway, behind the stage, Fripp at the end, visible to everyone in the audience and under a big applause by the crowd), we are confronted with a lot of drum noise. A deafening version of Hell Hounds of Krim, I think
to get us aquainted with the volume the band is going to play, another song where you have trouble not to move your legs to the rhythm "Neurotica" follows. Then ... a moment of rest for your ears with the excellent Peace: An End, beautifully sung by Jakko
Jackszyk, from the album "In the Wake of Poseidon" from 1969 (!). After that "Pictures of a City" again from "The Wake" this is King Crimson at its best.
again drums at full blast and all kinds of instruments and you wonder where all that noise is coming from, it’s "Radical Action I, III , Meltdown, II and Level 5 ". A quiet interval follows with the song "Cadance and Cascade" again from "The Wake", originally
sung by Gordon "Harry's Bar" Haskell. Then we make a jump to the Crimson as a trio with Bill Bruford and John Wetton. From the album "Red" from 1974 we hear "Fallen Angel" and the aforementioned "Red". This King Crimson is solid as a rock, and the songs are
performed with perfection. Then another step back to "Islands" the album where Boz Burrell (Bad Company) provided the bass and vocals. We are treated to the title song and rarely have I seen such a beautiful duet live between clarinet (Collins) and guitar
(Fripp). The audience saw and heard it with great admiration. It took a while before they applauded at the end of the song as if the audience was in a kind of trance.
followed was the promissed (?) break. Everyone wriggled out to have a drink in the bar or just outside to light up a cigarette or cigar. Strikingly little room to manoeuver, I have to say, in this beautiful concert hall, there are 4 or 5 exits, but all come
down in one hallway that leads to the bar and the exit. So you're in a traffic jam anyway, so a snack becomes an utopia, since you’re not the only one wanting it. We just went outside and be amongst the smokers. I have to say a lot of them, with
KC fans the anti-smoking campaign has campaigned in vain.
Back to the second part of the show.
We start again with percussion by the three refined drummers with "Devil Dogs of Tessellation Row" followed by heavy guitar of Fripp in "Discipline" and the "Indiscipline" on the LP, played by Adrian Belew. Jakko Jacszyk
or Fripp, I leave that in the middle, however, have chosen to sing the "spoken" words of Belew on the original. Although well done it didn’t do the original song justice and that was a pity.
The album “Lizard” then came in the spotlight (KC was a very productive band at the end of the sixties beginning seventies. On the song “Cirkus” Mel Collins has a prominent role with his wind instruments
arsenal, such as saxophone, clarinet and flute. Throughout the show he performed in a shielded plastic glass space, aside from the rest of the band. Most certainly had to do with the acoustics but it was a weird sight. After that the epic Lizard, where Jon
Anderson sings on the original, now only the "Bolero" with a leading role for Tony Levin, who took his bass to add a piece of the Fifth of Beethoven, with a bow playing his which was impressive. Lark's Tongues in Aspic follows, nice and instrumental and against
any known notes, this is Crimson full-length. "Moonchild" from the album "The Court" is then staged with Jakko in the lead, and how about the harbinger that follows which is the most epic song ever written and performed. Yes, and originally conceived in 1967,
influenced by an album by a band which I can’t remember at the moment but the album had the spice Pepper in it’s name. It is of course “In the Court of the Crimson King”, never witnessed it being played so perfectly as this
We continue again with the Wetton / Bruford period, much to the delight of the audience present, young and old were actually mixed up. I estimate between 17 years of age
and 70 years and I don’t think I would be far wrong Which is nice to see, it means not only you admire your heroes at your age but also the youngster can appreciate it. Another nice sight was the amount of women attending. This was certainly not a “grumpy
old men’ venue.
"Easy Money" follows and with this song the actually party comes to live that Fripp talked about in the beginning. What a response from the audience,
knowing that this number is now 44 years old. What follows is another piece of "Larks" and then the closing "Starless", a song written by John Wetton and well sung and played by Jakko.
The Crimsons then left the stage, but the crowd called out for more and when the band came back “21st Century Schizoid Man” was performed, complete with distorted microphone voice.
And that was it. An overwhelming applause follows, and then the moment was there Tony Levin took his phone and made pictures of the audience. I
think everybody did the same. That moment was for us our cue to make it to the exit, to be ahead of the congestion in the corridors.
A very successful concert,
this could just be their last, I’ve heard walking to Qpark from fellow concert goers, who knows. I'm glad we have experienced a fantastic concert. Fripp is a perfectionist, nothing is left to chance. He is called dictatorial, but in whatever line-up
it remains a well-oiled machine. Discipline is a key word in the Crimson ranks. There is no pin between them. There is sufficient room for Improvisation but it is is disciplined improvisation, it must all "fit". Each number has a head and a tail, and ends
just as abruptly as it begins. That is the control over 7 musicians. Although, occasionally, the audience is misled when they secretly play a part when the applause has already started.
Point of criticism then anyway: the PA was certainly not properly set-up in the first part. We could hardly hear the musical antics of
the band behind the drummers and I felt that Levin's bass was being too prominent in some places and it was loud, very loud. Maybe much too loud for this theatre. Fortunately, both in the first part as the second part, there were enough “easy listening”
(?) songs to give this performance a top rating.
And then to conclude a nice anecdote that I picked up:
Fripp has to go on tour again, says wife Toyah Wilcox in 2013, because you will become an annoying old man. And the wife’s
always right, so thank you Toyah !
Review: Frans Verweij © 2018
Thanks to Alex Driessen for giving me a helping hand.