Legendary prog-rock act King Crimson are in the midst of their first US tour in few years, celebrating their 40th Anniversary, and though it's a fairly short one the band has chosen a few locations where they will be playing multiple nights, instead of many stops in many different cities. For New York City, Robert Fripp & Co. have chosen the Nokia Theater in Times Square for a 4 night setting. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo was on hand for evening number one on August 14th, and brings this full show review.
When I first heard that King Crimson were going to be playing 4 nights at the Nokia, a place that holds over 2000 people, I was a little sceptical. No opening act, no gimmicks, just 5 nights of King Crimson music...something didn't seem right. I mean, no disrespect to Crimson, they are perhaps THE godfathers of progressive rock, and always a good live draw, but this many nights did seem like a lot, and my only hope was that the band would sell enough tickets to justify playing here in New York for so many nights. Well, it seemed that the band did their homework, and by limiting the number of cities that they would play, kind of forced the hard core fans to want to travel to the venues that Crimson were settling on, and ticket sales were brisk. Night number one at the gorgeous Nokia in Times Square was very well attended (sold out I believe), and what is normally a general admission venue this time around was set up with chairs in the open floor area in front of the stage and assigned seating for all. It turned the Nokia into an almost sophisticated, intimate setting, which was a refreshing change from the normally jam packed, sweaty, loud, and abrasive atmosphere you normally see for many of the metal shows that are booked at the venue.
Entering the Nokia, Robert Fripp's soundscape material was drifting through the PA, and the tone within the crowd was very hushed. After all, it was made apparent to all that no cameras or cell phones would be allowed to be used during the performance, so everyone was kind of just sitting and waiting patiently. The band went on right on schedule, launching into a drum duel between Pat Mastelotto and new guy Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree), which, was pretty damn amazing, before the whole band kicked into "ConstruKction Of Light". With Adrian Belew at center stage, Tony Levin to his left, Fripp hidden behind his amp rig (yes, you could only make out the top of his head throughout the set), and the two drummers seated at stage rear, the band looked imposing, working through a few minor miscues early on to really find their groove and deliver throughout the set. Many of the tunes you would expect to hear were played, including savage versions of "Red" and "Larks' Tongues In Aspic II", gorgeous renditions of "Frame By Frame" and "Walking On Air", as well as spot on recreations of the complex classics "Thela Hun Ginjeet" and "Three of a Perfect Pair". For many though, it was the power and mystery of pieces like "The Talking Drum", "Indiscipline", "Level Five", and "Neurotica" that really made the most impact this evening, these songs truly overshadowing the more 'fun' pieces such as "Dinosaur" , "Elephant Talk", and "Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream".
Belew was in fine form vocally, and his ragged, jagged, 'bag 'o' tricks' guitar style was as solid as always, though both he and Fripp suffered from not having enough 'oomph' when the riffs needed that extra power. Robert, though you couldn't see him, delivered his array of complex lines, lush chordings, and oddball noises. For me, the star of the evening was Tony Levin, whose percussive style really shone on every track, whether it was on bass or his Chapman Stick. His fingers were flying at all times, delivering plenty of groove and technical musicianship.
There was some odd static or hissing going on through much of the set, more apparent during the quieter moments, not sure where that was emanating from, but otherwise the sound was very good, and the crowd seemed to enjoy every second of it, giving the band one standing ovation after another. Although I'm not sure what the future holds for this iconic band, if they continue to come around for us every few years, we'll continue to pay to see them perform their magic.
ConstruKction Of Light
Three of a Perfect Pair
Frame By Frame
Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream
Thela Hun Ginjeet
The Talking Drum
Larks' Tongues In Aspic II
Walking on Air
VROOOM/Coda: Marine 475