maugorn (maugorn) wrote,

King Crimson: I did NOT expect to see *this* show!

Imagine that once upon a time that you wished for something for Christmas. It was something that you *knew* would make you happy, brighten your whole life, even. But it was impractical, beyond the reach of you or those who loved you. What's worse, it was also very much a thing rooted in it's time, and that time is gone. So you've sighed, and moved on. Ok, here it is decades later and you've decided to go to a holiday party, where you knew you'd have a good time. There'd be friends, food, drink, merriment, laughter, and fun diversions. Now imagine that come midnight, gifts are exchanged, and you open the package, and there it is; that thing you always wished for, but never ever thought that you'd ever see it, and now... there it is.

THAT was the concert I saw last night!

Ok, now, to explain why and how. Back when I started going to cons, I had a crazy(ish) pal named Howard, whom I used to hang out with because we bonded over music we liked. He RAVED about this band King Crimson. So, on his recommendation, I started looking into them. But man, they were hard to find, usually expensive imports, and my budget for music had a lot of other priorities. Finally, in a used record store by the University of MD, I chanced to find a copy of _Lizard_, which had a song with guest vocals by John Anderson (of Yes). Yes, being my *actual* favourite band at the time (and still), I thought that this was my entry point. So I bit, and I bought. And I LIKED it! Some time after, someone lent me _In The Court Of The Crimson King_ and I LIKED it!!! (and dubbed it to cassette) So, cut to a couple of years later, and I was hanging out in the office of the Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia (UMD campus) and some guys from the "Jolmsvikings" were talking about wanting to go to see King Crimson live, but needed a ride, and I perked up and said I would give them a ride, if they chipped in and helped me get a ticket. Ta-da!

What I didn't know was that *this* version of King Crimson was a new version of the band after a hiatus, with a nearly all-new lineup, a different direction and a different soul. I was disappointed for about ten minutes, because *this* version of the band was AMAZING! Just fucking AMAZING! Nonetheless, at that moment, I realised that I missed out on seeing the old band, to my wistful sadness. See, I was INTO all that (as one disgruntled ex-bandmember once called them) "airy fairy shit". I DUG that in my first two albums from them. I dug it deep. Still do. But.. that wasn't the new band, and that was that. Not that I didn't LOVE the new band. They were AMAZING!!!

And that has been my experience of King Crimson since. Robert Fripp, the driving force of the band is a phenomenal guitar player and has appeared on the albums of so many artists I love that it's never a surprise anymore. I recognise his style, and just nod and say "Of COURSE he's there". He and that new crew played these dense, impossibly complex interlocking counterpoints and even with the inevitable personel changes since, I am usually very happy to see them live. Last night was the fourth or fifth time. It's a good enough bet that when Sonya suggested that I go with Jmax, that I agreed, even though the cost was a little high. I knew it would be a good show, even though I've been a little harried lately, and I might have been tempted to give it a miss because of that.

But I didn't, and I was completely unprepared for what I got instead of what I'd come to expect.

Not only did they play some of that complex noodly "modern" stuff that I'd expected, but they had (what I was to learn later) re-recruited one of the original players from their early work and OMFG, they actually PLAYED a bunch of my personal favourites from _Lizard_ and _ITCOTCK_. This was like seeing a new, updated version of the original band that wowed me in my youth. And time has been very very good to these songs. Not only do they still pack that same mind-blowing punch and ethereal beauty, but with updated flourish and modern technology, they sounded better than any live show from the 70's ever could have, played with experience and refinement that only time and genius can infuse. My jaw dropped when I recognised the first strains from the song "Circus", and didn't believe it until the lyrics became clear.

I got goosebumps hearing "Moonchild" (I think my all time favourite song from the early days), and I think that the vocalist made Greg Lake (the original singer) smile down from Prog Rock Heaven. He did a great job with keeping that song's sound and lilt. It sounded SO good!

Other highlights:
- (as I said) Mel Collins on sax and flute.
- Tony Levin is still on bass. He's another player that keeps showing up in the lineup for artists I like and love, on tour and in the studio. He's even guested for Yes (well, Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe), and Pink Floyd.
- THREE drummers! At first I though "what do you need three drumkits for? Now I know. Also, one of the drummers doubled on piano/keyboards.
- It was a brilliant and precious move that they had keyboard samples that were exact replicas of early Mellotron sounds. Google the Mellotron and you'll understand. It was an ingenious attempt to make a keyboard version of an orchestra, and for it's time was quite innovative. It was also one of the most ridiculous, finicky, disaster prone devices ever created, and taking one on tour was a nightmare. And they *didn't* sound like an orchestra, really. They had their own very charming, very recognisable sound. So they *kept* that distinct sound, but did so without the nightmare, which I wouldn't wish on ANYONE no matter how "correct" or "authentic" a real Mellotron might be. No. Just no. *This* is the best of all worlds.

I did not expect *this* show. It really *was* like getting that impossible Christmas present I'd given up on.
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