Sunday, October 22, 2017

A hot date with King Crimson, Fair Park Music Hall, Dallas, 10.21.2017

1) Expensive? Yep. Worth it? You betcha. A wish fulfillment show for sure.

2) Whoever booked this in a venue without reserved parking while the State Fair was in progress probably lost their job (or at least got a stern talking-to). The house was about 3/4 full, which gave balcony sitters who were so inclined the opportunity to go snag floor seats. Myself, I kind of liked the view from up top (we were in the front row of the balcony).

3) The difference between going to a big rock show as a 20something and a 60something: getting a buzz is less important than emptying your bladder.

4) Any chance to hang out with my dear friends Jeff Liles and Dennis Gonzalez is worthwhile. Bonus: As soon as we got to our seats, we ran into Cameron Long and Chris Donley from Fort Worth. Cam admitted that as a youngster, he'd been a frequent visitor to the Dallas Summer Musicals, and predicted the sound would be ace, which it was.

5) Before the band hit, there were signs onstage (and on the video monitors, which were turned off during the performance) requesting that the audience refrain from "viddying" or recording. It was further explained by the genial disembodied voice on the PA that photography would only be allowed after the encore, when Tony Levin (stellar as always on Chapman Stick, electric and acoustic basses) picked up his camera, because he wanted to take pictures of us, and it was a quid pro quo.

6) The "Radical Action" Crimson -- which quirky mastermind Robert Fripp has referred to as "King Crimson reimagined" -- played two long (about 80-minute) sets, with a 20-minute intermission, proving conclusively that "rock as repertory" can be not only engaging, but compelling. The sets were beautifully paced, with material from every stage of the band's career, including some surprises: a fair amount of material from Lizard, the title track from Islands, the never-performed-live-before "Moonchild" from In the Court of the Crimson King (which omitted the meandering improv in favor of brief cadenzas from bass and piano before segueing into "In the Court" itself), "Neurotica" from Beat. This eight-headed hydra, including three drummers (one of whom doubled on keys) managed to embody the characteristics of all the great Crimson lineups past -- the orchestral grandeur of the original '69 unit, the visceral gut-punch of the '73-'75 lineup (minus their epic improvisational flights), and even the spidery, pointillistic electronic gamelan of the '81-'84 band -- while adding some new material to the canon (clustered near the end of the second set, after the Crimheads were assured they'd gotten their value for money).

7) About those drummers (from audience left to right, Pat Mastolotto, Jeremy Stacey, and Gavin Harrison): I wasn't sure how this would work, but it was magnificent -- sometimes working in unison, sometimes splitting up a part three ways, sometimes conducting conversations, sometimes making the sound move through space like a Stockhausen piece. Mastolotto (was this guy really in Mr. Mister?) has now logged more time in the KC lineup than Bill Bruford, and added percussion and electronic drums to the mix. Stacey, in a John Bonham bowler, doubled on keys to supplement main keyboard man Chris Gibson when needed. Harrison is listed as "main drummer," and got applause from Mastolotto for his solo turn in the obligatory "Schizoid Man" encore, but they're all stupendous.

8) A friend and Crimhead had derided Mel Collins' contributions as "like Kenny G." Nothing could be further from the truth. Besides replicating the recorded wind parts, Collins doubled the heavy rifferama on baritone, filled in for David Cross' violin on alto, and generally soloed with more abandon than his recorded work would have led me to expect. MVP of the show, for my two cents.

9) Guitarist-vocalist Jakko Jakszyk (ex-21st Century Schizoid Men and, someone alleged, Fripp's son-in-law) has also been the subject of some negative talk, to which I reply, "Well, you can't ask Lake or Wetton anymore." I've read that Fripp and Adrian Belew have buried the hatchet (or resolved the misunderstanding), which opens the door for AB's participation in the next Crimson tour. Belew himself inspires some dissension among Crimheads; his goofiness can be seen as either cloying or endearing, but Fripp clearly digs him enough to have retained his services through multiple incarnations of the band. That said, I think that what he brings to the table is different -- but not better -- than what Jakko does. Jakszyk has good voice quality, and hits all the right notes. While his leads are kind of pedestrian, he can play all those knuckle-busting parts just fine. Good on him.

10) The setlist, as cribbed from King Fripp's Facebook page:

Set One
"Larks Tongues Part 1"
"Pictures of a City"
"Fallen Angel"
"Larks Tongues Part 2"

Set Two
"The ConstruKction of Light"
"Tony Levin Cadenza"
"Jezza Cadenza"
"In the Court"
"Dawn Song"
"Last Skirmish"
"Prince Rupert's Lament"
"Radical Action 2"
"Level 5"

"21st Century Schizoid Man"


Blogger Ken Shimamoto said...

Addenda (thanks to Steve Smith of National Sawdust): 1) The genial disembodied voice on the PA is Fripp's. 2) Jakko is, in fact, Michael Giles' son-in-law. So there.

7:14 PM  

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