LIVE: King Crimson @ The Egg, 11/8 & 9/17

November 15th, 2017, 4:00 pm by Greg

Review by Steven Stock
Photograph by Glenn Kaplowitz

I was restless as King Crimson eased into the second set of their second night at The Egg’s Hart Theatre in Albany last Thursday, listening to the interlocking guitar riffs of “Indiscipline” whilst standing at the back rail of the sold-out venue, then moving to an aisle seat halfway back on the far left during the lavishly orchestrated “Cirkus,” before finally snagging a good vantage point on the far right during “Lizard,” close enough to see a slight smile of satisfaction flit across Robert Fripp’s face as the eight-piece band nimbly negotiated a particularly tricky passage.

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I settled down with high expectations, but little did I know that the next seven songs that King Crimson played – an hour, give or take – was going to rank as one of the most glorious experiences I’ve enjoyed in 40 years of concert-going.

Let’s set the scene…

Arrayed on stools behind their massive kits across the front of the stage, not one not two but three drummers: left to right Pat Mastelotto, Jeremy Stacey and Gavin Harrison (in truth, Stacey is frequently used on keyboards). The five-piece back line is on risers: to the left Mel Collins on sax and flute; the implacable Tony Levin on bass, Chapman Stick and backing vocals; center-stage a seated Chris Gibson subbing for Bill Rieflin on keyboards; Jakko Jakszyk on guitar and vocals; and the bands’ founder Fripp on guitar and yet more keyboards perched on a stool to the right.

Forty-eight years after the band’s inception, Fripp has finally assembled an orchestra that can do justice to any phase of the band’s career. The first set opened with “Hell Hounds of Krim,” a feature for the drummers. It’s difficult to claim that Crimson really requires three drummers, but they’re used extremely effectively, sometimes playing off each other in call-and-response, other times pushing percussion to the foreground as the group did in the early ’70s when Jamie Muir goaded Bill Bruford to unexpected heights.

The first set seemed designed to showcase the octet’s versatility, jumping from the ’80s clatter of “Neurotica” to new material such as “Radical Action (To Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind)” and “The Errors” to an epic version of “Pictures of a City” and then to two stand-outs from the band’s glorious 1969 debut, an abbreviated “Moonchild” followed by “The Court of the Crimson King.” Jakszyk has a tough job singing parts originally written for Greg Lake, John Wetton and Adrian Belew (three very different vocalists!) as well as picking up any guitar parts Fripp deems too unwieldy for his New Standard Tuning, but he was always up to the challenge.

So let’s return to that second set of the second night, that magical hour after “Lizard.” “Fallen Angel” was a masterful display of tension and release that led into a stunning version of “Epitaph,” with Jakszyk’s assured vocal soaring above the keening mellotron flourishes, Fripp’s acerbic guitar and Levin’s doom-laden bass. Next up was a rare treat, the stuttering vaguely sexual tempo shifts of “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part One” followed immediately by “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part Two.” “Starless” was even better: a mesmerizing interlude featuring Levin, Jakszyk and two of the drummers brought the proceedings to a low boil before a dramatic change in the stage lighting to mostly red with a few purple spots ushered in a blistering sax solo from Collins.

“21st Century Schizoid Man,” which served as the encore on the first night, was used to close the second set Thursday, and after a lengthy standing ovation the band returned for an astonishing rendition of “Easy Money,” with a lengthy instrumental middle passage boasting an astringent solo from Fripp and some wordless scat singing from Jakszyk. It was a fabulous end to one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever witnessed. Please don’t wait another three years to come back to The Egg, Mr. Fripp!

KING CRIMSON SET LIST, 11/8/17
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part One
Neurotica
Cirkus
Lizard
Epitaph
Radical Action (To Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind)
The Errors
Fallen Angel
Islands
Indiscipline
INTERMISSION
Drumson Outbreak of Joy, Wonderment & Bliss Arising
Starless
Discipline
The ConstruKction of Light (Part One)
Easy Money
Drumsons
Moonchild
The Court of the Crimson King
Meltdown
Radical Action II
Level Five
21st Century Schizoid Man

KING CRIMSON SET LIST, 11/9/17
Hell Hounds of Krim
Neurotica
Radical Action (To Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind)
The Errors
Pictures of a City
Moonchild
The Court of the Crimson King
Drumsons
Meltdown
Radical Action II
Level Five
Islands
INTERMISSION
Indiscipline
Cirkus
Lizard
Fallen Angel
Epitaph
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part One
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part Two
Starless
21st Century Schizoid Man
Easy Money

SECOND OPINIONS
David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette

One thought on “LIVE: King Crimson @ The Egg, 11/8 & 9/17”

  1. Mike says:

    The only word I can come up with that comes close to describing what this concert was like is….surreal.

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