King Crimson 23/03/03
I knew I was in for it as soon as I joined the lineup to get into the Commodore. A guy in green rugby pants was getting way too excited, actually vibrating as he made a prog-related point to someone beside him. When I heard the word “clinical” I knew I had already heard too much. Commodore staffers patrolled the lineup, telling us that the band wanted no smoking, no recording, and no photographs. No problem. I would have preferred “thanks for coming!” but never mind.
Up the stairs, through the mandatory bloody coat check, and we were in. Lots of people there already—fancy people, hippies, nerds, kids in Rage Against the Machine hoodies. It looked like all seats were taken, so we hung out on the floor by the mixing desk. I think Smash remarked that he enjoyed talking and people watching more than the average opening act. It’s true. Despite the coat check, despite the goons with headsets, despite the non-bouncy floor, I still like being inside the Commodore.
The lights went down and the onslaught began. I had to hang on to my beer glass for dear life. To my left, looking like a ’60s test pilot, Trey Gunn tapped his Warr guitar…sometimes two of them at once. At the back, a bearish and grimacing Pat Mastelotto smacked his drum kit. On stage right, obscured in blue light, Robert Fripp sat, played, and presided. And up front, looking like Martin Short’s impression of Pierre Trudeau, Adrian Belew tossed off freaky leads on his Stratocaster, sang and smiled a lot.
The set drew mostly from the new album, which I don’t own as yet. I didn’t recognize any songs until they played “ProzaKc Blues” from the ConstruKction of Light. They aired a handful of other numbers from that album during the evening. The tour for that album never came here, so it was good to finally hear those songs live. Some people tried to groove along to the polyrhythmic weirdness of KC, successfully for the most part. It’s not easy to do, but if you stay with the beat you’ll come back on the “one” eventually.
The concert wasn’t filled with “hits”—no “21st Century Schizoid Man” or “Indiscipline” or “Sleepless.” I heard an extremely delusional person yell out for “The Court of the Crimson King.” Towards the end they did play a couple toe-tappers in the form of the Beatles-esque “Dinosaur” and “Red” from the highly regarded Wetton/Fripp/Bruford years. After two encores, the house PA came on, but the crowd wouldn’t simmer down. The band eventually filed out again and played some kind of mutant blues number that may have been a work in progress.
I remember ACM’s comment about a Concrete Blonde show to the effect of “the audience seemed starved for this kind of thing.” I’ll apply it to Sunday’s show as well. I had the feeling that these weren’t people who normally went downtown on a Sunday night, but they came, they had fun, and they saw some great musicians play some great music. The band, I think, sensed that the audience were determined to wring maximum enjoyment from the event and responded in kind.
As for me, I’d had a day that varied between extreme fun (starting in the morning with the belter and continuing with Smash and various friends) and extreme dismay about the ugly state of the world. The whole evening steered me well away from the latter feeling for a few hours, so I’m grateful for that.