I'm too beat to write a fifteen minute break this Friday afternoon (filing Legal papers on behalf of Warner Bros and DC Comics will do that to you. Did you know that there carnival performers out in Greece dressing illegally as Batman & Superman? ) - so since I didn't post a Half Ass on Wednesday, I thought I'd let you all take a peek of a rough draft of a concert review I worked on last Tuesday and Thursday evening. When is a concert review not a concert review, you may ask? Only when I write them.
Until Monday, have fun. I'll probably be up to my usual- watching shitloads of television, checking out flicks, seeking out rare prog CDs, attending the Shrine show here in LA and pulling hair out over Deposit Man rewrites.
KING CRIMSON- the Wiltern Theater, Los Angeles,Ca
March 29, 2003
Review by Cary Coatney
Rather than sitting home getting visually mauled by the pounding media coverage of Gulf War 2, I ventured outside into the real world to be sonically discharged by Trey Gunn's fretless Warr guitar at King Crimson's only Southern California appearance at the Los Angeles Wiltern Theatre. And all it took was a short hop and a skip on a bus and train ride from the San Fernando Valley to be bathed in Fripptronic forgetfulness for approximately two hours. The band were on tour to support their month long newest release: The Power to Believe. The cover to the album lends itself to be construed as a anti-war propaganda as it is adorned by two gas mask wearing soldiers positioned outside a hospital window while a nurse inside checks the vital signs of a infant sprawled out on a operating table as a regiment of troops marches outside. I'm sure it strictly wasn't intentional on artist P.J. Cook's part nor the band's decision to release the album two weeks before the madness of King George W the II fully commenced, but nevertheless, it's timing is strangly ominious.
Upon arriving at the majestic Wiltern, I go through the regular routine of picking out souvenir goodies such as t-shirts and program books that are offered at the usual extortionate prices. This year's offering was a unexpected spin on the tour book trend, being that a small twenty page booklet chockful of Robert Fripp's scintillating witticisms is accompanied by a CD chronicling excerpted interviews and press conferences (One reporter asks: Would you be willing to appear on the Howard Stern show? Fripp's reply: I don't think my buns are firm enough.) sprinkled with never before heard rarities from the Power to Believe sessions all neatly packaged in a DVD container- all for the casual plundering of a hefty $40.00, just a little less than what I paid to get in the show.
After grabbing some wine from the bar, ushers were kindly waiting to escort me to my seat in the 'K' row (a bit ironic, isn't it?), roughly thirteen rows from the orchestra pit- so the seat wasn't too shabby considering what I paid for the ticket. While being accompanied- I couldn't help notice that Robert Fripp was already on the stage setting off his sonic Roland Guitar synth-scudded soundscapes while all patrons were making themselves comfortable.
After Fripp sounded his last sustained note, there was a slight pause and then the rest of the members of the band joined on stage to launch into two opening numbers from 2000's Construkction of Light album most notably that album's opening track; Prozac Blues, which certainly felicitated the audience's response.
Most of the selections this evening were culled from the last two releases, placing emphasis on the new Power to Believe release- but a few gems from 1995's Thrak managed to slip through the repertoire crack.
I couldn't help but notice that Robert Fripp was constantly bathed in a luminous blue stagelight- I thought for a second that I made a wrong turn at the Las Vegas Luxor Hotel and was watching the Blue Man Group for the Geritol generation by mistake as Fripp hardly ever gets up from his stool when surrounded by rackmounted forts of electronic doodads.
What piqued my curiosity was Trey Gunn and this Warr guitar device that he is credited for playing. I found out on a website that the instrument was invented and named after a fireman out in California. It has 8 or 12 strings: mainly with 6 strings of the right hand part you play the melody and with the other 6 strings of the left hand part you play the bass line. When playing this instrument, you often use a tapping technique quite similar to what Tony Levin and others do with a Chapman stick. You can mute strings while playing with two hands, and muting pads or mittens are usually provided. You can add synthesizer effects and operate it on a battery pack through the control panels on the back of the body. You can do a lot of crazy stuff with the frets- but hey, what do I know? I associate more with keyboard players anyway.
What really diverted my attention through the show was a toss up between Pat Mastelotto's fluid drumming ( I mean, jeez what time signature does this guy operate on? ) especially in this evening's rendition of Level Five during the crack of the cymbals section as he reached with his right hand to do these outrageous sneak attacks on toms, snares, and other electronic percussion doo hickeys or- these giant windsockets that suddenly inflated across the stage during "One Time". I don't ever recall if the band signed any endorsement deals with Trojan or Lifestyles condoms or not, but there they were, foreboding and hovering menacingly throughout the remainder of the show.
And of course what is a King Crimson show without a few strict enforcement of rules? You can't just get by without the no- photography rule. I know that a friend of mine back in the land of Oz learned of this the hard way at a past King Crimson show that this is indeed no laughing matter when he brought the show to a complete stop by snapping some personal glossies. But now in the twenty-first century, dear old Uncle Bobby has revised these rules with a new unconscionable twist: the no going to the bathroom during performance rule. If you're feeling a little rush of the floodgates coming on after a heavy consumption of Harp Lager, then my advice to you is to stand still and act like a dike. I learned of this the hard way without seeing the signs posted on each aisle door telling everyone that there will be absolutely no flash cameras allowed and no ins or outs during a song's performance. I felt a sudden need to use the restroom in the middle of Power to Believe II, so I wouldn't be stuck in a long winding queue at the conclusion of the show. It winded up costing me the performance of my favorite track off the new album, "Dangerous Curves". When the usher refused to open the door for me and some other patrons, the situation further exacerbated when "Dangerous Curves" segued into Lark's Tongues in Aspic Part 4 as he still refused to open the door for us! We have to convince him that it was a new song they were starting, but I think it was a clever comment from another hardnosed fan was the one that broke the ice; 'Hey, I didn't pay $60.00 just to sit out in the hall'.
Well, at least we got two encores for our inconvience and it was at this point that the audience really began to cut loose after sitting adroitly for so long (there were a scattered few who sparked up and passed around their socks, just by the aroma in the air, but unfortunely none of it made it my way) when they launched into Dinosaur. Even a male audience member stood up on his chair and loudly proclaimed his undying love for Robert Fripp that sort of got a chuckle from Adrian Belew. The second encore was one of my all time favorites of the title track from 1975's Red. And from there it was business as usual.
In conclusion, I felt the musicanship was tighter than ever- most than some bits and pieces registered highly on the 'wow' meter, but I had a sense that this elitist foray into what Fripp commonly refers to as 'nuevo metal' is too much pedestrian for my taste. To me, it somewhat alienates any connection to the older material. I realize that this is a different line up with a different background ( I mean, look, Pat Mastelotto ex-drummer of Mr. Mister? who would have thunk?) but with Belew still in activation, you would think Fripp would dug a few pieces out of the 81-84 trio of albums to at least satisfy some die-hards. (like something to remind me of my high school days) I remember hearing that Belew and Fripp were considering reviving 'Easy Money' for an encore on this tour. Sad, but I guess it wasn't meant to be.
The Construkction Of Light
Eyes Wide Open
Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With
Facts Of Life
The Power To Believe I
The World's My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum
Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With
The Power To Believe II
Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part 4
The Deception Of The Thrush
Cary Coatney April 3, 2003