I did joke with Sid Smith, KC documentarian extraordinaire, that I may have been the only male in attendance who was brought by his wife, as KC does have the reputation for being a 'guys' band.
Before getting to the theater, Eli and I discussed where we would like to sit in the theater, if it was up to us. We both agreed that if we could, we should sit in the front row. Because, well, when else are you going to sit in the front row for a King Crimson dress rehearsal? Most likely never. Also, I've found personally, when sitting in the front row for other shows, it really does feel like the band is playing just for you. We both wanted that experience for this special event.
On arrival at the venue, when we were able to enter the level of the theater, we made the acquaintance of the merch man Adrian, who we have chatted with at other shows, as he works for Steve Hackett's tours also. It's a small world, this prog community... I bought the tour box/CD set, along with a t-shirt for the tour, while Eli waited until after the show to buy her shirt, a Larks' Tongues based design.
Upon entering the theater, we were told that we could sit wherever we wanted to. So, Eli and I went right up to the front, and plopped ourselves down in the two middle seats of the 6 seat long first row. Because, again, why not? The set up on stage had the three drummers in front, with Pat Mastelotto on the left, Bill Rieflin in the center, and Gavin Harrison on the right. The back line was made up of Mel Collins (secret weapon of this lineup) on saxes and flutes, Tony Levin on basses and Stick, Jakko Jakszyk on guitar and vocals, and Robert Fripp on guitar.
There was a very amusing audio recording from the band members played twice before the start of the show, asking attendees to be in the moment, and to not take photos or make 'viddies' of the show, as it is distracting to the other members of the audience, the band members, and to the photographer/videographer themselves. I agree with this, and it was great to put the point across in the recording with humor and intelligence.
The show started promptly at 7:30pm (give or take a minute or two, I was not acting as timekeeper!), with the band coming out on stage to a tape playing from the end of the Islands album, of an orchestral warm up that led into a count, beginning the first song. I will *not* go into the details of the setlist here, even though it is out there in internet-land for those who wish to find it. What I want to reflect on is my emotional response to the show, how this music affected me...
I move my head to music when I hear it in a live setting. It is one of those bodily responses that I don't even really think about. It's how I enjoy the music. It's not a wild shaking, but just a nodding along to the beat and accents in the music. I think it is less distracting to others around me that clapping along, moving my whole body, or having some other crazy reaction to the sounds. Needless to say, this music moved me. I found myself a number of times locking eyes with drummer Pat, grooving along to the beat, trying to make sure in some of the trickier numbers to actually get the pauses and beats right. (I'm looking at you, 'ConstruKction of Light!). (Highlight blank space if you want to see what song I mentioned.)
In the front row, I almost feel a responsibility to show my enjoyment of the event, as I know that the musicians on stage often cannot see that deeply into the crowd. Both Eli and I really get into this material, so we acquitted ourselves well (we hope!).
Without giving away any real setlist spoilers, I'll just say that the musical choices included songs from the first to the last KC album, but not all albums were represented. The set was heavy on instrumental material, but the vocal material that was played, *really* worked. As did the instrumental selections.
Last night, I was able to hear music played by talented musicians in a live setting, that I had never seen performed before. The musicians brought their personalities to the music, honoring the original arrangements while not being tied to those arrangements. The music was all recognizable (except the linking improvs/pieces, which appeared to be all new), even with some changes made to some of the pieces, particularly in the drum front. Watching the seven musicians on stage was a joy, although when I would focus on one, I would have to consciously move my gaze to another, as it would be easy to just watch one of these performers all night.
Jakko has such an expressive voice, a real wistfulness to his delivery that pushes the right buttons for me emotionally. His guitar playing was solid, and I think will get more comfortable as the tour moves forward. Surprisingly, there was no between song banter in this set, it was just the music. I thought that was an interesting decision, as it really does keep the focus on the performance, not breaking the momentum of the set.
Eli commented after the show that she thought that Bill Rieflin just looked totally comfortable behind a drum kit, that his playing seemed like a natural outgrowth of his own personality. Effortless may not describe his playing, but it does give a sense of the feel that he had.
I mentioned Mel Collins before, who was in the 1971-72 lineup of Crimson, and this was my first experience with him playing live. His playing on both older and newer material was great, as can be expected from such an experienced musician, and it really gave the music another dimension that it did not have before.
I had an immense amount of fun attending this gig, experiencing the first semi-public performance of this tour. Being able to sit back, or lean forward, and simply experience this band, that is only going to get better as the tour goes on, was a rare treat and privilege. I was able to hear music that I have lived with for years, in a setting that allowed myself and the other attendees a chance to see the start of something new in action. I have to again thank the lovey Eli who created the opportunity for us to be at this event. We were truly lucky to be there.