Written by Ville Kiviniemi
With The Elements Tour leaving the UK and France behind, King Crimson has landed to Canada to deliver another round of the same spectacle of 2014 with a robust lineup and setlist mostly built of songs from the golden era of albums. With Robert Fripp (guitar) being the sole original member of the 46 year old band, he is accompanied on the Elements tour with Tony Levin (bass), Jakko Jakszyk (guitar, vocals), Mel Collins (saxophone, flute) and the rest: Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastelotto and Bill Reiflin all assigned to percussion, each with a dedicated drumset. What seemed excessive at first turned out to be a highly functional hivemind with all key elements in play delivering a memorable display to what seemed to be a fully booked seating at Theatre St-Denis on a Monday evening.
Before the show even started, not only was there an announcement on behalf of the venue not to photograph or record the event, but a similar off-stage appeal was made by the band as well to prohibit electronic devices; the show was meant to be enjoyed using “only your eyes and ears.” And the only cue to take a photo would be “when Mr. Levin picks up a camera himself.” This is the stiff no-photo policy of King Crimson perhaps entrusted by Robert Fripp himself to help the audience grasp just what matters at a live event or to make live DVDs have value.
A self-titled album opener from “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” was perhaps the most natural choice to take the audience into the grips of the band – a lenghty track with a multitude of percussions, shifting to the heavy, signatured riffs of Robert Fripp and then back again. As an instrumental “Larks'” showcased most of the lineup’s capabilities, until – through waves of applauses – the band kicked off to “Pictures of a City.” With it, Jakszyk’s cababilities as a vocalist became palpable – he is exactly of the same calibre as past lead vocalists Grek Lake or John Wetton. About halfway through the set Jakszyk’s delivery on the crimson classic “Epitaph” was just stunning. This concentration was continued later on with “Easy Money” and “One More Red Nightmare,” making it a feast of a fanservice on behalf of the whole band. But before the setlist turned thoroughly to 1970s material (and let Mel Collins loose with his wide array of wind instruments) the set had its share of later material with drum bombardement delivered by the six-handed monster of Harrison-Mastelotto-Reiflin and cerebral guitar of both Fripp and Jakszyk in “The ConstrucKtion of Light” and “Level 5.” Shame no songs were heard from albums like “Beat” or “Discipline”, skipping a huge chunk of the band’s history.
As for visuals, the sharply dressed band on a large stage (with all drummers on front) was presented mostly in a clear light. Being able to see mid-song instrument changes or every players’ performance to its detail clearly was a fascinating treat (some even had brought their own set of binoculars.) In performance itself there was nothing of excess seen as the focused group delivered everything in sophistication. However, during the final piece of the set, at the height of “Starless”, the stage and all seven members started slowly drowning in blood-red light, striking emphasis on the haunting and melancholic tune. Of course, the real finale was played out in the encore with “21st Century Schizoid Man” and “In the Court of the Crimson King.” The first, definitely most iconic track in all of KCs history, was delivered not only with distorted and loud vocals but with a frenzied drum solo by Gavin Harrison (of Porcupine Tree), whose performance on the show was not fully lived until that moment. The latter, a titular epic was a celebratory closer to a show that ran well over the two hour mark fulfilling a hunger that might have been lingering there for years if not decades for many.
The band played two shows in Montreal (on November 16th and 17th) before heading to Vancouver through Toronto and Calgary, more info HERE.