It's been 31 years since the Crimson King appeared at the legendary Fillmore in San Francisco. In December 1969, the original quartet was at the end of their first American tour, tired, spent, and just downright frustrated. The group was on a triple bill with both the Nice (led by Keith Emerson) and the Chambers Brothers (an R&B vocal group), which typified the mixture of musical styles in a Bill Graham venue for the day. Fast forward to the present and although Robert Fripp and his new quartet have adopted many guises, none are more brutal than the projekctized version, which has been successfully redefined for the new millennium.
by Jeff Melton, Published 2001-03-01
King Crimson is now a leaner, meaner, industrial-strength incarnation which is teetering on the perimeter of a vital internet skirmish. Make no mistake; this king was smoking hot — using Fripp's terms, "a Hot Date" in a sold out standing-room-only chandeliered room. For the opening few minutes of the gig, trademark ambient tones swirled from the PA. It appeared that there was no opening group again for this gig (not like they'd have a ghost of a chance anyway).
Crimson started the show with "Red" from the 1974 classic album of the same name. It is remarkable how this piece implies the power and aggression of three decades of sinister command. The set list was more varied than on the previous night, with three tracks from Discipline migrating into the set. New material from the Virgin release, The ConstruKction of Light, included a giddy version of "Into the Frying Pan" and the title track.
Adrian Belew was in top form the entire evening with his Hendrixian approach acting in stark contrast to the more studied Fripp approach. For my money, the best wagers of the evening were when all eyes focused on Fripp for "Frakctured" and "Larks Tongues in Aspic Part IV." Besides the indirect link back to pieces from the 70s catalogue, these variant beasts are intricate workings of timing and guitar technique. This does not in anyway hinder their value within the live presentation since, in my opinion, this is the closest Fripp himself has been to reclaiming guitar idol status since the 70s. Now that the man has returned to the front of stage left, his role has been elevated back to counter-soloist. His relentless performance on these two tracks together with Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto's counterpoint made the evening one which I will forever treasure.
Older pieces didn't hold up as well rhythmically. Gunn does more than his able best, while Mastelotto doesn't appear to have the precision to make "Thela Hun Ginjeet" or "Frame by Frame" hold up, but that was a minor flaw. Adrian closed out the show with a solo acoustic version of "Three of a Perfect Pair" followed alternately by the remaining three for another sonic excursion, "Thrush." "Dinosaur" was the final piece of the evening before another overzealous fan attempted the predictable "flash" live photo, which signaled the end of the gig. Regardless, the band is back again with a vengeance to divide and conquer the sonic mat and hopefully make new converts along the way.
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