Sunday, 18 November 2018

King Crimson

13th November 2018

Edinburgh Playhouse

An appreciative, if at times rather subdued (and far from capacity), audience was royal entertained by the Crimson King this evening.  On their previous visit to Caledonia in 2015, KC had played two consecutive nights in the capital – but this time around there were single gigs in, first, Glasgow, and then Edinburgh.  So perhaps all the more excitable and voluble fans had attended the earlier gig, leaving us more sedate Easterlings to take up the Playhouse seats.

What we did both get, though, was more musicians for our money; the Crimson line-up now boasting another drummer: one Jeremy Stacey.  To make room, Bill Rieflin had been promoted to the back row, and given a  keyboard to play with.  And I ended up being really rather pleased he had.  Of more, anon.

The ever-evolving set list had also moved on a touch since 2015, as more and more of the band's Seventies output was given a reboot.  Fracture, I knew, with a touch of disappointment, had come and gone, but Moonchild and Cadence and Cascade were each enjoying Indian summers.  

Perhaps my favourite KC tune, Islands, had also been dusted down, and was performed this evening.  Mel Collins, with his array of saxes, achieved probably as good a job as anyone could in attempting to replicate both Mark Charig's cornet and Robin Miller's oboe work on the original, but it was the climax to the tune which irked a bit.  With three of the musicians (Stacey, Fripp and Rieflin) having access to keyboards, all that should have been required was a mounting crescendo of mellotronic chords, over Collins closing sax solo.  But instead, vocalist Jakko Jakszyk insisted in wailing over the business.  An effect which just detracted from rather, than adding to the beauty of the performance.

Perhaps the most surprising corpse to be resurrected was the lengthy Lizard suite.  We did not get the opening section (Prince Rupert Awakes), even if the band teased us all with a few bars of the tinkly piano opening, nor that odd-sounding Big Top coda – but the rest was reproduced pretty faithfully.

Further inroads, were even being made into the Belew-era stuff, of which we got Discipline, Indiscipline and Level Five.

But the lads, to their credit, have also continued extending their menu of new compositions.  Radical Action now has a Radical Action II, which sounds a bit like a bastard spawn of Level Five, and having to sit through these latter two played end-to-end did feel a bit of a trial.

A girl to our left took the opportunity during Level Five, to take out a nail-file and indulge in a little personal refurbishment, whilst an elderly chap sitting a few rows in front of us (who possessed quite the most impressive sticky-out ears I think I have ever seen), I am sure nodded off during the cacophony.  I clearly saw him doing that jerking-awake thing seated sleepers do.

A polite notice.....
The eternally youthful-looking Mel Collins

"When Tony takes out his camera, you can"

Even the good Mr. Fripp got in in the act.

The post-interval set, with the exception of the Drumsons preamble, was all pre-1974 material, although I was surprised when alternative lyrics to a couple of the verses of Easy Money were presented.  I noted with a smile that Jakszyk wisely steered clear of the “licking fudge” business, though. 

For an encore, heralded in by a dawn chorus of tweeting birds, arrived Starless.  I have dribbled on in previous gig reviews how I feel Collins' squawking soprano sax here just emasculates the culmination to the tune....but not this evening.  Clearly having read, and token cognisance of, my moans, this time around we had Rieflin (I think it was) playing Ian MacDonald's alto sax parts.   

The effect was just stunning.  And I remember thinking at the time: “No Schizoid Man to follow, please.  It could only be an anti-climax”.

Set list

Peace: An End
Pictures of a City
Cadence and Cascade
Radical Action (To Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind)
Radical Action II
Level Five
One More Red Nightmare
The Letters
Drumsons 2
Lizard (Bolero, The Battle of Glass Tears) 
Bass, Guitar and Piano Cadenzas
Easy Money
Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two
In the Court of the Crimson King


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