KING CRIMSON – Music Is Our Friend

Discipline Global Mobile 2021

KING CRIMSON –
Music Is Our Friend

Radiating sly naivete and pride, ever-relevant art-rock dinosaurs leave a blistering report of the last blast of their live career.

“Friendly” has never been the proper word to describe this ensemble’s oeuvre, yet how else can be described their final, fierce feat of defiance in the face of possible disaster – performed to support the pandemic-stricken fan population. As preserved for posterity here – possibly, more demonstratively than on the pre-virus "Meltdown" – what the veterans did during their last concert, last tour, even every recent tour, was not about the personnel’s equality, or the sophisticated qualities of the familiar, mostly classic material, but about the creative, in-the-moment parity of their on-stage interplay. It’s about the perfect balance of each sonic part in the overall aural image, where no individual solo is given precedence; not for nothing, the team leader Robert Fripp and vocalist Jakko Jakszyk are positioned in the back of the group, and three drummers – Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison and Jeremy Stacey – while projecting their personality on the percussive front, work as a unit. And though a couple of Tony Levin’s pieces come somewhat separated from the collective tapestry, the “Cadenzas” serve to emphasize the essence of silence amidst the dynamic assault the band often seem to be bent on.

That’s the focus of “Radical Action II” and “The Hell Hounds Of Krim” which effectively opens the proceedings once the creepy “Introductory Soundscape” has cleansed the audience palate, whereas “Discipline” – one of four bonuses from the Albany night, complementing the recording of the entire Washington show – delivers its nervous string-picking with spectacular reserve of folksy stripe, for the almost fragile “Islands” to float on further on. Thence the raw riffs of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part II” protrude and sweep the sweet aroma away, especially when Mel Collins’ sax licks blare to blow the ether, unlike this instrumental’s first, funkier and heavier installment, which is pitched smack-dab in the heart of the concert’s initial controlled chaos and finds Fripp furiously threading guitar lines through Levin’s bass thunder before Jakszyk and Collins pour contrasting, lyrical fluidity into the mix. But then, they get Stacey’s piano to swing and swagger, letting “Pictures Of A City” edge towards definitive urban urgency and setting the scene for “The Court Of The Crimson King” and “Red”: two aficionado favorites that feel simultaneously faithful to the original cuts in their advanced conciseness yet emerge wrapped in a nigh-on orchestral grandeur and nuanced luminosity of the latter-day septet.

The artists may sculpt “Neurotica” in a deliberately awkward way to prepare the listener’s brains for the deliciously wild, gloriously sung “One More Red Nightmare” and the belligerent “Indiscipline” whose stumbling beats take the experience to a wholly different level in terms of rhythmic layout, so the screech of “Level Five” will only solidify and intensify its scope. Contrasting it, there’s the epic, semi-transparent balladry of “Epitaph” and “Starless” which secured the ensemble’s place in eternity ages ago, and “21st Century Schizoid Man” – arguably, the longest version thereof – is as blisteringly impressive, and freshly detailed, as ever. Because they were aired live for the last time that night.

Given its historic significance, lesser mortals could have made such an album a statement, but going out with a bang wouldn’t fit this band’s modus operandi, what with the plethora of their concert releases. “A completion is a new beginning,” posited Fripp after the show was finished, leaving no doubt he’s ready to explore other routes, and it’s hardly the end of Robert’s main collective – we’re simply witnessing the end of an era or, in KC’s case, a phase.

*****

January 29, 2022

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