King Crimson - Live at Cobb Energy Center

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A month shy of two years since their previous visit to Atlanta, King Crimson returned, this time in a modern theater as opposed to a more intimate but aging rock show venue (Center Stage).  There is good and bad with that.  Let's see... Good: Newer bathrooms, which I didn't use.  Better restaurant selections pre-show.  Closer to home.  Seats that don't feel worn to the spine. That's about it.  Bad: exiting the parking area, less intimacy/greater distance to the stage, and worse sound.

The last point is arguable, but Center Stage had far superior clarity than that from the front row of the upper tier at Cobb Energy.  Vocals were generally incoherent, the bass was audible only when the rest of the band was largely silent, and Mel Collins' brass/woodwinds dominated the aural mix, though still quite enjoyable.   That said, the drumming was crystal clear, and Robert Fripp's guitar, as sneakily as it enters into songs, sounded great.  In other words, it's a concert venue.  You get what you get.

Before I get to the rest, if you're unfamiliar with the band, maybe try this (it builds slowly):

Or, this, their defining song, "21st Century Schizoid Man" from their first album.

The band once again threatened expulsion for those who might try to take photographs during the show.  I get that it's distracting to others, and the band is fairly static in their presentation.  Plus, there's a lot going on musically that demands attention.

The set list, below, featured twelve songs from the night I saw them previously (they had a two night stand in 2017), and the remaining eight choices were... disappointing.  The lead songs for both halves of the show were extended drums/percussion pieces, as the band is literally fronted by three drum sets.  This is entertaining to watch, especially for the first time, but there is enough showcasing through the remaining songs that one three-drummer "solo" song is sufficient.  Still, they were amazing to watch as they rarely played the same beats/sounds, and often traded turns through sections of songs, as guitarists might alternate licks.

A closer look.  "Neurotica."  The 80's KC made some high quality music, but then-vocalist Adrian Belew had a voice that took some getting used to, at best.  Vocalist Jakko Jakszyk (also playing guitar and keyboard) renders all of the bands songs well, regardless of era, but Belew's songwriting was built around his particular vocal style.  I'd rather just hear the excellent instrumental songs from that era, please, until such a time that Belew rejoins the band.

There are a number of songs from Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, a 2016 release that largely included, I believe, live works that were otherwise unrecorded.  In other words, these are a blend of musical prowess and curiosities for King Crimson collectors.  Every show should have a song or two that is rare or a surprise, but when the canon has so many other worthy songs, there's no need to overindulge.

The Power to Believe songs - Every fan has a favorite album.  I'd imagine this album had fewer than most.  The selections here - "Level Five" and "Elektrik" - are very technical songs among a live set of technical songs.  They're good, but a better balance would have been reached in the first set had they included just one or two of their more melodic songs.  Heck, update "Dangerous Curves" for example.

"Cat Food" is perhaps an attempt at a more conventional song for the play list, but it has silly lyrics ("No use to complain / If you're caught out in the rain / Your mother's quite insane / Cat food cat food cat food again".)  Any other song from this album would have been splendid.  Instead, the fly in the ointment from that album filled the same role here.  The lyrical part of the song completely upends the instrumental music to which it yields.

The second half, then, was the better half by far.  Still, if picking through older songs, "Exiles" and "LTIA Part II" would clearly be crowd favorites over some of the selections here, but I get it.  King Crimson isn't a greatest hits band, and they like a musical challenge.  So... fellas, "Asbury Park" hasn't been heard in a long, long time.  And, it would bless the audience with, well, I guess it would have been a second extended Robert Fripp solo.  And we all want that, right?

Fan-rant over.  It was a very good show.  Bassist Tony Levin posted some comments and photos on his blog about this show, their last in the US for this tour.  Below is his audience pic that he takes at the end of each show.  I've highlighted my son and myself at the upper right.  Maybe we should be pumping our fists, but, hey, at least we're not checking our cell phones like the schmuck in the blue shirt I highlighted in the lower right.

From the stage, it appears we're a mile away, but the seats were actually quite good.  We could clearly see everyone's hands and facial expressions as they worked their instruments, and the height added a better view, particularly of the drummers, than we had at Center Stage.  

Set list:

1st Half:

Hell Hounds of Krim - Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, 2016
Neurotica - Beat, 1982
Suitable Grounds for the Blues - Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, 2016
Cirkus - Lizard, 1970
Red - Red, 1975
Moonchild - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969
Cadenzae (ornamental section by various members)
Elektrik - The Power to Believe, 2003
Cat Food - In the Wake of Poseidon, 1970
Radical Action II - Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, 2016
Larks Tongue in Aspic 5 / Level Five - The Power to Believe, 2003

2nd Half:

Drumzilla - Concert only
Epitaph - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969
Lizard - Dawn Song - Lizard, 1970
Larks Tongue in Aspic (Part IV) - The Construkction of Light, 2000
Islands - Islands, 1971
Easy Money - Larks' Tongue in Aspic, 1979
Indiscipline - Discipline, 1981
Starless - Red, 1975
In the Court of the Crimson King + Coda, self-titled, 1969


21st Century Schizoid Man - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969

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