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King Crimson at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier / Massey Hall

John Kelman By

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To be crystal clear: King Crimson 2014-2017 is unequivocally not a tribute band, a legacy band or any other of the epithets applied to so many bands from back in the day that have reformed in recent times to capitalize on the burgeoning progressive rock revival of the past couple of decades. In fact, Crimson sits alongside Van der Graaf Generator as, perhaps, one of but a few bands of such longevity to not only reinvigorate its older material with a fresh approach, but to add new material that, with its own distinctive personality, fits as comfortably and with as much strength as the music that made it famous in the first place. And while VdGG remains a thrilling live act that has, out of necessity, been forced to rearrange its material for the trio version that emerged following co-founder David Jackson's departure after its 2005 comeback album Present (Virgin/Charisma, 2005) and accompanying tour, Crimson's approach to much of its 40+ year-old material— barring those where the signatures are so prevalent as to demand greater literalism—is far, far freer.

Fourth, since 2014 the lineup has included a couple of Fripp-penned instrumentals from the three-decade "Adrian Belew" years—when the charismatic guitarist/vocalist was a key member of Crimson incarnations from Discipline (E.G., 1981) through to the brief 2008 swan song tour, with Gavin Harrison added to The Power to Believe quartet lineup, documented on the download-only Park West, Chicago, Illinois August 7, 2008 (DGM Live, 2008)—specifically the high octane "VROOOM/Coda: Marine 475," from the Double Trio's sole full-length studio album, THRAK (Virgin, 1995), and the Nuevo Metal of The Power to Believe's "Level Five" and lighter but far knottier title track to the same Double Duo's 1999 Virgin Records debut, The ConstruKction of Light.

Now, however, two surprising vocal additions to the Double Quartet Formation's repertoire have been culled from Crimson's '80s re-emergence as a radically reinvented group, with three studio albums of a significantly altered complexion when compared to any of its late '60s/'early-to-mid-'70s incarnations. But, of course, beyond an eight-piece group expanding upon this material in ways Crimson's original quartet and sextet simply could not, Jakszyk's vocal interpretations of both songs also represented a radical departure...but more about that later.

Fifth—and by no means not just not least, but not even the final reason, but best to stop here for the moment—with Rieflin fulfilling the role of full-time keyboardist, and with Stacey and Fripp adding even more keyboards when required—the "seven-headed Beast of Crim" may have been the first live lineup ever capable of playing original studio material from across the decades without having to eliminate key compositional parts that were simply were impossible for its four, five and even six-piece incarnations. Now, however, this newly-minted Double Quartet Formation possesses even greater facility and latitude in bringing the multitude of original studio parts (or fresh interpretations of same) to the Crimson concert experience—as Fripp has always appropriately called them, "hot dates," in contrast to the "love letters" of its studio albums.

Between its Le Festival International de Jazz de Montréal show at Place des Arts' almost 3,000- seat Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier (a bump from the 2,200 capacity of 2015's Théâtre St-Denis) and performance, two nights later, at Toronto's legendary, 2,750-seat Massey Hall (a major leap from the Ontario capital's 1,250 capacity Queen Elizabeth Hall the same year)—in Montréal, Crimson included a full six tunes not heard previously during either its 2014 USA or 2015 Canadian tours (and one that has never been performed live prior to its 2016 dates); one brand new original; a David Bowie song (on which Fripp's silkily sustaining lines were an essential part of its fabric); a reworking of a song from 1970's In the Wake of Poseidon (Island, 1970), played on previous dates since 2015; and a new Fripp original introduced in 2014, but played just three times during its last Canadian tour. In Toronto, all of these pieces were also in the set list, barring the short track from Poseidon.

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