King Crimson at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier / Massey Hall

John Kelman By

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With plenty already written about the four shows in 2014 and 2015 by the then-current Crimson septet, there's little need to cover old ground. So, focusing on the material either new to the 2017 North American tour—or previously heard compositions where the addition of Rieflin as permanent keyboardist bore particular significance—while the Montréal show was, in a word, superb, the Toronto performance beat it out by a hair. Part of it was due to the rooms: as mentioned in the review of Québecois fusion trio Uzeb's return to action after a quarter-century hiatus, Place des Arts' Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier is a particularly boomy hall. Still, the front-of-house engineer did a good job at minimizing the boom but, as a result, the sound was more emphatic on the top end ("sizzly"), which meant that Levin was lower in the mix than he ought to have been. In Toronto, despite Mastelotto's comment, after the Montréal date, that Massey Hall was not a particularly good room for a rock band with three drummers (better-suited for symphonic purposes), the sound was, nevertheless, far better, and certainly better balanced.

On the other hand, as audiences go, Montréal was a generally more attentive (and, as ever, hugely enthusiastic) crowd. Toronto was marred by a nearby concert-goer who spent almost the entire concert texting; another group, seated a couple rows behind, provided ongoing commentary throughout most of the set, at a level that actually, at times, beat out the undeniably (but never uncomfortably) loud Crimson. And these are just two examples of an audience that, while certainly no less ardent, was overall noisier, seemingly less focused on what was in front of them and disturbing...especially during captivating quiet moments, where there was invariably someone who felt it necessary to scream out (and yes, in Toronto, someone did actually cry out "FREEBIRD!!!"). That's not to suggest the overall Toronto audience was bad; but there were far more disturbances going on that detracted from what was, indeed, a superior performance.

More disturbing, however, was the response of some members of both Montréal and Toronto audiences to the subject of photography and video/audio recording. Walking into both venues, fans were informed by ticket-takers that there was to be absolutely none of either; onstage, before the first set and during the intermission, two large signs reiterated the band's wishes; and prior to the first set, an unusually excited-sounding Fripp suggested that everyone "viddy with your eyes and record with your ears. Let's have a party," going on to say, as has been the rule since 2015, that at the end of the concert, when Levin typically shoots photos of the audience, the audience can also then photograph the band, after it had finished playing. And yet, in Toronto, no sooner did his pre-recorded announcement finish and the band began to walk onstage, a nearby woman picked up her cellphone and began snapping photos (though with a collection of people around her yelling "put down the effing cellphone," she at least acquiesced).

Still, throughout both Montréal and Toronto shows, occasional fans could be seen photographing and recording snippets of audio/video. Why—when artists make it so absolutely crystal clear that there is to be no photography, or audio/video recording—do supposed fans find it impossible to respect these wishes is a question for which there is a simple but unfortunate answer: for those people, a ticket is also considered an entitlement to do precisely what the band has requested they not do; and given what happened during one of Crimson's three Toronto performances in 2015—where, again, despite complete clarity on the subject, Fripp saw people ignoring the band's request and, consequently, cut "21st Century Schizoid Man" from the encore. Worse, of course, is that when such unfortunate situations occur, supposed fans tend to jump on Fripp and the band rather than the errant photographer(s) who, had he/she simply followed the group's simple instructions, would not have forced Fripp to make a decision that, no doubt, he'd have rather not had to make.


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