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King Crimson at Theatre St-Denis

John Kelman By

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As was a rather uninformed and uneducated review of one of Toronto's shows for Exclaim.ca, from a writer who clearly had no idea of what King Crimson was in general, or was about for this tour in particular. The reviewer referred to the show as being part of a "best of" tour, based on the Elements of King Crimson Tour Box (2014 or 2015, take your pick)—which, in its inclusion of some new material and a pile of previously unreleased snippets and live tracks, was a wonderful souvenir to take home, but was far from a "greatest hits" package—if anything could be considered as such (and even that is doubtful as "hits" and King Crimson are words that don't really belong in a sentence), there are The 21st Century Guide to King Crimson: Volume One 1969-1974 (DGM Live, 2004) and Volume Two: 1981-2003 (DGM Live, 2005). The reviewer also managed to include one of the brand new tunes, "Meltdown" in his list of "hits" being performed (or, perhaps, it was enthusiastic optimism), and suggested that the band was both "flattened and featureless" and that "well-executed and intrinsically composed music needs more than technical mastery to make it sing."

Clearly this reviewer was at a different show—perhaps a different planet or dimension—than the fans who have raved about the Toronto performances...and completely missed what the band made clear in its two superb nights at Montréal's Théâtre St-Denis. Yes, King Crimson's music was, indeed, well-executed and intrinsically composed. And yes, the band possessed plenty of technical mastery. But sing it did (and not just with Jakszyk's voice), throughout two two-hour performances that actually managed to surpass its San Francisco shows and demonstrate that King Crimson > 2014 is not only a force with which to be reckoned when it comes to inventive reworking of classic material, but now a band with its own compositional voice that, along with the reinventions, has turned it into one of the best—if not the best—Crimsons to date.

Will there be a live album documenting a complete show? Possibly. Will there be a new album of studio material? Who knows? But if all King Crimson were to do was to continue touring, bringing its material to more and more audiences, and if this turned out to be King Crimson's swan song as Fripp enters his seventies in May, 2016, it will most certainly go down as the tour where King Crimson brought its entire history together; the tour where King Crimson proved that you can put three drummers in the frontline and give the audience an experience like no other; and the tour where, for the first time in decades, the band has clearly enjoyed itself as much as the people to whom it played. And if that were all there was it would certainly have been enough. But there was plenty more and, as a consequence, hope continues to spring eternal that this group will, in some way, shape or form, continue to be documented (either live or in the studio), following the taster of Live at the Orpheum (Panegyric, 2015).

Bring it on. Please.

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