King Crimson at Theatre St-Denis

John Kelman By

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And the group has, indeed, come a long way. Beyond the obvious tightening up of the group's overall concept, there was new material—both old and new—added to the repertoire. Last year's new material largely consisted of percussion pieces used to lead into other, older material, with one exception: Fripp's brief trio piece, "Interlude," where Levin (on electric upright bass) was joined by Collins and Jakszyk (both on flute).

This year, however, there were actually three brand new pieces added to the repertoire, in addition to more significantly reinvented material from the group's back catalog. A knotty instrumental, cryptically titled "Radical Action (To Unseat The Hold of Monkey Mind)," was the lead-in to the similarly idiosyncratic vocal tune "Meltdown." Those two tunes were performed both nights, but the other new song—an aptly titled 7/4 blues, "Suitable Grounds For The Blues," albeit one done as only King Crimson could or would—was only played on the second evening. All of the new material was not just a confluence of everything that Crimson has been since it first emerged in 1969 with the world-shifting In the Court of the Crimson King (DGM Live/Panegyric), it also reflected the instrumental difference of a larger band with far more textural possibilities and concurrent playing at its disposal—but also of a band that, like all previous Crimsons that came before it, has developed its own sound...its own unique way of doing things.

King Crimson has featured two guitarists through all of its incarnations since 1980, though with Jakszyk replacing the longstanding (and undeniably talented and charismatic) Adrian Belew, Crimson > 2014 has assumed a more British vibe (despite three of its members being American)...and gone from a group with a clear frontman to a more truly egalitarian septet where nobody shines and everybody shines. But in addition to three drummers, who managed to blend the form of Harrison's drum arrangements with an improvisational freedom that has been, to larger or lesser extents, an earmark of the band since inception—and beyond Collins' reeds and flutes—King Crimson of the second decade of the new millennium was also augmented with two keyboardists already onboard in other capacities: on rare occasion Fripp and, far more regularly, Rieflin, who, in addition to plenty of drum and percussion duties, added a variety of keyboard colors but, most importantly, the prerequisite sound of the mellotron that was such a definitive texture in Crimson from 1969-1974.

In an interview with Jakszyk, Collins and Harrison over lunch on the day of the group's second Montréal show, there was plenty of revealing information about the group's process of writing both new material and creating 21st Century versions of older material that, this year, added classics including the haunting "Epitaph" and more dramatic title track from In the Court of the Crimson King, along with the return of the more groove-laden but improvisation-rich "Easy Money," from the group's similarly game-changing Larks' Tongues in Aspic (DGM Live/Panegyric, 1973).

Of the other older material revived, refreshed and reinvented during its 2014 tour, over the course of two nights Montréal audiences were treated to: the powerfully horn-driven and jazzified "Pictures of a City" from In the Wake of Poseidon (DGM Live/Panegyric, 1970); the episodic "Sailor's Tale," with its near-iconic guitar solo from Fripp, and the bolder whisper-to-a-scream of "The Letters" (a feature for both vocalist Jakszyk and Collins), two tracks from Islands (DGM Live/Panegyric, 1971); both very different parts of the Larks' Tongues in Aspic title track that bookends the album, as well as the relentlessly building "The Talking Drum," which segues into "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part Two" (and thus only leaving "Book of Saturdays" and "Exiles" out of the current repertoire); the never-before-played, "One More Red Nightmare," the epic "Starless," that is the consistent set-closer, and the vastly influential instrumental title track from Red (DGM Live/Panegyric, 1975); the lengthy, idiosyncratic instrumental first part of the title track to The ConstruKction of Light (Virgin, 2000); the thundering, mind-boggling nuevo metal of "Level Five," from the group's (so far) most recent studio album, The Power to Believe (Sanctuary, 2003); and, from the only album not officially by Crimson—but subtitled "A King Crimson ProjeKct" and featuring five of the current Crim's seven members—the title track to A Scarcity of Miracles (DGM Live/Panegyric, 2011).


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