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King Crimson at Theatre St-Denis

John Kelman By

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Jakszyk continued, "It's my favorite [Crimson] record. And it's got my favourite guitar solo by anyone, 'Prince Rupert's Lament.' It's an extraordinary thing. What I love about it is Robert's playing over these changes that aren't there; you're hearing all this stuff with virtually no harmonic information, and yet you're hearing all the harmonies."

While there's still no sign of anything from Lizard making it into this Crimson's set list, the group continues to look back at the old repertoire for potential material to reinvent and bring back to active duty. "There are a few things we've started but won't come back, like 'Moonchild' [from In the Court of the Crimson King]," said Jakszyk, "but a couple, if we can just get the time....maybe next year. We are working on one very challenging piece from way back then."

Beyond the stellar performances of the group in Montréal, with the second night eclipsing the first, but only slightly—and Jakszyk's vocals on both nights far surpassing his already excellent work in San Francisco the previous year in range, power and sheer emotion—the very fact that Fripp is now prepared to look back at so much of the older material is something that has made many longstanding Crimson fans very happy. But how the band chooses material, and the things that have, in the past, prevented the band from doing what it's doing now, were both issues worth exploring.

"It's not like 'Oh, the crowd are gonna love this one,' Jakszyk said. "I don't think that's ever a consideration for Robert. If it's a good song, it's a good song. One of the things we've done—'cause this is the kind of stuff I do when I'm with Robert on my own—is that some of the older stuff that has been played has ultimately gone somewhere else and so you end up doing versions of it that are like a memory. Any memory of yours is from the last time you did it, rather than the original song. A lot of it has been about stripping away the stuff that's become part of it over the years, going back to the original and then kind of cleaning it up, maybe re-voicing it. We've done a lot of that, actually: we try various things and you end up, I think, with cleaner versions; you go back to the source material as your starting point rather than a hybrid that's developed over the years. You go back to the original and start again.

"And Robert's having to make changes anyway," Jakszyk continued, "because it's either me playing it or he's playing parts in the new tuning, so he's actually playing different inversions; slightly changing the way that he will play a part is dictated by that anyway."

That there's so little material from the period of 1981-2003 is, for some fans, a cause of concern; but, equally, the absence of much of the group's material from 1969-1975 in subsequent incarnations was problematic for fans of that era in the year that followed. "I think I'd be uncomfortable singing Adrian's tunes," responded Jakszyk, "and I don't think it's uncommon knowledge that Adrian didn't want to sing material that he didn't have a hand in writing."

And so, while Belew-era Crimsons did play legacy instrumentals like "Red," "The Talking Drum" and "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part Two," the only time Belew sang anything from the group's first six years was a rare performance of "21st Century Schizoid Man," performed in Mexico City and first heard in the partial document of that show on the digital download-only Live in Mexico City (DGM Live, 1999) and two-CD collection of Mexico City and New York shows, VROOOM VROOOM (DGM Live, 2001), but finally heard in its entirety as AzteKc THRAK, part of the 16-disc THRAK Box.

"You're always looking forward to the newer stuff," said Harrison. "Going back and playing the older material probably didn't seem like much fun, that's probably the way Adrian felt about it. But now we've got something new with a sound that move's the music forward; to an extent, while we have come back to older material it is from a completely fresh perspective and, as Mel says, it's material that hasn't been played in a long time. Speaking personally, as someone who doesn't come from a traditional King Crimson background it all, it all feels kind of new to me, so it doesn't feel like retracing old steps at all. It's not meant to be in any way a tribute band; we're not a cover band of ourselves. The pattern with a lot of bands that have been around long time is that they do become tribute bands of themselves and I think that's the last thing we want to do."


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