We sent one of our honorary writers LAURENCE ROSIER STAINES down to check out The Crimson Projekct in Sydney in June – here’s what went down:
I’d like to begin this review by politely sending anyone unfamiliar with King Crimson (and exactly what they mean for progressive rock) to the albums Discipline, In The Court of the Crimson King, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic and Beat. That’s a good start, though my own was the aptly-named Cirkus: A Young Person’s Guide to King Crimson. In short, King Crimson are probably the only major progressive rock band that has never stopped progressing.
Now that those future converts are gone, we can get down to business. The Crimson ProjeKCt resurrects the band’s unstoppable double-trio format of the 90s, unfortunately sans the central mastermind Robert Fripp on guitar. His absence, however, is compensated about as far as possible; Adrian Belew and Tony Levin lead two rival groups of three people on a single stage, playing in concert, playing against one another as if they’re at war, dividing into threesomes, foursomes and forging violent, subtle and hella funky dissonances that sound like the soul of David Byrne was trapped in an alternate dimension and menaced by the aliens from The Fifth Element. It’s like watching fusion and fission at the same time, with excursions into frenetic, earthy funk, light Japanese/African balladry and the thickest, most brutal noises you’ll hear outside of heavy industry.
As the show’s opening solo touch-guitar piece by German art-rock stalwart Markus Reuter gave way to a brutal drum battle between the evilly good Pat Mastelotto and Tobias Ralph, it was clear that the audience—a varied bunch ranging from 18-year-old goths to grandfathers—would be getting pretty much everything they wanted and more.
The band took us through all of the major cuts from Discipline through to Thrak—occasionally splintering off to give us Levin’s Stick Men material and Belew’s equally-thrilling Power Trio—with surprise appearances by a Fripp solo piece and the pre-1981 face-melter Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (Part II).
Belew was in fine form, his new wave tenor impressively clear despite the meticulous cacophony beneath, and he revelled in the comic drama of the constantly shifting line-up (before Matte Kudasai: “Everyone else has left the stage. They’re cowards. Tony isn’t a coward. He’s going to stay and fight.”) Levin, meanwhile, was the geeky heart of the band, playing his stick with undiminished verve and leading songs about particle accelerators (“there aren’t enough love songs about particle accelerators!”) as well as an entirely improvised piece that would have been at home on USA or any of the other canonised bootlegs. It was commanding stuff.
Modern Crimson is at once deeply felt, polyrhythmically groovy and perversely funny. Nowhere was this more evident than in the centrepiece Indiscipline, where the time-signature-warping intro was dragged out for nearly fifteen minutes (with Belew sardonically twiddling his thumbs) or the encore Thela Hun Ginjeet, the most complex-yet-tightly-wound funk the band have ever done. The sheer joy of watching superb musicians move between trying to fuck with each other to joining forces like a science fiction armada is hard to quantify, but everyone at The Hi Fi that night knew what they were seeing, and can’t wait to see it again.
Am I meant to give a rating? 11/10.