The Crimson ProjeKCt at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
King Crimson continues to live on in spirit with the Crimson ProjeKct. Since Robert Fripp’s retirement, this ProjeKct is not comprised of any of the prog-rock pioneers original members. However, given that King Crimson has long been something of a fluid, changeable entity, it’s not as much of an issue as it would be with other bands. It is a refreshing surprise to see that this is anything but a King Crimson tribute act. Instead, this is six masterful musicians who wish to continue the innovative nature of, and pay homage to, Fripp’s band.
On stage tonight we have the inimitable Tony Levin (on chapman stick and bass) and Adrian Belew (on vocals and guitar), who were part of the 80s New Wave-inflected King Crimson incarnation. Each man fronts their own trio, and the performance features various combinations of Levin’s Stick Men Trio and Belew’s Power Trio.
While not all the songs played tonight are King Crimson’s, it’s these which receive the most vociferous audience reaction. For many, it’s an extremely rare chance to hear the songs of the legendary prog-rock pioneers, performed with the complexity, intricacy and improvisation they require. There is, though, for all the technical skill, a lot of visible joy on stage. Seeing Belew take the lead for Indiscipline with characteristic wide-eyed madness is a thrilling site. The ominous power of 1974’s Red is viscerally reproduced and reimagined.
This is not, though, a show for the uninitiated. As the 150-minute concert, the number of female heads resting on male shoulders increases. Indeed, at times, the show feels a tad superfluous and self-indulgent. No matter how talented the drummers – and Pat Mastelotto and Tobias Ralph are remarkable – is a ten-minute drum battle ever enjoyable for an audience? Of course, King Crimson was never a band that pandered to an audience or cared for commercial success, so we should not expect or hope for anything different. Even in their heyday, they were largely seen as a band for rather stuffy musical aficionados.
The strange, haunting, but ultimately exuberant Thela Hun Geenjit brings the encore to a close. As a live act, the Crimson ProjeKCt is a finely tuned, well-oiled musical express. If anything, it is too finely tuned. There is a shortage of real chaos and apocalyptic confusion that makes those old King Crimson records so vital.
Photos: Rosie Yang
For more information and future events visit The Crimson Projekct’s website here.
Watch Crimson ProjeKCt perform Elephant Talk live in Tokyo here: