Concert Reviews

You paid your money, you went to the gig – what did you think of it?

A lot of the (British) musical press thought highly of Crimson gigs, but not of their albums, feeling that the energy at their concerts wasn’t reflected in their studio output. As there were >300 gigs, and only 7 studio albums, let’s see if the Media were right! The gig reviews will be in chronological order, and if their are >1 review for a particular gig, then it’ll be a case of “first come, first served”.

Although this is supposed to be a site dedicated to King Crimson, I will include gigs by the 21st Century Schizoid Band as that band was made up of ex-Crims and they played Crimson tracks, though I have to confess that this is an afterthought!

The first reviews came from Nick Hewitt of Edinburgh, who went to 3 gigs at Birmingham Town Hall in 1972/3, and retained the ticket stubs, which he converted to JPEGs and submitted them to DGMLive. He has used them as a heading for the gigs he went to.

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From Nick Hewitt, Edinburgh, Scotland

It has to be said that this was the first ever rock gig I had ever been to. This is because up to the age of 18½, I resided in West Cumberland (in the shadow of the Sellafield Nuclear facility) where there were no gigs by any name band. Our school did book Thin Lizzy at Christmas 1971, but they had been gigging for only 7 months on the British mainland, and they were just another band trying to make it. If you wanted to see anyone of note, you had to get to places like Newcastle-on-Tyne, Liverpool or Manchester, but this was impossible for me, for logistic and financial reasons

As it was my first gig, I had a completely open mind. I didn’t know what was going to happen, so nothing (or everything!) would surprise me. The only thing I knew about the gig was that they weren’t going to be playing any old stuff. Their only concession to their back-catalogue would be “21st Century Schizoid Man”. What I didn’t realise at the time was that this was only their 3rd tour proper of the UK. The gigs in late ’69 were just a series of individual gigs; their 1st and 2nd UK tours were in 1971, plugging ‘Islands’. Therefore, it was inevitable that the gig was sold out. Prior to the band making their appearance, we punters were entertained with piped music being fed through the P.A. One of the numbers was Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”, which, surprisingly, went down well. I thought a King Crimson fan would have been a bit more discerning, but there again, the audience were mostly from Birmingham! The P.A. then starting putting out something that I’d never heard before, but it was bloody good. It was probably untitled then, but it became what we all know as “No Pussyfooting”, or (more specifically) the first side – “The Heavenly Music Corporation”. After about 10 minutes of this, the band wandered onto the stage, set themselves up about their respective instruments, then launched into “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part One”.

After that, I don’t recall much else – well, it was nearly 40 years ago! I do remember odd bits ‘n’ pieces, such as after one piece, Fripp got up to chat to us, and reel off the titles the band had just played, and he forgot the name of one of them. After some prompting from John Wetton, Fripp told us it was called ‘Fracture’. It should be pointed out that Fripp used the title ‘Fracture’ for an improv the band had just performed. He later used the title for the track that we all know and love! During another chat, he mentioned that the 2nd verse of “Easy Money” would differ from that on the forthcoming new album (“Larks’ Tongues…”). The encore was “21st Century Schizoid Man” as expected.

And that was it. I felt that the gig was too loud, and I spent most of the gig with fingers in my ears. The support act was an unknown (to me, anyway) called Lloyd Watson, who was a black singer-songwriter, playing a sunburst finished Gibson Les Paul.

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From Nick Hewitt, Edinburgh, Scotland

I’m ashamed to say this, but I remember very little about this gig. They were obviously plugging the “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” album, which they had completed only a month before but was released only 4 days after the gig, so they must have played most/all of it. The music was played too loudly – another ‘fingers in the ears’ job again, and the encore was “21st Century Schizoid Man”…….and that’s about all I can remember. Sorry! The support act was Claire Hammill, a singer/songwriter-ess from Middlesbrough. She wasn’t very good, as she was a singer/songwriter, which don’t really do much for me. Matters weren’t helped when she mentioned her love for Black Sabbath. Normally that would go down well in Birmingham, but not at a King Crimson gig…

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Another from Nick Hewitt, Edinburgh, Scotland

Now this is a different kettle of fish. I’ve got a slightly better recall of this gig than the first two. I went to the gig with two mates, Howard Collings and Mark Dudek (there you go, lads, you’ve been name-checked!). The support act was Colin Scot – another singer/songwriter. I thought he was crap – insipid songs played with little conviction. The P.A. system was brilliant – two tall but slim speaker cabinets on each side of the stage putting out the sound at a reasonable level, without the need to destroy the concert-goers eardrums. Again, the repertoire came from LTIA (they certainly played ‘Book of Saturdays’), but they added some new stuff, the titles of which I cannot recall (to my eternal shame). However, there was one number performed where Messers Fripp and Cross played a duet of some sort on their Mellotrons (note the plural). I think it was an improv, based on the end of “Exiles”. Whatever it was, it was stunningly beautiful, and will be my lasting musical/visual memory of King Crimson. For an encore, the audience bayed for “21CSM” (uncultured Brummies!) – we got “Peace – a Theme” (which no one, other than myself, seemed to recognise) followed by “Cat Food”, which I thought inspired. I’ve never liked 21CSM much. Apparently, Sid Smith was at this gig.

This is the best gig I have ever been to.

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I did have some initial reservations about this gig, but I went anyway with, and at the suggestion of, Andy Thompson (of www.planetmellotron.com/ fame). Being a little out of touch with some aspects of the music scene, I thought 21CSB were a tribute band (whom I have no time for), but I was quickly corrected about that. The line-up I saw was…Ian Wallace – Drums & Backing Vocals (from “Islands” & “Earthbound”), Peter Giles – Bass (GGF and “…Poseidon”), Ian McDonald – Saxes, Flute & Keyboards (late GGF, “…Court…” and part of “Red”), Mel Collins – Saxes, Flute & Keyboards (from “…Poseidon” to “Earthbound” & “Red”) and Jakko Jakszyk – Guitar, Flute & Lead Vocals (ex Level 42). Michael Giles (GGF, “…Court…” and “…Poseidon”) played a few gigs on this tour, but then he tired quickly of the touring life, and gave way to Ian Wallace. Jakko Jakszyk used to play guitar with Level 42 and is Michael Giles’ son-in-law.

I went into the gig with a few pre-conceptions, such as the repertoire being limited to tracks on “…Court…” “…Poseidon” and “Islands”. For some unexplainable reason, I felt that the material off “Lizard” would be difficult, for both the performers and the listeners – how wrong I was! I was also slightly suspicious of there being two sax players, as Crimson never had such a line-up on stage, though “Starless” on “Red” featured both McDonald and Collins. Before the band came on-stage, I wandered over to inspect their stage instrumentation, expecting to see at least one Mellotron. There were none, but there were a pair of Korg Triton Pro’s and an unidentified third keyboard, all of which meant nothing to me.

Anyway, due to some sort of local restriction, the band hit the stage early, and launched straight into “Pictures of a City”. Fairly soon, it became obvious that the band weren’t going to be too adventurous, and they were going to play virtual note-for-note copies of various album tracks. Good, cos that’s what I wanted to hear. King Crimson never played the Civic Hall, Whitehaven, nor Wyndham Theatre in nearby Egremont (both in West Cumberland, where I was living), so this was going to make up for it. I couldn’t personally recall the numbers nor the order, but after a bit of research, I found out that they followed “Pictures…” with “Cat Food”, a McDonald/Sinfield number called “Let There be Light”, “Cirkus”, a Collins composition called “Spend us Three” where messers Jakszyk, Collins and McDonald all played flutes, “Cadence & Cascade”, “In the Court of the Crimson King”, “Ladies of the Road”, a Jakszyk tune called “Catley’s Ashes”, “Formentera Lady” segueing into “Sailor’s Tale” (a la “Islands”), “I Talk to the Wind”, “Epitaph” and “21st Century Schizoid Man”. They did a perfect rendition of “Starless” as an encore, and as we wouldn’t bugger off after that, they did a second encore, “Birdman Suite” from the “McDonald & Giles” album.

My only criticism of the gig was that it was too loud – another ‘fingers in the ears’ job. The auditorium was shite – grubby and unswept, though some of this can be attributed to the concert-goers. The bar prices were extortionate – £3.50p for a pint is outrageous, even for London in 2003. Fortunately, I was forewarned about this, and came to the gig pre-fortified, as had others! Other than that, it was tremendous – the 2nd best gig I’ve ever been to.

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