Three was a lucky number on Sunday, Oct. 23 for Valley prog-rock fans at the Crescent Ballroom, where 3/5 of the legendary King Crimson treated the audience to three sets and nearly three hours of Crimsonic delights. And the presence of Tool’s Danny Carey, who sat in for most of the show on drums, was a bonus treat.
It’s unclear who was having the most fun at the show – the fans, who were seeing these master musicians in such an intimate setting; Belew, whose schoolboy grin and exuberant stage presence were infectious; Carey, who stepped out from behind his monster Tool drum set to play with his musical idols; promoter Danny Zelisko, a longtime Crimson fan who named his first concert promotion company, Evening Star, after a Fripp tune; or club owner Charles Levy, beaming at the packed house in his three-week-old venue.
The show was comprised of a set each from guitarist Adrian Belew’s Power Trio and bassist Tony Levin’s trio Stick Men. Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto performed with both bands. The three then returned for a set of Crimson tunes, sans Crimson’s guitarist/leader/Svengali Robert Fripp and second drummer Gavin Harrison. As the set progressed – their Stick Men and Power Trio bandmates, Markus Reuter and Julie Slick respectively, and Carey joined the Crimson alums until all six musicians were onstage.
Levin started the show, showcasing the unusual instrument that has become his trademark, the Chapman Stick, a twelve-stringed bass-like instrument played by tapping the strings. Along with Mastelotto and Reuter, who played a similar touch-style guitar, Levin created a flurry of notes on tracks from his latest disc “Soup”, including a jaw-dropping rendition of Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.” He even paid tribute to Fripp, performing “Breathless” an obscure album cut from Fripp’s 1979 solo album “Exposure”.
Longtime Valley fave Belew followed. Reminiscing about a long-past show where his equipment truck broke down and he spent the evening answering questions to a handful of fans at the venue, he joked “I’m not buying cheeseburgers for everyone this time.” With regular drummer Tobias Ralph unable to make the gig, Mastelotto and Carey helped out – alternating and occasionally dueling behind the kit on tracks like “Young Lions” and “Writings on the Wall.” Carey was especially impressive. He joined the tour Saturday and has only had two soundchecks to learn the incredibly difficult music. Slick shined as well. Belew discovered the young bass girl when she was still a teen, and her grinning presence was nearly as infectious as Belew’s.
The final third of the show was all Crimson. Both Levin and Belew had featured a single Crimson tune in their solo sets (“VROOOM VROOOM” in Levin’s, “Neurotica” in Belew’s), but those two and Mastelotto saved the most famous tunes for this final set. After opening with “Three of A Perfect Pair”, they delivered another hour of Crimson faves, including “Dinosaur” and the mighty “Red,” which Belew joked was written before he was born. The only thing missing was “Elephant Talk” the tune for which the ’80s Crimson is best known for.
The show climaxed with a truly monumental version of “Indiscipline,” the centerpiece of 1981’s “Discipline” album. That record marked Belew and Levin’s initiation into Crimson. Both were already successful studio musicians (the prolific Levin had worked with Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper and Peter Gabriel while Belew cut his teeth with Frank Zappa, David Bowie and Talking Heads). “Indiscipline” started with a mammoth drum duel between Carey and Mastelotto that seemed to have the other band members in stitches, before building into sheets of guitar noise and nonsensical lyrics. The tightly wrapped tune was the perfect closing to the evening, even leaving the encore of “Thela Hun Ginjeet” a little anticlimactic.
While the three Crimson alums referred to the iconic band in the present tense – Fripp has been cryptic about the band’s future – if Crimson is indeed broken up, at least the other members are still carrying the band’s spirit around.
Tony Levin’s Stick Men
Adrian Belew Power Trio
“A Little Madness”
“Writings on the Wall”
“Of Bow and Drum”
Three of a Perfect Trio (Belew, Levin and Mastelotto)
“Three of a Perfect Pair”
“Red” (add Markus Rodier)
“B’Boom” (add Danny Carey)
“THRAK” (add Julie Slick)
“Frame By Frame”
“Thela Hun Ginjeet”