Only Slightly Ludicrous July 5, 2000
Written by Adam Sweetings
After a mere 31 years, King Crimson continue not only to survive, but to evolve. Not that the current line-up, or the music they plays, bear any resemblance to the original band that appeared with the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park in 1969. The single surviving constant is Robert Fripp, whose boffinly excursions on guitar in time signatures that would baffle students of Pierre Boulez or Archie Shepp still sit at the molten core of the Crimson crusade.
Always the theoretician, Fripp thinks of the current Crimson not as a quartet but as a double duo, in which the so-called rhythm section might at any moment stage a coup and take over. This was the band’s first UK performance for four years, coinciding with the recent album, The ConstruKction of Light. The new music is a heady mixture of steamhammer rhythms, howling mutant funk and passages of seething noise, though in live performance they introduce some welcome light and shade. With Fripp seated stage right like a technician monitoring a complicated experiment, the frontman function devolves on to co-guitarist Adrian Belew, while Pat Mastelotto mans the drums and Trey Gunn plays "bass touch guitar" like an octopus tormented by fleas.
Musically, nowhere is off limits. Pieces might begin with slow, treated percussion and synthesised voice samples, separated by chasms of silence, then kick up a couple of gears into a smooth, flowing motion with Fripp sailing along in pastoral mode. Crimson’s version of funk resembles a multiple air crash, shaking the floor with enormous syncopations before uncaging interludes of freeform mayhem.
If there’s a question-mark, it’s over Belew’s singing, which is never entirely convincing, perhaps because he always looks as if he’s about to burst out laughing. He growled out ProzaKc Blues like a Howlin’ Wolf impersonator on amateur night, but was barely audible in an otherwise laudable take of Bowie’s Heroes. His finest moment was his solo treatment of Complicated, where he managed to remember all the words while finger-picking a fiendishly tricky pattern on acoustic guitar. Overall, Crimson 2000 are brainy, brawny and only slightly ludicrous.
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