Cimso Goes Out
Some thoughts on this stellar show below.
First, the sentimental part of me feels it’s necessary to mention that it’s been a tradition for my parents to go with me to Crimson-related shows since I first got into them (my mom would regularly bring Poseidon to spin in her college art classes in the early ‘70s, so this current lineup is a special treat for her having never seen any of that era's material live before). Our first show, when I was 16, was an intimate Belew solo gig at Shank Hall in Milwaukee in 1999, followed the next year by my introduction to the Double Duo, and, following many, many more Belew, Fripp, Crim and otherwise related shows in between, most recently a Chicago 2014 current line-up gig. My folks weren’t able to make it to the June Chicago show or either of the two Belew Power Trio shows I caught this year, so being able to have them rejoin me for the last night of this mind-blowing tour was something particularly special for me.
On to some notes on the (for me at least) show highlights!
• Neurotica—The jazziness of this new version really still perfectly suits the New York vibe of the original, which makes it, for me, one of the most drastic and yet successful reinventions of material by the band so far. Kind of wish we would still get the rest of the non-spoken-word vocals though, especially as the one missing bit is just a repeat of what Jakko’s already chose to sing.
• Pictures of a City—This band is getting tighter and tighter while allowing itself to get looser and looser. Improv sections are extending and going into stranger and stranger territory.
• Fallen Angel—Heavier and tighter than just a few months ago in Chicago.
• Breathless—Never would’ve thought I’d hear Fripp (let alone Crimson) play this! It seems to have taken the place of similarly structured Red and Vrooom on this tour, keeping things fresh.
• Epitaph—One of the true joys of this band is the fact that I’ve seen this lineup three times and this was still the first time I’ve heard them pull out Epitaph. In fact, there were 5 songs in all played this night that I’d never heard performed before! They keep going, they’ll get into Phish-like setlist territory.
• Radical Action—I want to say there were tweaks here to the arrangement compared to recent live recordings. Either way, this was the most powerful and dynamic version of this song I’ve heard yet.
• Islands—I have to admit, I found the more lilting sax solo and more complex drumming at the Chicago show unfortunately cheesed up the ending section of the song (topped with Jakko’s scatting, which I’ve never been a huge fan of; never was one of Boz’s either). BUT, tonight, Gavin seemed to tone it down with a more minimal pattern closer to the album version and Mel went from Chicago’s (although excellently performed) elevator muzak version to Coltrane-esque blows.
• Larks’ Tongues 1—Totally assumed the set was ending with Islands. But nope! And an epic Larks it was too! My dad swears Mel quoted the theme to “My Three Sons” during his solo. I hope this is true.
• Larks’ Tongues 2—But wait—there’s more! They just kept going! And hearing these two back to back is, of course, a treat.
• Moonchild—Tony’s cadenza got massive audience love, but the gasp from the crowd at the start, most of them hearing this live for the first time, was a fantastic moment.
• Indiscipline—The playfulness between the drum trade-offs was both impressive and had the crowd laughing at times. During the solo sections, both Fripp and Mel took full advantage of their “indisciplined” going-off-making-as-much-noise-as-possible techniques to the max. Much bigger fan of Jakko’s more British closing colloquialisms ("I quite like it") compared to Chicago’s “Me Gusta!”
• Lizard—Maybe not as tight as in Chicago, but still a highlight, particularly the last repeat of Last Skirmish, which, unless you were counting along, came as a huge surprise just when everyone thought things had climaxed. Fripp’s closing solo was both elegant and, honestly, weird—again, this lineup is getting looser and looser and going “out” more often than ever before.
• Easy Money—Easily a highlight. Talk about going “out.” For one, I’ve rarely heard a longer version of this track. For two, the interplay was stellar with plenty of tension and relief throughout.
• Level Five—I’ve always been happy to hear a late-period Crim piece be a set highlight, here a set closer even! And the fact that Fripp recognizes the similarities found in the patterns of Radical Action enough to make it a direct segue in recent sets allows for the two pieces to stretch and climb to new places of heaviosity.
• Schizoid Man—As others have noted, watching the band gleefully watch Gavin go off is almost as fun as watching Gavin go off. And it’s great to hear Mel and Fripp’s exchanges throughout.
I could go on, but will save some words for the next one.