On this date 44 years ago Bill Bruford, David Cross, Robert Fripp and John Wetton took to the stage in New York’s Central Park to play what would be there last concert – though they didn’t know it at the time.
"There was enough testosterone onstage that night to drive an F-14," Wetton recalls. Nor was he the only one who felt the concert was special. For Fripp the gig registered with a force he'd not felt since the early days of the band in 1969 — "the bottom of my spine registered 'out of this world'"
It was the expressed hope of Wetton and others in the team that Central Park, like Hyde Park in 1969, might thrust the band into wider mainstream recognition. "Everybody at Island and Atlantic believed in the band and gave us a lot of support, a great management team and, for my money, I thought we were the best in the game. We had the plot," says the bassist.
But the gig nearly didn't happen due to a terrible mains hum which threatened to swamp the PA sound. Fripp's inclination was to cancel unless the technical difficulties could be overcome. A vote was taken and it was agreed to go ahead. At a little after 8:30pm, as the mellifluous strains of No Pussyfooting — still unreleased in the USA at that point — gently massaged the atmosphere, Crimson took to the stage, launching into a highly flammable version of “21st Century Schizoid Man”.
Towards the end of the set, the band played their epic new number “Starless”. Fripp recalls: "As the sun went down and we moved into the ominous bass riff emerging from the ‘Starless’ vocal, red stage lights faded up from behind the band. For me, a stunning theatrical moment highlighting the tension within the piece and the group; a moment of resonance."
Wetton: “I don't think you get that level of energy in bands that often. I don't think there was that many bands around at the time, doing that kind of stuff, who could touch us.”
Wetton later enjoyed a far more lucrative career in Asia, who at one point sold 800,000 units a day. Yet he is in no doubt which part of his career means the most to him. "If I shuffle off this mortal coil tomorrow that gig would be the one for me. All the stuff with Asia and everything else is just icing on the cake. That was the one…it was almost tearful it was so emotional. It should have been the beginning of something rather than an ending."