Observations and impressions
In no particular order...
1. The sound was powerful but muddy and indistinct at times. Levin was a wall of low end for much of the show rather than a series of actual notes. Almost as if the venue just wasn't equipped for the sonic onslaught.
2. Chris Gibson sat motionless and expressionless in the middle of the stage for the entirety of the show, barely playing anything but doubtless contributing in some way.
3. Neurotica took me off guard. Opening with Jeremy Stacey's sick bebop drumming, caterwauling into the main theme, Jakko singing the refrain, but oddly not singing the "I have no wing" section. No harmony from Tony either.
4. Breathless! Well, for the first run-through of the main theme, the two guitarists were a quarter-note apart, but this actually made it sound more hectic and powerful. The ascending arpeggios at the end were something special, too.
5. The first half of Starless was marred for me by a theater employee leaning into my field of view/hearing to interrogate another person about his ticket. By the time it was resolved, the stage was bathed in blood-red light, even the blue curtains in the background, well into the instrumental section. A consistent problem I have with this band's rendition of Starless is that the recapitulation section starting with Mel's solo is too slow! It sounds better, to my ears anyway, when it evokes the frenzy of a swarm of locusts devouring a carcass.
6. What to say about Discipline... is there a lineup less suited for this piece? This is purely my opinion of course, but the gist of Discipline seems to be encapsulated by the advice Fripp would give Bruford: don't feel the need to emphasize changes in the music with a drum fill, the change in the music is emphasis enough. But here, the transcendent moment when the double-time 4/4 arpeggio begins is ruined by five crash cymbals landing simultaneously and the rhythm turning into a hoedown of some sort. Following this, when the danceable pulse was originally introduced after the descending theme, the three drummers continued playing the angular 17/16 "Discipline beat" for the entire remainder of the tune, robbing it of its bounce and flow.
7. The ethereal tone that announces the beginning of TCOL sounds different now, probably because it's no longer a Roland guitar synth piano sound, perhaps something from Chris Gibson's bag of tricks instead. This was one of the strongest pieces of the show for me. Tony has MASTERED its intricacies; the last time I heard him play it was in 2008, where it was still tricky to navigate Trey's snaking lines. He owns them now.
8. What to say about Easy Money... is there a lineup better suited for this piece? Stunning. And boy did my neck hairs stand on end when Robert and Jeremy kept soloing after the conclusion, as this was how the 1974 band would transition into Fracture... but alas, it didn't materialize that night.
9. Robert is trying a new kind of 'wailing' or 'moaning' variation for his part in Level 5, where he slurs and bends to the high note rather than fretting it, and it sounds savage.
10. The highlight of the evening came during the second encore, 21st Century Schizoid Man. The middle section was blazing along, with Robert and (surprise) Jakko soloing in unison. Out of nowhere, everybody in the band stops playing except for those two, and it seems like nobody knew where to go next. Pat briefly starts up again before being hushed by Jeremy, who takes charge of the situation in the most awesome way by introducing this slow, lumbering beat, joined by Tony, gradually ramping up in speed until Mel starts soloing, and then Gavin blows the roof off with his extended solo. Afterwards, when everyone came back for the "dead seed, blind man's greed" part, it looked like Jakko's head was going to explode from how passionately he was belting it out. A perfect closer to the night.