Cruel Twisted Smile
A bitter sweet show for me---and anything but the “forgotten” show. As a near penniless 19 year old college student living in central Virginia in 1974, Washington DC represented the closest venue for me to experience a real rock show, but still almost 200 miles away. Without a car or any local friends into Crimso, and no money for a bus ride and an overnight stay in DC I wasn’t able to make the 200 mile trek for the July 27 Crimson show. I consoled myself in the knowledge that I would catch KC the next time around; perhaps a tour in 1975 was already in the works. But alas, the boys called it a day (and a band) later that summer in ‘74. I was crushed. The ‘73-74 KC lineup touched a cord in me at that time, a cord that still burns with enthusiasm to this day when I see a download available from DGM. Around 1980 I met someone who attended the KC show in DC in 1974. He claims it was a life altering experience, and apparently a venue altering experience as well---soon after the KC show, the Kennedy Center banned rock acts. A listen to this new download offers some clues. Wetton and Bruford are very forward in the mix, and Wetton’s thunderous bass lines dominate throughout---the building foundation must have nearly buckled from the sonic weight. Lament opens predictably enough, but in Improv I, a quiet percussive opening by Bruford is punctuated by ominous bass from Wetton. Cross chimes in with staccato electric piano and Fripp is frankly nowhere to be found. Exiles follows, the lilting violin and mellotron give this song an almost medieval feel (shared by another tune from the period, The Night Watch, notably missing from this show). The instrumental break in Easy Money offers Fripp a chance to stretch out with his patented sustained Les Paul fuzz, the best I’ve heard this side of the Asbury Park gig. Bruford and Wetton keep the tune moving along with driving bass and drums. Cross plays a sweet mellotron, the break builds nicely to Wetton’s vocal return with the last verse. Improv II moves slowly, opening with some Fripp sustain leading to some elegiac violin from Cross. Brief, polite audience approval provides no hint of what’s to follow---a monster version of Fracture. As the DGM download blurb mentions, the bass and drums dominate here. The truth is, Wetton alone drives this tune with a vociferous rumble and roar. The Mahavishnu Orchestra-like interplay between guitar and violin in the closing section gives way to more Wetton bass and a mellotron close from Cross. This all too brief sonic tease from 1974 ends with Wetton singing Starless with a smoky prettiness. The ending instrumental break is confident and muscular. The crowd applauds, the tape ends abruptly. Cruel twisted smile indeed.