A Live Performance that sounds arguably better than the studio equivalents
It's not often I listen to live performances of groups, having never been to a live performance before. I'm usually turned off by the price of it, and as has been more of a problem as of recent, my ability to actually get there and back home reasonably.
However, if there's anything this particular performance is telling me, it's telling me to at some point go to a King Crimson concert. This was my gateway into the live magic of the Crim, and I am thankful for this introduction.
I first watched 'The Noise' which is this exact same performance but with the omission of a few tracks, likely done to save film reel for the home video releases of the performance. Here, however, all ten tracks, as well as Bill Bruford's pre-Indiscipline drum solo, are here.
The first standout track for me was 'Waiting Man', used to open the concert up. This is probably my favourite rendition, as it all flows so beautifully. So much so, in fact, that when I listened to the same track on the Beat record (from which this song is derived), I found the outro to be quite jarring in how oddly paced it is, compared to this live version. It feels better structured.
Two of the three tracks that weren't included on the home video release of 'The Noise' come straight after. 'Thela Hun Ginjeet' isn't a favourite of mine, but it is still a good track with interesting structure and a catchy rhythm, amplified by a spoken word backing track in the main instrumental sections. That said, I much preferred the next track - 'Red', from...Red, of course. It's not as rapid as the source track, but it's still a very solid performance, with Robert and Adrian's guitars bouncing off one another really well.
'Matte Kudasai' comes next, and in all honesty, there isn't really much to say. It's a slow-burner, content in whisping you into a trance of sorts. It's a good rendition, and a solid enough track. But then comes the best performance of 'The Sheltering Sky' ever performed by the group.
Instrumental and experimental, King Crimson really knows how to piece together improvised instrumental genius. It's long, to boot; longer than on the Discipline record, anyhow...and much more entertaining, I feel. Any words I use to describe this track don't do it justice; I would say buy this entire album just for 'The Sheltering Sky'.
'Neal and Jack and Me' from Beat feels a bit poppier here than the original. It feels like a track you could dance to. It's a very solid track, and one that actually got me to seek out the Beat record.
Then comes another track that wasn't on the home video release - 'Elephant Talk'. For some reason, 'Elephant Talk' is one of those tracks that seems to not be as good going live compared to the Discipline original, and I fear that this is the one track I am not so fond of; the performance didn't have that punch to it like it did in the later Live in Montreal performance in 1984.
'Indiscipline' is one of those few tracks where just because you hear it once, it doesn't mean you've heard it a thousand times. Every single live rendition is unique, in part due to the improvised instrumental pieces, but also down to Adrian Belew's vocals. There's one thing I will say - Adrian Belew as a vocalist is quite underrated, I feel, and this performance only adds credence to that. A Bill Bruford drum solo serves as a preface to this track, which incidentally serves as the final track of the main performance, until an encore consisting of two more tracks.
'Heartbeat' is the first of the two encore tracks, and it made me take notice that King Crimson was willing to do anything that it wanted, even love ballads, and they do it quite well, even if it comes with an inherent amount of cheesiness that lovesongs often provide. Still, credit where it's due, it's a good song, and a good performance.
But then, the climax of it all. 'Larks' Tongues in Aspic: Part II'. But, where's David Cross's violin? Who even plays violin in this group, and who's gonna do the improvised instrumental for it late into the track?! Well, ol' Ade's got you covered, with his guitar proving to us that it can handle basically any situation. I'm tempted to say this rendition of LTiA2 is my favourite, but I'm reminded of the 1995 performances which have 'The Talking Drum' as its opener. That being said, it is a fantastic track, better and much more impactful than the original, and I'll be damned if I encounter someone who loves this entire album but not this one track.
And there you have it. I just rambled, sat at a keyboard for about forty-five minutes, gushing over a live performance not many people are probably gonna end up listening to, in the grand scheme of things. But if you take anything away from this review, let it be this - King Crimson live, going off of these releases, is pure magic. You have my and no doubt everyone else's blessing to check this performance out.