The Grove Theater is one of the more interesting places in Southern California to see a rock concert. I have seen several shows there and it's dinner theater setting has never failed in creating an odd experience. It is a relatively nice place, with OK sound, but the seating consists of row after row of picnic table like seating. When looking straight ahead you will gaze upon the person sitting directly across from you. Depending on which side of the table you are sitting on, you need to crane your head either to the left or right to see the stage. Regardless of the quality of the show, your night will probably end with a very sore neck.
Every artist that I have seen there has taken the time to poke fun at the setting and on this night, singer-guitarist Adrian Belew proved no exception. After the band completed the opening song, Belew welcomed the crowd to "Sunday night bingo" and called out "B-5".
I hadn't seen King Crimson since the tour for Thrak so I was very anxious to see how the band performed minus Bill Bruford and Tony Levin. Though these two amazing talents were missed, the current incarnation of Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Trey Gunn & Pat Mastelotto more than held their own. I was also excited about this tour as I liked their latest release, 'The Power to Believe', much more than the prior CD, The ConstrucKtion of Light. Though, that album was not without it's charms as well.
Immediately after entering the stage, Adrain Belew started the show with the accappella opening of The Power to Believe before the band ripped into an excellent version of Level Five, also from the latest CD. Throughout the evening, the band defied the theory that advancing age mellows an individual. These guys seriously kicked ass all night long. They mainly focused on material from the last two albums which were definitely harder edged. In fact, if I had one small gripe about the evening, it was that all but three songs performed (two from Thrak and Deception of the Thrush) were from these last two releases. I thought they would have at least dabbled in the 80's era of the band a bit. All in all though, it didn't make a big difference as it still was a very entertaining show.
The new CD was performed almost in it's entirety, minus just a few tracks. The highlights definitely included the previously mentioned Level Five as well as excellent renditions of Elektrik, Dangerous Curves & Eyes Wide Open, just to name a few. Moving on to material from The Construcktion of Light that was performed, I was particularly impressed by Prozak Blues. If only because I don't care much for the recorded version of the song. The live version on this night was fantastic though. It could be due to the fact that Belew sang it in his own voice rather than using the annoying vocal tricks that the album version features The concert also featured excellent versions of Vroom and Dinosaur from Thrak.
The band was very tight and all played superbly. It is every bit as interesting to watch this band's technical ability as it is to listen to their music. It was also fun that Robert Fripp could actually be seen on this tour and not hidden in darkness towards the back of the stage. Though he was bathed in dark purple lights, he was in plain view on the right hand side of the stage. Some of his solos were particularly blistering on this evening. His solo on Facts of Life from the new CD was absolutely awe inspiring to say the least.
Aside from the music, Mr. Fripp also provided what will probably go down as the most memorable part of the evening. As he walked to the microphone to thank the tour crew before the final song, he noticed a person in the audience preparing to take a picture. Anyone in the theater who was unaware of Fripp's adversity to cameras at Crimson shows, soon found out just how serious he is about it. He immediately warned the individual to put the camera away or "he would place it in a spot in which the sun never ventures" The person then flashed Fripp a peace sign that did no good. Fripp pointed at the person and said "you can flash the peace sign at me, but I ask you to turn it back at yourself". At this point, he waved his pointed finger towards the man and stated "I assure you that this finger IS judgmental" and ended with " be aware that we do have a confiscation policy". Though there was scattered laughter in the hall, I think everyone in attendance knew that Robert wasn't joking around. Finally, he moved on to thanking the crew and the band lashed into the final song of the evening, Vrooom.
All in all, a very entertaining concert. The band proved once again why they are and continue to be one of the freshest and most enduring of all progressive rock acts. Lastly, it is a shame though that in Southern California, a band like King Crimson can't sell out a 1600 seat theater. Though the first three sections were pretty full, the back of the hall was almost completely empty. A definite testament to the fading rock scene in this town. Quite a shame, all things considered. Also, to all the fans that feel the need to yell out things like "Bruford!!!!" or "Epitaph!!!!" during quite sections of songs, all I can say is "get a life!!!!". This is an occurrence at every Crimson show that I have ever attended and it is quite sad. Especially now considering that Bill Bruford no longer performs with the band. Plus, it must make Michael Giles feel pretty left out. :) Seriously though, an absolutely great show. I hope the band comes back to the States very soon. If they do, I recommend that all fans attend. King Crimson can still stand it's own with any other band out there.