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The Crimson ProjeKCt - Live In Tokyo (Album Review)

Friday, 28 February 2014 Written by Ben Bland

King Crimson are back, for real. This year will see the group’s maverick leader Robert Fripp unveil new music from his near 50-year-old project for the first time in over a decade. ‘Live In Tokyo’ isn’t it. In fact, technically speaking, this isn’t even King Crimson.

Led by Adrian Belew, the Crimson ProjeKCt features fellow Crimson alumni Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto alongside some new recruits. Fripp is nowhere to be seen, although he has approved the group’s activities from afar.

The point of the Crimson ProjeKCt is, presumably, to take the music of one of the most influential and significant bands of all time to fans who have, thus far, been unable to sample their astounding back catalogue in the flesh. ‘Live in Tokyo’ muddies the waters of that interpretation somewhat.

Most obviously, this is because the setlist on display here isn’t exactly classic Crimson. Only two tracks are culled from what is generally considered the band’s finest era, which happens to be the period before Belew joined.

Four tracks from his first Crimson album, 1981’s ‘Discipline’, make up the majority of the ‘hits’ here, with over half the album being culled from two oft-derided records, 1984’s ‘Three Of A Perfect Pair’ and 1995’s ‘THRAK’. Only Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part Two and Red represent the universally acclaimed King Crimson who helped redefine rock music in the ‘70s.

More problematic is the performance itself. Even staunch defenders of Crimson’s sometimes inaccessible latter period must admit that ‘Live in Tokyo’ fails to capture the boundary breaking spirit in which some of that material was recorded. A lot of the pieces here sound curiously uninteresting when compared with their original studio versions. The best moments are pleasant. The worst are boring. Let’s face it, even the most ardent ‘THRAK’ devotee probably doesn’t need another version of drum solo B’Boom in their life.

While there’s a clear engagement with the material at hand from the musicians involved, there’s little of particular note about any of the tracks played here. There’s nothing distinctive about anything on ‘Live in Tokyo’ and, crucially, not enough that is authentic about them either. Fripp has spoken before about how he can foresee a time where King Crimson exists without his involvement, but frankly that concept feels like anathema.

No disrespect to Centrozoon’s Markus Reuter (who plays guitar here), but knowing that Fripp is not playing on ‘Live in Tokyo’ makes it harder to enjoy precisely because, despite his curmudgeonly ways, he will always be the beating heart of King Crimson as a creative force. Maybe that’s a churlish opinion to hold, but it’s also a damned hard one to shake off.

Where many of Crimson’s live albums (and there are plenty of them to choose from) see the band outdo studio takes by virtue of the vibrancy and energy of their performances, ’Live in Tokyo’ is full of takes that do little other than remind you to how good the original songs are.

It’s as nice as ever to hear the colossal THRAK and the delightful Frame By Frame, but it’s also wholly unremarkable to do so in this setting. The only thing ‘Live in Tokyo’ is likely to accomplish is to remind you to go back and revisit some of the later Crimson records. Ultimately, then, this is a live record that is utterly inessential to all but the diehards. The rest of you should have more than enough to be going on with until Fripp returns with the real King Crimson later this year.

The Crimson Projekct UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows

Wed March 12 2014 - LONDON Shepherd's Bush Empire

Click Here to Compare & Buy The Crimson Projekct Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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