Saturday, September 24, 2011

Whaaaa? I Can’t Hear You!

Thursday night ended the triptych of post-deployment concerts at Ram’s Head.  I think it ended my accompanied concert-going for a while too.

First things first … it was an amazing show, more than I dared anticipate.  We walked in right at 8, and Stick Men were already on stage and playing.  Originally comprised of ex-King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto and Tony Levin and Michael Bernier on Chapman Stick (hence the name Stick Men … get it?), Bernier moved on and was ably replaced by Marcus Reuter on touch guitar.  During the 45-minute set of their own material, Levin let the cat out of the bag.  After their set, the Adrian Belew Power Trio would play a set of their own stuff, and finally everyone would converge on the stage for the King Crimson set.  Holy crap, a Crim-head’s fantasy!  For their finale, Stick Men played a piece from their Soup disc, four movements from The Firebird Suite.  Igor Stravinsky never sounded so good.

Then the Power Trio.  Adrian Belew was accompanied by Julie Slick on bass, and replacing her brother Eric on drums was Tobias Ralph.  Belew commented that Julie was “really slick on bass.”  Nice play on words, Ade, but she wasn’t slick.  She was ferocious.  She kicked ass, pure and simple.  I hadn’t listened to much of the Trio’s material before, but after last night, I need to become more familiar with it.  The phrase “power trio” really sums up their approach.  Both bands, but especially the Power Trio, were short on lyrics and heavy on instrumentals … magnificent instrumentals from virtuoso musicians.

Next up … Belew announces that he, Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto (three three former King Crimson band-mates) will, for the first time ever, play as a trio.  And they launched right into Crimson’s Three of a Perfect Pair.  The Crimson material never stopped after that.  A couple more tunes, then Marcus Reuter returned to the stage and they launched into Red, a blistering guitar-focused instrumental.  Then the rest of the Power Trio came back on-stage and we were treated to a reincarnation of the famed Double Trio, with two drummers, two bass guitarists (well, sometimes it was one on bass and one on the Stick), and two amazingly talented guitarists.  Interestingly, although Levin and Belew introduced the songs for their respective bands, not a word of introduction was spoken during this part of the show.  We Crim-heads didn’t need to be told what they were playing.

Interspersed among spirited renditions of such classics as Frame by Frame, Elephant Talk, Neurotica and Indiscipline, they snuck in Conundrum, their mind-blowing drum duet.  Finally, the double trio went through the “end-of-set-walk-off-the-stage” drill until the ceaseless applause brought them back for the encore.  It could only be one song, I thought.  And I wasn’t disappointed, as the first notes of Thela Hun Ginjeet brought me to my feet.  Oh yeah.

I’ve got a collection of Crimson concert recordings spanning 1982 to 2009.  Deep down in my heart of hearts, I’d worried about Belew and Levin getting older and less nimble, about Belew’s voice giving it up.  But they were in top form, their performances as dazzling as ever.

Throughout the show, I was in a state of nirvana.  Throughout the show, I felt the physical impact of the music, the bass thudding through me, the sonic assault enveloping me.  I was at times vaguely aware that my wife was sitting across the table from me.  And, as her tastes in music tend more towards Jimmy Buffett and show tunes, I fear it will be a cold day in hell before I get her to join me for another concert.

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