Absolutely worth the trip!
I’ve been a fan of King Crimson almost as long as I can remember. My dad had the Court LP, and I can remember vividly being in awe of the title track at 5 years old in 1970…..By the time Discipline was released, I had the entire LP collection (minus Earthbound). I was lucky enough to have seen two shows in 1984 (Santa Barbara and Irvine).
By 2019, I’d been living in Alaska, and I wanted so badly to fly to the Lower 48 to catch the 50th Anniversary tour, but didn’t think I’d be able to justify the expense to my wife….but close to one of the final dates, I mentioned it to her. She shocked me by saying “Well, why not? If it’s something you really want, then let’s do it!” But by then the tour was nearly over, and then of course Covid killed the 2020 tour.
But I was not to be deterred – my wife said she would come to hear my “weirdo music” (her term), so - by god - I was gonna make it happen….I bought a pair of Royal Package Tickets and used up all our airline miles to fly from Alaska to new Jersey for the Holmdel show. I had very much wanted to share Crimson’s music with her before we went, but she refused, saying that she wanted to experience the band with no expectations – a blank canvas, so I decided to honor that wish, thinking that it would be an interesting experiment – King Crimson music has always been a part of me – my wife was going in completely blind…..
We managed to dodge the tail end of a hurricane two days before the show (I was convinced it would be cancelled), and I later heard that part of the venue had actually flooded, cancelling a concert there earlier in the week.
Yet it turned out to be a glorious sunny afternoon, and we were greeted at the gate by Iona Singleton (who was just lovely and even recognized that we had come in from Alaska). We then went in to the seating area for the Royal Package talks. Robert Fripp came out and was just delightful. He spoke about being in the moment, and how very easily one can carelessly remove oneself from the moment. (After the talks but before the show, my wife said of RF, “That man just penetrated my soul….I just love him!”) David Singleton was next, giving us some short previews of restored Frippertronics performances from the upcoming Exposure box, and then Pat Mastellotto appeared for a brief Q&A before the gates opened for the general audience. Before the very end, I was able to ask David if the session tapes for Islands, Larks and Red would be forthcoming on DGM in the same way that Court, Poseidon and Lizard had over the past couple years. He answered, in effect, that yes, it needed to happen, though he said that Larks would likely be a daunting task just because of the sheer number of session tapes! (Best spoiler alert ever!) After hitting up the merch table, we settled in for the show.
I hadn’t been to a proper concert in over 20 years, and it had been 37 years since last seeing King Crimson, so I was just beside myself even before the Zappa Band came out for the opening set. My wife and I were 4th row center, and the view of the stage was perfect! The Zappa Band was sensational, and I was so overcome by being at a live show that I actually had tears in my eyes during one of Mike Keneally’s solos….
King Crimson’s set began with a newly recorded RF spoken intro (Yayyyy!), which soon led into a blistering Drumzilla that nearly knocked me out of my chair. Pictures > Court > OMRN > Tony Cadenza > Red….It was just incredible….Islands was a moment of calm before the maelstrom of Neurotica into Indiscipline….Epitaph, Radical Action II, Level Five, and then Starless, which gave me goosebumps and more tears, finally ending with a 21CSM encore with an astounding solo from Gavin…
The show was amazing from start to finish, although I must say that the sound up front was quite muddy during the heavier portions of the performances. On Islands, Epitaph, and Starless the mix was excellent, but otherwise the drum line was so close that you could not only clearly hear the drummers in front of you, but also the amplified drummers in the sound system. But this is a minor complaint - My wife genuinely loved the show, particularly Robert and Mel, though she also said the sound wasn’t as clear as she’d have liked….So on our way back to the car, I vowed to myself that one way or another we’d see another show before tour’s end….. (Boston)