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King Crimson - Live In Toronto CD (album) cover

LIVE IN TORONTO

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.53 | 49 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Forgive my skepticism, but I have to ask: why bother releasing a live album recorded less than one month before the more comprehensive "Radical Action" CD/Blu-ray package, and featuring an almost identical song list? It looks like pure, mercenary redundancy, but after hearing it the reason should be obvious: on a chilly autumn evening in Toronto, the Crimson King put on a red-hot show.

Consider this one the undoctored live flipside to the 'virtual studio album' of "Radical Action", with all the arena ambience missing from the "Action" tapes restored, including the pre-concert No Photos request, very politely extended by Robert Fripp himself in a recorded announcement. It's hard not to smile when hearing the 69-year old gentleman rocker from Wimborne invite the audience to "please join in and have a party with King Crimson", like he's introducing a Parliament-Funkadelic dance act or something.

What should be immediately apparent, in contrast to the more perfectly mixed "Radical Action" set, is the raw energy of this recording, totally appropriate to the Beat the Bootlegs motivation behind it. The rhythm section is especially loud, almost to the point of audio distortion at times, hardly surprising with three drummers attacking their kits in precise unison and/or counterpoint (all of them ace players, but it still seems like a gimmick).

I won't repeat the commentary/chit-chat/criticisms of my parallel review on the "Radical Action" ProgArchives page (it's only talk, after all)...except to note again how close the older songs stick to the original studio versions, sadly without any uncharted digressions, a Crimson hallmark in its glory days. Nostalgia is back in style for the new band, as heard in the walk-on tape for this gig: the old "Islands" album coda, with a young Fripp directing the string orchestra at Command Studio in London. That rose-colored intro sets up the nervous opening notes of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One", a juxtaposition that would have been more shocking in 1972 but still holds a lot of residual power in 2015.

A convincing argument is made in that first track: even with its cutting edge dulled by age, the new Crimson King sounds pretty darn sharp. The set-list is mostly Golden Oldies, but the performances are tremendously vital, and the songs themselves more relevant than ever (yes, even "The Letter"). Note the dramatic transition from the instrumental alarm-call of "Red" to the passionate eulogy of "Epitaph", together functioning like a musical barometer for our troubled times. And the 45-year old "Pictures of a City" has never sounded quite so urgent, rising to a climax approaching Holy Sh!t levels of intensity.

In the end your own preference for this set or "Radical Action" will likely depend on how polished you expect a live album to sound. Or, on an even more basic level, which album you happen to hear first. Either way, it's a vital snapshot of a surviving Progressive Rock giant flexing a few timeworn but well-toned muscles.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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