King Crimson at the Usher Hall Part 2

To recap, as I was walking home after last night’s gig, I met Laura Ennor, a fine journalist and my former boss at my day job at The List. She had been to the gig with a small group, and we exchanged brief hellos, wasn’t it great, etc. They crossed the road on their way to somewhere else, and I headed home, dying for a bite to eat and a cool beer. Minutes later, only yards down the street, I was intercepted by a guy I’d never met who said ‘Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m Laura’s boyfriend, and somebody handed me free tickets to tomorrow night’s gig, and I live in Glasgow, so we thought you’d like them.’

Baffled and grateful, I thanked him and he ran back to the rest of his group. Having got home and told this story to my lovely wife, her first question was ‘Do you want to go?’ I had planned to give them away, but realised that in fact I did; having waited so long and paid such good money (£55) to see King Crimson in the first place, a free chance to see them again seemed like a gift from the gods. I did a quick call-around and managed to find someone I knew who’d like to take the other ticket: Christos Michalakos, an exceptionally fine drummer I know who’s played with Edimpro and who is currently involved in the game design community in Dundee, game design capital of northern Europe.

And so, weirdness abounding, I went to see the same band twice on two consecutive nights. Christos also had been at last night’s gig, and he’d never done this either. And, well, was it the same again?

No. It was better. I asked Christos if he thought so too, and he did. The setlist was different; there was no ‘Red’, and the more recent songs they played sounded different, but there was also a blistering rendition of ‘The Talking Drum’/’Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part 2′. In general, the band sounded more urgent and more intense. Mel Collins was less jazzy, more willing to play outside. Fripp grabbed a solo every chance he got, and his huge, warm, cello-ish tone was more moving, but a big part of that was that last night my seat was in F22 of the Upper Circle, and tonight my seat was C13 of the Grand Circle, a good 20 feet closer to the stage and with correspondingly better acoustics.

Still, last night had an Apollonian dignity, and tonight had a Dionysian fervour. This manifested itself when, during the fast section of the closing ’21st Century Schizoid Man’, a young bearded hipster ran up to the front of the stalls and started dancing wildly. He was soon joined by another, then another, and by the time the song had morphed into Gavin Harrison’s drum solo, there was about ten of them, all dancing really badly but with great enthusiasm just before the lip of the stage, to the undoubted annoyance of those in the front row of the stalls. I was watching the drummers during this bit, but Christos told me later that Fripp viewed the dancing with great amusement. An Usher Hall usher kept an eye on them, but nobody made them sit down. It was very sweet.

The dancers lost their mojo as Harrison’s solo became more abstract, but, got to hand it to the last one; he didn’t stop dancing and abjectly walk back to his seat, but as the intensity slackened so that it could build up again, he recognised that his moment had passed and instead bopped his way back down the aisle and into obscurity. Well done, that man.

And so, King Crimson’s last UK date on this tour was a blinder. Here is a picture, just in case you think I’m making it all up:

Thanks to Christos for being a wise and informed concert-going partner, and thanks to Fripp & Co for providing so much mad fun.

King Crimson at the Usher Hall Part 2

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