King Crimson: Live at the Orpheum

King Crimson continue to march to the beat of their own drummers. All three of them.

King Crimson

Live at the Orpheum

Label: Discipline Global Mobile
US Release Date: 2015-01-20
UK Release Date: 2015-01-10
Label website
Artist website

Ever since Robert Fripp reneged on his half-ass promise at retirement, King Crimson fans have probably been wondering just who the next functioning band was going to be. Not that they weren't prepared for a personnel shift. King Crimson devotees have been putting up with lineup changes for decades and musical weak links have proved difficult to come by. A quick answer to Who is King Crimson in 2015? is that it's the lineup that recorded A Scarcity of Miracles plus industrial music skin pounder Bill Rieflin. So yes, that means that King Crimson now has three drummers. Vocalist Jakko Jakszyk has reprised his role from the "King Crimson ProjeKct" as did saxophonist Mel Collins, who initially left the band in the early '70s. Gavin Harrison and Pat Mastelotto have hopped back on board, making Rieflin's job all the more baffling. The ever reliable Tony Levin holds down the low end and the ever restless Fripp continues to somehow make it all happen.

In 2014, this King Crimson lineup hit the road with their Elements of King Crimson tour. Live at the Orpheum consists of material from two shows at Los Angeles's Orpheum Theatre. The odd thing about Live at the Orpheum is how small it is. With seven tracks at almost 41 minutes, this is puny by King Crimson standards. The band has been trafficking heavily in live albums for the past twenty years or so and a majority of them have been enormous. But Jakszyk had the final say in what made the cut for Live at the Orpheum, and his standards for a live album could be different from what went into, say Heavy ConstruKction. But you can't even really call this a quick stroll through the garden of King Crimson past. It's a quick glance out the back door, possibly depicting a band that is ready to move on to the future already.

So what did make it on to Live at the Orpheum? You'll find two tracks from Red, two tracks from Islands, one from The ConstruKction of Light and two odd little pieces that function as an introduction and an interlude. It's hard to tell where the live ambiance ends and the studio manipulation begins on the strangely titled "Walk On: Monk Morph Chamber Music". Without it, the led-heavy riff that kicks off "One More Red Nightmare" would have been the first thing you hear on the album and that certainly wouldn't have been no great tragedy. Jakko Jakszyk's pipes sound more like Jack Bruce than Adrian Belew or John Wetton, but that matters for nil when he can chase any note up the scale and stay true to the ambitious nature of King Crimson's music. Collins finds ways to insert himself though they may not please every seat in the house (his use of soprano sax on "Starless" coming to mind). And when it comes to the Levin/Harrison/Mastelotto/Rieflin rhythm section, this doesn't sound like an album made with three drummers. Granted, I don't really know what all three of them are doing in a literal sense, but the precise nature of a percussive sound coupled with King Crimson's head-spinningly complicated songs is enough of a burden for one drummer alone. The fact that Live at the Orpheum never sounds cluttered or off-kilter is incredible. Even when the band is really in the thick of their own noise on "The Letters" and "Sailor's Tale", they continue to make this racket their own without one members sounding like they were even close to leaving the rails.

Live at the Orpheum concludes with no audience noise. The final notes of "Starless" just fade away. There they go, playing by their own rules...again. But that's what we pay them for and that's what we'll hold them to. Bring on that next studio album, ya prog nosticators.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.