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King Crimson Paints the Town Red at the Ryman in Nashville

by Rich and Laura Lynch

One of the few joys of the pandemic related lockdowns was getting to know Robert Fripp and his wife Toyah Willcox a little bit better through their series of videos that they released on their YouTube Channel. It was quite refreshing to see the notoriously stage shy guitar legend right up front as the pair hammed it up during their "Sunday Lunch" film clips. Even more exhilarating was getting to see Fripp return to his day job with the prog rock outfit King Crimson that he co-founded over 50 years ago when he and his powerful and proficient seven-piece band took the stage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee on Wednesday, July 29, 2021.

Formed in 1968, the progressive pioneers are now a large septet and the current stage configuration is dominated by the band's three drummers (Gavin Harrison, Pat Masatelotto and Jeremy Stacey) positioned right up front with Mel Collins, Tony Levin, Jakko Jakszyk and Robert Fripp lined up left to right on an elevated riser behind them. With this unique alignment in place everyone in the famed Mother Church of Country Music knew they were in for something spectacular.

In the beginning, King Crimson established themselves in the art rock and prog worlds with the help of several key frontmen beginning with Greg Lake to be soon followed by the John Wetton era. With a reformation in the early 80's the group evolved with the addition of a second guitar and Adrian Belew ascended to iconic status serving in dual roles as axe man and vocalist.

All the eras of the Crimson musical output were well represented by the modern lineup in Nashville. Many props need to be directed toward vocalist and guitarist Jakko Jakszyk who handled all the prominent pieces with proficient authenticity while a sharply dressed Fripp looked on as he peered over from the side of his large stack of equipment while adding leads and chords to the sometimes chaotic proceedings.

Divided over two sets with a 20-minute break in between the concert was well paced as the group delivered a patented performance marked by crystal clear sound and sophisticated arrangements that were worlds beyond the three chord country picking this hallowed hall is more accustomed to showcasing.

Of course, the Ryman Auditorium skews to the Crimson side of things with its beloved brick exterior. The building itself was founded as a focal point for Christian evangelism and revival. But, late in the concert the band directed that all stage lights turn a glowing and deepening red bathing the interior of the venue in a downright demonic and hellish hue as KC provided their take on the soundtrack to the underworld.

Another unique element of the evening's entertainment was the strict no-photo policy that was enforced under threat of eviction. A pre-show prerecorded statement from Mr. Fripp encouraged the audience to be in the moment to really enjoy the music and the lack of camera phones in the air with their distracting screens really gave this night the feel of going back decades in time and that's a good thing. Still, Fripp and his longtime sideman Tony Levin love to document their audiences so they pulled out their cameras after the encore and allowed the fans a brief moment to do the same.

Opening for King Crimson in Nashville was the California Guitar Trio who played an engaging 30 minute set characterized by expansive and layered acoustic explorations by Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Chapman stick player Tom Greisgraber who was substituting for an absent Hideyo Moriya.

This was the sixth concert on King Crimson's "Music Is Our Friend" tour that was scheduled to next head westward on a swing through Texas, the Mountain States, Arizona and California before returning east in late August for a second leg that will sweep across their hotbed locales before wrapping up the proceedings on September 11 in Washington, DC.

Set 1: Hell Hounds of Krim / Neurotica / Red / Epitaph / One More Red Nightmare / Indiscipline / Islands / Set 2: Discipline / The Court of the Crimson King / Tony Levin's bass cadenza (>) Radical Action II (>) Level Five Encore: Starless

A strict no photo policy is in effect for this tour; Robert Fripp photographs the crowd post show.

Related Links: For more information on KING CRIMSON and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - King Crimson | California Guitar Trio | Ryman Auditorium


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