King Crimson: 2/28/2003

For me, King Crimson sort of holds a mythical place in the world of rock music. They were definitely at the forefront of the prog movement, so when I saw they were coming to town, and playing a very small venue, I didn’t hesitate to grab tickets. My brother also wanted to go, so I grabbed a ticket for him and made plans for him to come to town for the concert.

This show was part of the Power To Believe tour. The album and tour featured some incredible musicians:

  • Robert Fripp – guitar, mastering, production
  • Adrian Belew – guitar, vocals, lyrics
  • Pat Mastelotto – electronic drumming, hybrid acoustic
  • Trey Gunn – Warr guitar

I had seen Adrian Belew perform with David Bowie, and he was amazing, so I was looking forward to seeing him again. And as a guitarist, I was really psyched to see the legendary Robert Fripp.

The concert was somewhat short, but the quality of the music made up for that. Technically, they were as impressive as I expected them to be. Fripp was a little strange, and occasionally would walk off stage for reasons unknown, but he always returned and stoically ripped through his scales.

The only thing that was a little disappointing for me was that the song choice was limited to three albums:   The Power to Believe, The ConstruKction of Light, and THRAK. I really thought they would do at least one song from Discipline, and I would have loved to see them play “21st Century Schizoid Man,” but alas—Fripp plays what Fripp wants to play. Anyway, it was still a killer show. Here’s the setlist.

Setlist:

  • The ConstruKction of Light
  • ProzaKc Blues
  • The Power to Believe I: A Cappella
  • Level Five
  • Eyes Wide Open
  • EleKtriK
  • Happy With What You Have to Be Happy With
  • The Power to Believe II: Power Circle
  • Facts of Life
  • The World’s My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum
  • Dangerous Curves
  • Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (Part IV)

Encore:

  • The Power to Believe III: Deception of the Thrush
  • VROOOM
  • Dinosaur

Jethro Tull with U.K.: 9/4 or 5/1979

This is a pretty sad stub. The concert was amazing, but I was quite upset that the gatekeeper gave me the short stub. I even said something to the guy, but he was a real asshole about it and refused to let me have the better half. As such, I had to do some digging online to find the actual date of the concert, which was part of the Stormwatch tour. It seems that they played two nights at the Sportatorium. I’m not sure which was the one I attended.

Anyway, the concert was awesome! I was a huge Tull fan growing up. I have great memories of being in the woods in New York with my friends, listening to Songs from the Wood on a dinky cassette player. One of my earliest album purchases was Best of Jethro Tull, and I listened to it over and over and over. So getting to see Tull was a big deal for me.

The prog rock band U.K. opened the show. I was not that familiar with them at the time, but once I learned more about them, I felt fortunate to have gotten to see them live. The incarnation of the band I saw was the trio version which included singer/bassist John Wetton (from King Crimson, Roxy Music, and Uriah Heep), keyboardist/electric violinist Eddie Jobson (Roxy Music and Frank Zappa’s band), and drummer Terry Bozzio (from Frank Zappa’s band). I didn’t know any of their music, but damn – I was really impressed with their performance.

Then Tull took the stage. The entire band was out, sans Ian Anderson. There was a stand in the center of the stage holding his flute. Suddenly, a pirate-looking figure swung from one side of the Sporto on a rope to the other, swung back, and on the next swing, let go, slid across the stage and swooped up his flute. I was completely blown away! They played five songs from the new album, after which Ian said, “Well, we’ve played some new stuff, now the rest of the evening will be all older material. This song starts out loud, then gets soft, then gets loud, then gets soft, then gets loud again. I think you know the rest…” and they blasted into “Aqualung.” The crowd exploded. And true to his word, the rest of the show was all classic tunes, which included “Songs from the Wood,” “Thick as a Brick,” “Too Old to Rock and Roll,” and “Cross-eyed Mary.” And just when I thought it could get no better: the encore!! They came back, played Minstrel in the Gallery > Locomotive Breath > Dambusters March > Minstrel in the Gallery (reprise). To this day, that holds up as one of the best encores I’ve ever seen.

I would go on and see Jethro Tull other times in my life, but none of the subsequent shows ever lived up to this one. It was by far the best Tull show I have seen, and up there with some of the best concerts overall.

Greg Lake: 4/25/2012

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“If you were stranded on a desert island with just one album to listen to, what would it be?” If you are my age, I’m sure you’ve answered this question many times. My response was pretty standard: Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake and Palmer. Throughout the years, I have owned this on vinyl (twice), on cassette, on 8-track, and on CD. It is an album I never tire of listening to.

I dug out this stub because Greg Lake passed away a couple days ago. He died the same year that his bandmate Keith Emerson also died. 2016 has been a terrible year for musicians.

I went to this concert with my friend Bill, a former bandmate of mine and a writer for various music publications. He had acquired a pair of complimentary tickets, which included a pass to meet Greg after the performance. I have to say, I was pretty excited to meet someone who has inspired me musically for most of my life.

We drove to Raleigh, got some food, then went to the venue. The manager there was very accommodating and invited us in early, gave us more food and beverages, and made us feel like VIP’s. The venue was intimate and we had great seats. Finally, the lights went out and Greg Lake took the stage.

This was his “storyteller” tour, so it was just him on the stage, playing bass and guitar along with recorded tracks, and of course singing. He also spent a good deal of time between songs telling personal stories about bands, recordings, and life as a musician. I felt like I got to know him on a deeper level and gained a more rich understanding of him as an artist. He played a broad selection of music from his early days in King Crimson through ELP and solo material. For me, it was an amazing experience, but it got better.

After the performance, we went to the VIP guest room and waited for Greg to arrive. After a bit, he showed up and people queued up to meet him and ask him questions. I of course had to bring a copy of Brain Salad Surgery, which he graciously signed for me. I felt a little intimidated meeting him, but he was pretty relaxed. I asked him what new bands he listened to. He said none, really. I felt a twinge of sadness for him. There are some great musicians out there now, and I thought he might find enjoyment and inspiration from listening to them. To quote his song: “C’est la vie” (which he played).

Greg Lake will be sorely missed, but he has gone on to join the great gig in the sky. Godspeed.

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