King Crimson Credit: Dean Stockings

A few years ago I was lucky enough to see one of the greatest shows of my lengthy concertgoing life: King Crimson at the Chicago Theatre. Clearly the band thought it was a good one too, as they released the entire show as the album Official Bootleg: Live in Chicago, June 28th, 2017. King Crimson’s long-standing bassist, the godly Tony Levin, was even quoted in the promotional materials calling it “one of our best.” Levin played on some of the most challenging Crimson LPs, including 1981’s Discipline, and he’s been part of the group’s recent “double quartet” configuration. That same large-scale band is back this time around, including woodwind player Mel Collins, whose skronking sax and pastoral flute appear on the early-70s albums Lizard, Islands, and Earthbound. King Crimson have been revisiting their giant back catalog onstage, and this 50th-anniversary tour promises even more classics off their 1969 debut, In the Court of the Crimson King (which practically defined heavy prog), plus gems from 12 of their 13 studio albums, some of which they’ve never played live before (though it’s anyone’s guess which record didn’t make the cut). For this tour, the band’s trio of drummers (Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, and Jeremy Stacey) are joined by Bill Rieflin, primarily known for his work with industrial acts such as Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, who’s returning to King Crimson after a brief absence. (Stacey and Rieflin double on keyboards, and the percussion quartet have written brand-new compositions for this tour.) Rock session king Michael “Jakko” Jakszyk, formerly of Level 42 and briefly the Kinks, is back on guitar and vocals. Jakszyk played in King Crimson alumni project 21st Century Schizoid Men in 2002 and began collaborating with Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp in 2010, before joining KC proper in 2013. He manages to conjure supple-voiced Crimson front men of yore such as Greg Lake and John Wetton, but thankfully he has phrasings and vocal nuances of his own. Lastly, of course, there’s the one and only Bob Fripp, the sole constant member of King Crimson. When I saw the band, the maestro was pretty low-key—he literally took a back seat, sitting in a chair toward the rear of the stage—but when he coaxed those first elastic, creamy tones from his guitar, it was very clear whose band this was. At age 73, Fripp still has impressive endurance (his shows are often three hours long), but nobody can keep that up forever—go see this colossal, epic version of King Crimson now, or have massive, prog-song-length regrets later.   v