By Dave “Moto” Bishop (Photos supplied by King Crimson)
Thursday night, Clearwater welcomed the English progressive rock band King Crimson the beautiful Ruth Eckerd Hall . Celebrating 50 years of successful music and a lasting loyal fan base, the band chose Clearwater to kick off the “Music is our Friend” tour. The tour is slated for a 28 city run that will end with the band remembering September 11th with a huge show in Washington DC.
With much of the UK still on Covid lockdown, the band had no chance of playing in their home country. The only original member still playing, guitarist Robert Fripp and the rest of the current band, bassist Tony Levin, multi-instrumentalist Mel Collins, horn player Jakko Jakszyk and 3 drummers, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison and Jeremey Stacey spent the week here locally and did some rehearsing at ESI Productions for the tour while enjoying the relaxed restrictions here in the States.
The nearly sold out crowd of enthusiastic fans was a colorful mix of all ages, dressed from 60s tie dyed shirts to business suits, but all incredibly excited to see the band. Talking with random fans, I discovered that most had followed the band for years, and most had seen them live numerous times over the years.
Opening the show were the incredibly talented California Guitar Trio. The band will serve as opener on the tour until August, When the Zappa Band will serve out the remainder of the tour. The Guitar Trio, Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya have been together since 1991 and their music has been featured during the 2000 Olympic games and numerous news and sports shows. The coolest feature was having their music used as wake up music for the crew aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour. With no vocals, the band showcases pure amazing melodies that defy description. Each member has musical talent that is jaw dropping to watch and completely magical when blended together.
As King Crimson prepared to take the stage, we were told the band felt as the night would be a “date night” together and we were invited to take pictures with our eyes and record with our ears. The crowd gave a standing ovation as the band took the stage and literally gave the same ovation at the end of every song. With 7 members, the stage is incredibly full with 3 drummers up front and something to see everywhere. The band entertained with 50 years of hits, ending the set with an amazing rendition of “Starless and Bible Black” with the entire theatre emersed in an eerie red lighting that was perfect for the song and mood and features an incredible 3 drum solo during the song. After a nearly 10 minute standing ovation and nonstop chants for the band, King Crimson returned for encore and left fans with an incredible version of “21st Century Schizoid Man”. That had everyone on their feet for the entire song.
The night ended with a very personal interaction between band and fans. As the band each pulled out their cell phones to photo the crowd, we were also invited to approach the stage and take phots of the band. Drum sticks and guitar picks were handed off to the eager fans which made it easy to see why most of those in attendance were true lifelong fans as the band treats the crowd in a very personal way