In the last year and a half, music fans have been itching to go back to attending concerts. While some have enjoyed streaming concerts from home, it just isn’t the same as attending a concert in person. In the case of King Crimson, their fans came out in droves (with and without face masks) on September 7 at TD Pavilion at the Mann Center in Philadelphia, PA. Performing alongside the English prog rockers was the Zappa Band, thus making for an exciting night of live music.
First formed in 1969, King Crimson are one of progressive rock’s most celebrated bands. For more than five decades, the band has been together on/off- with founding member guitarist Robert Fripp being the band’s lone consistent member. While the band hasn’t released any new studio albums since 2003’s The Power to Believe, this reunited version of King Crimson has been together since 2013. The band currently consists of:
Robert Fripp- guitar
Jakko Jakszyk- guitar/vocals
Tony Levin- bass
Pat Mastelotto- drums
Jeremy Stacey- drums
Gavin Harrison- drums
Mel Collins- saxophone/flute
The concert was held at The Mann Center in Philadelphia, PA at their TD Pavilion. With the venue being an amphitheater, it’s a beautifully located venue just slightly away from the city of Philadelphia. Upon entering the venue, it seemed as if there was plenty to do before the show started: you could visit the merchandise booth, get something from the food vendors or sit and talk to fellow fans. Looking around the venue, there were concertgoers of all ages- from teenagers seeing their first King Crimson show to diehard fans donning t-shirts from previous tours. There were even those people who were wearing Zappa t-shirts, who were just as enthusiastic as the King Crimson fans were.
The Zappa Band hit the stage a little before 7:30 pm, playing ten songs in just an hour. Sponsored by the Zappa Family Trust, the Zappa Band consists of musicians who have either played with the late Frank Zappa or have played in Zappa Plays Zappa. Zappa guitarist Ray White served as the frontman for the night, who was great- with his vocals suiting each (non-instrumental) song just fine. For each of the ten songs played by the Zappa Band, each song was played to near perfection. There were some variations on a few songs: “I Ain’t Got No Heart,” originally from Zappa’s debut album Freak Out was played a bit faster than the original recording. For “Village of the Sun,” drummer Joe Travers invited King Crimson’s Jeremy Stacey to join them for the song. The band even played “City of Tiny Lites” from Sheik Yerbouti. While sung by Ray White and Robert Martin that night, the original was sung by guitarist Adrian Belew- just a few years before he joined the reunited King Crimson in the 1980s.
King Crimson took to the stage at around 8:50 pm. Following a pre-recorded message from Robert Fripp, the lights went down and the band walked out onstage to tumultuous applause. For the next hour and a half, the band had little to no communication with the audience- jumping into a set of 14 songs, all coming from different parts of the band’s career. After opening with the drum heavy “Devil Dogs of Tessellation Row,” the band lunged into furious rendition of “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part 1.” Right off the bat, the band were firing on all cylinders: the band’s three drummers were playing off one another while bassist Tony Levin could be seen slapping his upright bass with a bow. Speaking of the latter, Levin was on fire that night. After playing a relentless version of “One More Red Nightmare,” Levin played a solo piece called “Tony’s Cadenza,” which sounded splendid on Levin’s bass guitar.
Some songs on the setlist were spiced up a bit with the addition of saxophonist/flutist Mel Collins. Collins was in King Crimson for only two albums, Lizard (1970) and Islands (1971). With none of the songs from those albums being played that night, Collins was utilized in songs that typically don’t have woodwind instruments. Collins sounded especially strong on the aforementioned “One More Red Nightmare,” the hard-rocking “Red” and the doomsday ridden “Epitaph.” “Epitaph” was one of several songs that night that received a standing ovation from a majority of the audience and rightfully so: the band were able to capture the feelings of isolation and fear that were on the original recording on the band’s 1969 debut In the Court of the Crimson King, with guitarist/singer Jakko Jakszyk perfectly channeling the tone of the late Greg Lake’s performance.
Jakszyk was impressive throughout the night, as he belted out almost every song. As the singer for King Crimson, Jakszyk’s job isn’t easy: given how King Crimson have had several different lead singers, it’s Jakszyk’s job to reinterpret the vocals of those that have come before him such as Greg Lake, John Wetton and Adrian Belew. Jakszyk sounded particularly strong during “Pictures of a City,” with Robert Fripp and the guys all sounding incredibly precise to that of the original song on In The Wake of Poseidon (1970). The same can be said for band’s performance of “The Court of the Crimson King,” which sounded particularly powerful as the band’s sound reverberated throughout the venue during the choruses. The band closed out the set with “Starless” from Red (1974), before returning to the stage for the encore of “21st Century Schizoid Man.”
As a whole, King Crimson and the Zappa Band were able to put on a good show. While packaged tours are a bit tricky to pull off, both bands were able to hash out good sets of tunes. Sadly, this tour has been advertised as King Crimson’s last tour in North America. If this turns out to be the case, the crimson kings have gone out on a high note.
Zappa Band Setlist
- Zomby Wolf
- Peaches en Regalia
- I Ain’t Got No Heart
- What’s New in Baltimore?
- Village of the Sun
- Echidna’s Arf (Of You)
- City of Tiny Lites
- Alien Orifices
- Florentine Pogen
King Crimson Setlist
- Devil Dogs of Tessellation Row
- Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part 1
- Pictures of a City
- The Court of the Crimson King
- One More Red Nightmare
- Tony’s Cadenza
- The ConstruKction of Light
- Radical Action II (w/ Radical Action I)
- Level Five
- 21st Century Schizoid Man
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.