Both modesty and his infamous reticence may preclude Robert Fripp from making a big song and dance about King Crimson’s recent return, but they remain arguably the only remaining legends from prog’s first wave capable of sending jolting shock waves through the entire genre and beyond.
Rush-released to sate levels of rabid, frothing demand that reached fever pitch after recent touring exploits, Live In Toronto is the first full concert release from the latest, seven‑man incarnation of Fripp’s angular army, and it’s a vivid, compelling and often bewildering snapshot of a band hitting peak form.
Chosen because everyone involved inferred a certain special something in the air in Toronto on November 15 last year, it bulges with so many tantalising glimpses of the new Crimson’s power and potential that it frequently feels less like a live album than some imperious and haughty statement of renewed intent. It helps that the three-drummer set-up has injected extra muscularity and groove into even the most obtuse of songs. As a result, the freshness that has long typified each new chapter in the Crims’ story is here in abundance – Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part 1, Sailor’s Tale and Red are somehow reborn and newly rampant.
In a league of their own, and their power is growing.
Anyone who caught King Crimson during their world tour will already know how they feel about the various skewed works-in-progress that amount to Live In Toronto’s chief selling point, but herein lies the opportunity to really absorb how Fripp’s vision has evolved in recent times. Part wholesale reinvention, part meticulous refinement, the likes of Meltdown and Radical Action (To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind) will doubtless sound different should this line-up ever complete a bona fide new studio opus, but even in this nominally tentative form, the new material crackles and pops with exuberance and the infectious thump of hearts buoyed by fresh adrenalin. Such is the precise clarity and underlying oomph of Live In Toronto’s overall sound, this is an album that stridently ticks the box marked “You should’ve been there!” while still offering all the substance, excitement and intrigue that such an endeavour demands.
In truth, it’s hard to imagine any self-respecting prog aficionado missing out on this. Like so many moments in the Crimson saga, Live In Toronto looks, sounds and feels important; a timely reminder of the exploratory gods’ prowess, perhaps, or maybe just another much-needed dose of mercurial, epoch-bothering Crim-inality. Either way, they remain in a league of their own and, if anything, their power seems to be growing.