At The Royal Albert Hall, London, U.K., June 18, 2019

KING CRIMSON (Live at The Royal Albert Hall, London, U.K., June 18, 2019)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Celebrating a Golden Anniversary is quite some achievement and what better way to commemorate that landmark than a three-night residency at the prodigious splendour of the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Since the release of their ground breaking masterpiece, In The Court Of The Crimson King back in 1969, King Crimson have established themselves as the ultimate Progressive Rock band who right from the start kept pushing boundaries and evolving as a musical force and one that remains absolutely relevant 50 years later setting the bench mark for everyone else to aspire to, transcending all passing fashions and trends along the way.

With three drummers, Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastelotto and Jeremy Stacey sitting at the front of the stage it was rather appropriate that the tribal drumming of The Hell Hounds Of Krim opened the show featuring all three in remarkable synchronicity.

The heavy weight Pictures of A City and Suitable Grounds For The Blues saw the full band kicking into gear with founder member Robert Fripp sitting casually at the back on a stool dressed immaculately in a three-piece suit while weaving intricate sonic patterns on his guitar.

Having three drummers makes for quite an intriguing rhythm section, allowing King Crimson to head into territories that no other bands can reach and add the incredible Tony Levin on bass and Chapman stick bass into fray and they were simply untouchable.

Sure, at times it was heavy going and took some real concentration on the part of the audience making Dream Theater sound like Warrant but ultimately they were richly rewarded by some of the best musicianship that they will ever see.

Drumzilla is, unsurprisingly, a tour de force for the triple drum attack. Whether all three playing in perfect unison, leading the pack or a sort of play and follow approach, the complex rhythms and intense concentration on all three drummers’ faces was utterly mesmerising.

Epitaph from their debut album saw middle drummer, Jeremy Stacey swivel on his stool to play keyboards for what is surely Prog Rock’s crowning moment. Epitaph has everything. A beautiful melody sung to perfection by guitarist Jakko Jakszyk, drawing on all of the passion of Greg Lake’s original version. Layer upon layer of keyboards built up into a spinetingling crescendo to “The fate of all mankind I see is in the hands of fools” A poignant message in 1969 that remains every bit as relevant in 2019.

After an hour and a half or so there was a short interlude for a much-needed loo/beer/ice cream break before the band returned with the short drum symphony Devil Dogs of Tesselation Row before launching into the moody Cirkus which featured some gorgeous saxophone from long-time member Mel Collins.

Cat Food injected some light humour into the show before the beautiful simplicity of Moonchild soothed the soul for the final run in.

What a run in it was. The Court Of The Crimson King never fails to impress and in the ornate setting of the Royal Albert Hall it was as majestic as its title.

Easy Money with its driving riff and snappy chorus is probably as close as King Crimson gets to a catchy, commercial song while still retaining that trademark unique signature sound.

Fripp’s soaring guitar melody covered in a blanket of atmospheric keyboards during Starless was such a fitting way to close the set and Jakszyk’s seductive vocals were the perfect accompaniment.

21st Century Schizoid Man was the ideal encore, encompassing everything that makes King Crimson such a unique force from its killer riff to the jazzy instrumental fury in the mid-section, it’s got it all.

As the crowd sang Happy Birthday and bassist Tony Levin filmed the huge, richly deserved standing ovation, the first night of their 50th anniversary celebrations got off to the best possible of starts.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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  1. What is there to say, My alltime favorite band gettin’the honor they deserve. It’s all for GOOD .There ‘ lot of GOOD music, arrangements and the superb musicians. I wish Fripp and Co the best !

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