King Crimson, Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, Chicago Illinois, September 10, 2019. (Featured photo by King Crimson manager David Singleton.)
“Expectation is a prison.” Robert Fripp says that a lot.
He said it again this past Tuesday in Chicago. Specifically, to about sixty fans who had paid a lot of cash for a King Crimson pre-concert VIP package. Even more specifically, to one particularly zealous fan, who nervously, repeatedly begged Fripp to reveal if “Cat Food” was on the evening’s setlist.
Fripp wasn’t biting. Having already pivoted from reflections on music’s ability to change the world and the necessity for presence in the musical event (like an abbot exhorting his monastic chapter) to “wittering” on the disadvantage of playing guitar while seated (“pimples on my arse”, spoken with the endearing delivery of a bawdy rock-and-roll Mr. Magoo), his response was firm, but simple: when you don’t know what’s coming next, consider it a challenge to pay more attention. And to be more present. Then Fripp let us take his picture while he took ours; manager David Singleton teased another possible US tour next summer (he deliberately doesn’t look at the setlist); and bassist Tony Levin engaged in a much lighter Q&A session (but he wasn’t telling, either).
As blunt as Fripp frequently is, his admonition came in handy Tuesday night. This is the third time I’ve seen the current version of King Crimson live, and the personal temptation to tune out in anticipation of repetition from previous years (even seated in the center of the sixth row) was surprisingly persistent. Fortunately, Fripp and friends weren’t about to let the sold-out, 4000-strong audience off the hook; the evening swiftly turned into another hot date with one of the best working bands in the world.