The Massey Hall King Crimson show is one of the most well known and well documented. Live In Toronto is the latest Club silver pressed release which has the complete soundboard recording from that night for the first time. Live In Toronto is truly an important archive release by King Crimson. They’ve mostly been going down the download route, posting their tapes online and not bothering with silver releases. But this one, despite the sub par show, certainly is interesting enough for a Collector’s Club release. This is available from the DGM website for a reasonable price, definitely worth having.
The debut show for Mel, Boz, RF and Ian and what a fantastic atmosphere this soundboard recording has! The band are incredibly animated, clearly delighted to be away from their basement rehearsal room and obviously enjoying the liberation of being onstage. The shouts of encouragement and approval being exchanged – often in mid-song – give this recording an astonishing intimacy. Highlights include Fripp’s razor-sharp lines in the chorus section of Cirkus. There's an enchanting version of Lady of The Dancing Water with winsome backing vocals from Ian, trimmed with some rich baritone sax. And listen out for the running lines and slashing chords from LTIA pt1 as they make their debut during a radically different and experimental Sailor’s Tale.
As Robert Fripp had done with King Crimson's first live LP, Earthbound (1972), USA (1974) is a single-disc concert package documenting the quartet during its most concurrent swing through North America. As with its predecessor, USA was also issued as a sonic cenotaph of the concurrently defunct Krim…
From cautious beginnings Improv II quickly expands into lolloping beast of a track providing what is arguably the best set-up to Exiles to date. As Cross and Wetton hurl fuzzed lines across the stage over one of Bruford’s slow-burning jazz vamps, Fripp introduces one sustained note that lasts somewhere in the region of 37 seconds. An object lesson in making a little go a long way.
Though this particular line-up were edging closer to oblivion, listening to this full show 30 years after the event, the energy levels are astounding. In his journal from the time RF described the show as "Tired. Lifeless. Lacklustre” Maybe Fripp’s estimation of the gig was informed by his recovering from mild food poisoning, the cumulative effect of prunes and a boil in his ear! It seems nobody was happy this particular night. Sound engineer George Chkaintz had trouble with the sound in the recording truck, roadie Tex is frightened to turn down Wetton’s amp despite the discreet urgings of other members of the band and crew, Fripp is giving tour manager Dik Frasier grie, and the promoter isn’t best pleased because the band haven’t done an encore!
This is King Crimson’s first performance in front of a crowd since they had wowed the punters at Le Spectrum (documented on Absent Lovers) back in 1984. Essentially a dress rehearsal in front of invited guests and the South American press, the tickets that had been made available sold out in two hours flat.