King Crimson ruins everything

King Crimson ruins everything. I saw them twice this summer on tour, in Chicago and Minneapolis. The two shows blew my mind. The eight-headed beast” — with three drummers up front — played the loudest, and most quiet show I’ve ever seen.

Songs that I had heard thousands of times sounded new again, both at the State Theatre and two nights later at the Chicago Theatre. Listening to Crimson’s live albums have since had the same effect: Familiar but radically different, known but also unknown.

The following week I was at a Talking Heads cover band’s concert. I had wanted to see them several times but had missed the shows. The Talking Heads have been a favorite band for years and I wanted to see their songs performed live, have a few beers and dance.

It became clear within the first song that this would not work. Instead of taking the songs and breathing new life into them, the musicians played to the records we were all familiar with.

I felt a strong pull to leave. Why stay and hear music trying to be something from 30 years ago? I didn’t want to have fun and take a walk down memory lane, I wanted to be challenged. Who cares how much they sounded like the band, I wanted to hear something in 2017.

Another example happened today: tickets became available for our local symphony performing the music of Star Wars: A New Hope while the movie played. I had been excited about this previously, but with the $80 ticket price on my computer screen, I asked: what will I actually be seeing? Will it be something new and a progression of the John Williams score? Or will they play it like we’ve heard it countless times on TV? I’m sure it will be interesting and it’s premature to cast a review, but I have strong doubts. I’d rather buy a ticket to a concert that has musicians who are not playing to a prerecorded movie but rather performing for the music. As a huge Star Wars fan, it feels odd to think about passing up this performance, but I’m sure people will want to hear Star Wars just like they have in the past.

King Crimson ruins everything, and that’s OK. I now thirst for music that is played for that moment we are in, not for a conceived ideas about what it should be.

July 17, 2017