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King Crimson

Eyes Wide Open DVD

Review by Julie Knispel

Following two plus years as a “double trio,” and nearly two years of fractionalization through a series of ProjeKCts, King Crimson returned to active duty in 2000 as a streamlined quartet with the album The ConstruKCtion of Light. A second album in this newer “double duo” format titled The Power to Believe,Eyes Wide Open followed in 2003. A number of concerts were filmed with the band intending a series of live releases in both audio and video formats (a version of this release scheme can now be seen with the advent of Discipline Global Mobile’s series of official concert downloads). While this initial plan did not come to pass, some of the fruits of their labours can be seen in the band’s recent DVD release, .

Eyes Wide Open is a double DVD set documenting the band’s 2000 and 2003 touring cycles. DVD 1 was primarily filmed at the Kouseinenkin Kaikan in Tokyo Japan on 16 April 2003, while the second was filmed during the tour for The ConstruKCtion of Light on 3 July 2000 at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London. Both DVDs are professionally shot, although the second (originally a production of the band’s nascent Bootleg TV project) offers a slightly more rough and ready presentation of their stripped down staging and performance.

Which DVD gets the most play will depend fully on which touring cycle the viewer prefers. In 2003, the band was moving toward a very basic, “nuovo metal” sound, with their newest material being among the heaviest in King Crimson’s lengthy back catalogue. A number of pieces hearkened back to past recorded efforts, with tracks like “Dangerous Curves” exhibiting some of the same tension through repetition concepts as in the band’s arrangement of Holst’s “Mars: The Bringer of War,” as released on Crimson’s 1970 release In The Wake of Poseidon. It’s possible that Crimson’s touring with Tool in 2001 influenced some of their rediscovered heaviness, and the concert filmed in Tokyo for the first DVD in this set shows the band at the top of their form.

The video is presented in letterboxed wide screen, with a multitude of camera angles and some occasionally inspired editing. Cuts from shot to shot are somewhat minimized when compared to long-form videos from other bands; the performance does not suffer from “MTV-itis” and an editor with severe A.D.D. Staging is somewhat minimal, although the band has never been one for expansive stage sets and theatrics (having said that, a few inflatables are used to good effect to create a sort of horned arch behind the band). The concert opens with an extended solo soundscape set from Robert Fripp before the band mounts the stage for an electrifying 100-minute set. The setlist proves that King Crimson is not a band that rests on past successes, as no song is more than 7 years old (at the time of performance). Highlights include a fiery “Level Five,” the surprisingly blues-based “Facts of Life” and “ProzaKC Blues,” and an expansive and wonderfully improvisatory take on the band’s most recent signature piece “The Deception of the Thrush.” In addition to the main program, this DVD also features several cuts of soundcheck footage from the rehearsals prior to the show.

The second disc sequentially in the set features the older footage, filmed in London on the band’s 2000 tour. Visually the concert video is grainier and darker, lending a rougher, more bootleg feel to the performance. The set list here is somewhat more wide ranging, with the band including some material from 1984’s Three of a Perfect Pair, as well as an interesting cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” as an encore piece. Of interest is “Cage,” only released as part of King Crimson’s VROOOM EP in 1994, and an acoustic rendition of Three of a Perfect Pair’s title track. This DVD includes an interesting authoring feature in that every playback is unique; the band filmed additional concerts throughout the 2000 tour, and improvisations from various shows are included and are randomly accessed each time the DVD is loaded for play. This feature adds replay value and makes each viewing unique. Unfortunately, there are slight delays in the performance as the random section is accessed, but these do not detract overly from the overall presentation.

Eyes Wide Open is unique in that it offers the viewer a great overview of an entire phase in King Crimson’s career, evolving from a looser, yet more electronic band to a group that simultaneously explored a wider tonal range while remaining more repertoire driven. As such, it is essential viewing, not only for fans of the band, but for progressive music fans in general, as it showcases a classic band continuing to break new ground and expand their boundaries in ways that many bands are simply not capable.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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