in performance: the crimson projeKct

the crimson projeKct. from left: tobias ralph, markus reuter, adrian belew, julie slick, pat mastelotto and tony levin.

When is a tribute act not a tribute act? In the case of The Crimson ProjeKct, the answer isn’t a direct one. The sextet is actually the combined forces of two trio offshoots from the veteran prog ensemble King Crimson – the Adrian Belew Power Trio (featuring longtime Crimson guitarist and Kentucky native Adrian Belew) and Stick Men (featuring the Crimson rhythm section of bassist/Chapman stick ace Tony Levin and drummer Pat Mastellotto). Having toured together as a package act last fall, the units are out this summer strictly as a living, rocking homage to Crimson. And with Crimson kingpin Robert Fripp seemingly retired from touring service, this may well be the closest we ever get again to any stage version of the band.

If that makes The Crimson ProjeKct sound like something of an also-ran, it shouldn’t. Last night’s 45 minute opening set at Cincinnati’s Taft Theatre for Dream Theater packed a massive electric and percussive wallop that embraced Crimson’s louder, darker side.

With the exception of 1974’s Red, which raced by with a dense fury drenched in multiple colors of stick and bass, the entire repertoire was pulled from two Crimson albums – 1981’s Discipline and 1995’s Thrak. The latter’s selections, curiously, introduced the set. A nicely propulsive drum duet by Mastelotto and Belew Trio percussionist Tobias Ralph with touch guitar ambience added by Stick Men’s Markus Reuter brought the show-opening B’Boom to life. Generously animated ensemble versions of Thrak’s title tune and Dinosaur followed.

But two Discipline gems that closed out the performance played especially well to this sextet’s strengths. Thela Hun Ginjeet let Belew go wild with guitar bursts that roared out of the tune’s hearty funk foundation and solos and shrieks that resulted from especially torturous whammy bar workouts.

The finale of Indiscipline belonged to the two rhythm sections. Specifically, Mastellotto and Levin (on stick) traded playful but potent skirmishes with Ralph and fellow Belew Trio mate Julie Slick (who countered with noticeably fatter-sounding grooves on electric bass). Belew joined in eventually, but half the fun was watching him sit on a centerstage stool, grinning like a child at recess as the rhythm sections duked it out around him.

And then it was over. Due to a semi-emergency, we couldn’t stay for Dream Theater’s set. But, in all honesty, that wasn’t the thrust of our evening in the first place. The appeal of this road trip show was in watching a few of the King’s subjects hold court and uphold a rather majestic prog-rock legacy – well, a slice of it, anyway.

Wonderfully projeKcted it was, too.

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