David Cross and David Jackson

So I saw this gig announced a few months ago after I’d spent several weeks listening to almost the entire Van Der Graaf Generator catalogue. David Cross played violin on Starless and Bible Black and Larks’ Tongues In Aspic by King Crimson. Jackson played horns with VDGG for most of their run. So, yeah, two incredible musicians who had each been in the game for more than 45 years. It was a gig I didn’t want to miss. Especially given the recent resurgence of King Crimson, I was quite surprised that the gig was far from sold out. Fine, I’ll take middle front at this relatively small club. (When packed, Boerderij can hold an audience of 750 or so and my guess is there were about 300 there.) To open, Cross and Jackson came out alone and traded a little humour before taking on Starless Loops from the recent Cross/Robert Fripp album of improvisations on the Starless theme, Starless Starlight. After a few more pieces, they played another from Starless Starlight. There’s one ripple of chords from Starless that always gives me the shivers and did again when Cross played it Friday night. My friend Corniel, who joined me for the gig complained that it would have been better for him if they’d just played and not joked around so much. There’s some merit to that argument, as the joking detracted from their sheer expertise. Their duo work owed more to improvisational jazz than to the progressive rock they’re best known for. After a 30-minute set, they took a break before coming back with the full David Cross Band.

In the main set, the band played several numbers from the new (very good) album, The Sign of the Crow including Starfall, the title track, Rain Rain and The Pool. Current vocalist Jin Wilde has a very interesting voice (having come out of a dance music background, it seems) handles the new stuff quite well. His tenor is well suited to the music, generally. The band’s set includes (and if the 2008 live album I bought at the merch counter is anything to go by, has included for a long time) three King Crimson songs: Exiles (from Larks‘), Starless (from Red), and the encore 21st Century Schizoid Man (from In The Court of the Crimson King). The last of these featured Greg Lake on vocals, and the other two John Wetton. On these songs, Wilde doesn’t seem to take ownership. He seems to be trying to sing like Wetton, but his voice is too different. The band, however, quite made up for it. After Exiles, the band left the stage to drummer Craig Blundell who did an appropriately hair-raising solo. (Blundell has played with numerous folks including Steve Wilson.) The band returned playing George Martin’s Theme One (recorded in ’72 by Van Der Graaf Generator) before a slightly ragged Starless. Paul Clark and his Gibson Flying V are very very good and he doesn’t try to be Robert Fripp. After a quick moment back stage they closed with an appropriately wild Schizoid Man. I wasn’t expecting it and was well impressed. (Someone commented on Blundell’s facebook page that Crimson currently has three drummers and was impressed with how well he did his part solo.)

Overall a great evening with a couple of bona fide legends.