Too often, folks who consider themselves fans of prog-rock forget what the first half of that moniker stands for. Rather than applaud continuing forays into futurism, they crave pop-styled comfort — a reprise of past glories, not an enduring experimentalism.
Those who came to King Crimson’s one-off Gotham gig — a rare perf by one of the leading lights of vintage prog-rock — weren’t afforded the luxury of an oldies show. Thanks in part to the prickly nature of de facto leader Robert Fripp, and in part to the on-again, off-again band’s divergence from the original lineup, the remade, remodeled King Crimson remained steadfastly forward-looking.
Most of the 90-minute set was drawn from the quartet’s just-issued Sanctuary album “The Power to Believe” and its immediate predecessor, “The ConstrucKtion of Light.” The fractiously open-ended tunes allowed ample room for Fripp to tear off effortlessly angular solos that had the guitar-hero worshippers in attendance taking copious notes.
As intellectually stimulating as that was — particularly when Fripp and Belew engaged in the improvisational one-upmanship of “Elektrik” and the “Dangerous Curves” — a good bit of the set exuded a near-impenetrable iciness. Even when snipped into several distinct parts scattered throughout the perf, “The Power to Believe” failed to make any real connection.
A brief side trip into the Crimson classic “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic” was something of a balm to frazzled nerves, and “Happy With What You Have to Be Happy With” offered an insight into the band’s oft-ignored way with a catchy riff. But overall, this perf painted a picture of a band easier to respect than to love.
The recently reunited Living Colour opened the program with a 50-minute set that showed the band to have evolved somewhat since its early ’90s heyday. Where its first incarnation emphasized the friction between guitarist Vernon Reid’s arty ambition and singer Corey Glover’s arena-rock aspiration, Living Colour reconciles the two elements with surprising ease — as was particularly evidenced by a kick-out-the-jams cover of AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”