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Robert Fripp

Live in Milwaukee, WI, October 2005

Review by Josh Turner

This was an odd opener for Porcupine Tree. It took me awhile to unravel how they came up with this strange selection. Not to mention, his presentation was not at all what I would have expected. I thought we would get the aggressive licks one would usually find fizzing from a carbonated glass of King Crimson. Instead, we got something so ambient in nature, it made Tangerine Dream seem like Heavy Metal.

Armed with only an electric axe and a laptop computer, Robert Fripp made sounds from pianos to cellos. It was hard to gauge what was part of the programming and what he was actually playing. In some cases, it seemed like he was picking notes on his guitar that created sounds one would normally hear coming from classical instruments.

The melodies undulated liked a metronome, back and forth. It was very repetitive and no two songs seemed that much different from the other. For the most part, the entire session was two chord progressions, up to one and then back down from where it came. It was rather monotonous and boring.

While the audience may have been there for something a little more rocking, many people stayed and watched what Fripp had to offer. Some were hardly watching, merely standing in ceremony. Almost everybody in attendance was perplexed, trying to figure out exactly what it was he was doing. To some, this added an element of intrigue. Since Porcupine Tree was out next, it was worth enduring this set in order to get a good spot for our feature presentation.

Fortunate for the fans, Fripp's orchestral act started on time and ended fairly quickly. It didn't last through the hour. I sat on the side at one point and almost nodded off. I walked around to gauge how much attention was being paid to this artist. The music was so basic; I was surprised it drew so many people. Many people hung around to pay homage to this living legend. They seemed to be committed to see it through till its end and show their respect and gratitude to someone who gave so much to the genre. To a degree, that's why I gave it as much attention as I could muster. Eventually, it became too tall of an order.

Ultimately, I was happy when it was finished and appreciated its succinctness. There is only so much of nothing anybody can tolerate. I was lost after five minutes and another song would have been several songs too many.

Robert Fripp was there at the beginning, making him a major player in the realm of progressive rock. In some ways, his earlier experiments in the later side of sixties are what started the cause for progressive music. Since he was there when this whole craze started and rallied other people to follow his lead, I guess that's why he was chosen to play the part of opener.

Porcupine Tree is the latest trend in the genre. Fripp's set merely represented the past whereas the headliner would represent the future. While there are many bands that got the ball rolling and many who will propel it into the future, I guess this on some level could be considered a changing of the guards. With artists such as these, new and innovative music will always be available. So, for that reason, if anything, Fripp was the fascinating dinosaur bones at the start of this Smithsonian tour. As the field trip continues, we make our way into the Museum of Air and Space to check out the cool exhibits our future has to offer.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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