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Although advertised as a jam session with legendary KING CRIMSON guitarist and vocalist ADRIAN BELEW and the SCHOOL OF ROCK ALL-STARS playing the music of King Crimson, in reality this concert was a bit different. We got there a bit late, but I don’t think we missed too much as they were playing one of Belew’s recent solo numbers when we got in.
The approximately two-hour set had lots of changes (since different kids from the School of Rock played on different tracks) and a 15-minute intermission. Overall, the set alternated between Belew’s solo numbers, King Crimson numbers, and classic-rock covers. Of the solo material, most of it was from his recently released albums Side One and Side Two.
While these songs were fairly dull, with too much guitar wanking, the King Crimson songs were another matter altogether. In particular, the title tracks from the ‘80s albums Discipline and Three of a Perfect Pair were absolutely spectacular. with dynamite guitarist CJ TYWONIAK (or “Little ROBERT FRIPP,” as School of Rock impresario PAUL GREEN called him throughout the evening) and Belew shredding through incredibly complex, interlocked parts.
They also played selections from several more recent King Crimson albums, like Thrak (represented by “Dinosaur”) and The Power to Believe (represented by “Happy With What You Have to Be Happy With”). In addition to these highlights, several classic-rock covers were played. Belew sang JIMI HENDRIX’s “Purple Haze” and THE BEATLES’ “I Am the Walrus.”
While these songs were OK, the really stunning moment, my favorite part of the show, came when an all-female quintet of kids covered BLACK SABBATH’s 10-minute plus “Warning,” and played it about as well as it could possibly be played by anyone not named TONY IOMMI, BILL WARD, or GEEZER BUTLER (let’s leave out OZZY OSBOURNE, who hasn’t been able to hack it vocally for years). This was especially great since I hadn’t expected to hear it, and since it’s a song that’s near and dear to my heart (yes, I still remember the days when I was a 14-year-old metalhead). Everything was spot-on, especially the vocals and the complex guitar part, though admittedly it took three guitarists to do what Tony Iommi did by himself (then again, to be fair, I have no idea if the original recording on Black Sabbath’s debut album had any overdubs or not, and I don’t think the song was played much live back in their heyday).
If one observation could be made, it’s that the kids were much better at playing complex material like the King Crimson tunes and “Warning” than the simpler-to-play material like “Purple Haze” and “I Am the Walrus.” While it’s thrilling to hear teenagers of both genders fire off solos in complex time signatures, I do wonder if in the future the rock school that Green runs will produce interesting musicians who do their own stuff, or if it’ll merely be a training ground for the next generation of cover and tribute bands, albeit competent ones who are international touring acts.
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