Monday, November 12, 2007

Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists

Last Saturday I went to hear Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists at the Majestic Theater here in Madison, Wisconsin. The Majestic Theater has been in operation since 1906.

There have been several ownership changes recently, but, thankfully, it is still standing. I have spent a great deal of time in this theater over the years and it pleases me that it hasn't been torn down to make room for something stupid - luxury condos, a parking ramp, etc. It was great to be able to go to the Majestic and hear one of my all-time favorite guitarists, Robert Fripp.

The concert consisted of a mix of Robert Fripp's Soundscapes and the full ensemble of ten acoustic guitarists plus Fripp on electric guitar, all of them playing in Fripp's New Standard Tuning. Ten or eleven guitars playing together can make a very big sound and it was impressive. They have a broad repertoire, from a few familiar songs to more obscure and/or original material. Playing through his array of electronics, Mr.Fripp can make his guitar sound like anything from bells and flutes to, well, a guitar. There were times when Fripp played some of his trademarked intense leads, and I would have liked to have heard more of them. For a guy who doesn't appear to be very emotional, either while playing or speaking, he can get an awful lot of feeling out of that guitar of his.

Madison's own multi-talented Biff Blumfumgagnge (follow Biff and his exploits here) has been doing sound for Mr. Fripp and crew for a year or two. One would think it would be a nightmare trying to mix ten guitars, but it didn't seem to give him any difficulties. Good sound is often overlooked, but bad sound can ruin a good performance. Great job, Biff!

Most of the pieces didn't seem to leave much room for improvisation on the part of anyone with the exception of Fripp, and the visibility in the theater was not particularly good for many members of the audience. It looked as if all the acoustic guitars were Ovations, one of my least favorite brands, from a sound point of view. The body of an Ovation is made of plastic and, to me, it sounds like it. Those were really the only negatives of the evening. All in all, I'd say it was a very satisfying musical experience.

This was the last show of their tour, but if you ever have an opportunity to hear them, I recommend it.

1 comment:

Matt Stevens said...

I really hope they do a UK gig one day