One activity that I’ve been meaning to do before I get too forgetful is to type out all the concerts that I have attended in my life. It may lack a few of the gigs that I saw in high school or some from smaller-scale local bands, but I’d estimate that the so-called ‘significant’ shows I have been to would be somewhere near triple digits. That probably doesn’t impress many of the die-hard music lovers out there, but considering I didn’t go to a concert until I was 16, and didn’t start being a very active attendee until around 2013, that’s not too shabby. The main point of satisfaction I can take is when I scan the spines of my record, CD, and cassette collections is that I can check a significant number of the artists off my list.
However, outside of my memories, I don’t have too much in terms of mementos to remember the shows from. I don’t hold on to the t-shirts have gone thread-bare and began resembling swiss cheese, and a tour poster or two may have been junked as a result of a waning interest in particular bands. Sure, I often make point to grab a CD or record or two if a band brings some with them, but it will never quite be the same listening experience I’d have that night. Luckily for me, a few artists have allowed me to take the show home.
Cannibal Corpse and King Crimson rarely get brought up in the same sentence yet alone in the same article, but to my knowledge, remain the only two that have put concert footage of a show that I attended onto an official release. There have been rare occasions where I am kicking myself for having missed out on a band’s live show that they happened to be recording (Neil Peart’s recent passing reminds me of Rush’s R40 show filmed at the former Air Canada Centre), but at least I have these two to cherish.
Date: November 15, 2006
Venue: The Opera House (Toronto, Ontario)
My first proper taste of Cannibal Corpse was through the purchase of their mostly bootleg-style DVD Monolith of Death, which makes it appropriate that a show I attended was later archived in similar fashion. The band’s Centuries of Torment: The First 20 Years DVD set’s main attraction is the thorough documentary, but it contains two additional bonus discs, one of which is dedicated to live performances. Nearly half of the live tracks on the DVD are dedicated to the aforementioned Toronto show.
I wasn’t sure exactly who filmed this, so my first assumption was a crew that was associated with the band. Very few people in 2006 would lug good enough equipment to a show that can capture video, and if they did, they’d have a heck of a time getting it passed security. Nowadays, modern handheld technology is prevalent enough that virtually any band could create their own Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! movie without even needing to distribute camcorders to the crowd. The credit on the packaging is given to Thought Harvest Productions. There’s not lots out there about them, but they appear to be a Canadian company. The only other music-based credit I can easily find is on DVD footage included with Despised Icon’s The Ills Of Modern Man album, but it seems they also made an independent movie called Darklands.
The songs included on the DVD are largely from their Kill album, but several fan favourites are in the mix. Revisiting this show 13 years later, I’m thinking it’s a slightly abbreviated version of their set since most headlining bands will play for at least one hour, but Setlist.fm isn’t backing me up on that note. I’m guessing they played all the songs they did on the Montreal show that night, because I swear they played “Unleashing The Bloodthirsty” and “Fucked With A Knife”. The band sounds as consistently unrelenting as ever, and I don’t think you could leave a show of theirs disappointed if you’re a fan of death metal in general.
Outside of some local all-ages shows in my hometown, this may have been the first extreme-metal show (a term usually encompassing death metal, black metal, and grindcore) that I attended in a mid-sized venue. I was deep into my long-hair phase at this stage, and was eager to swing my locks windmill style like their physically-intimidating frontman, George “Corpsegrinder” Fischer. And speaking of Corpsegrinder, I can’t remember much of what he said on stage, but this footage gives my memory a good refresh. The spoken intro preceding “I Cum Blood” is a staple of their performances, and his “I want to see you bang your head, or I’m going to come out and bang it for you” commands before “Decency Defied” got a great reaction from the crowd. There aren’t many of these moments, but when they come, the lines feel as fresh as the first time they were delivered. He knows his crowds as well as he knows his World of Warcraft.
This was my first time at The Opera House, and have since seen several shows there. The footage in this official release was, for a long time, the only time I saw what a show looked like from the perspective of the balcony. Embarrassingly enough, I never went up there until I saw Cattle Decapitation, Atheist, and Vitriol perform there last December. It’s a good place to be if you tire of standing in the moshpit area, and the bar is usually less crowded if you are into that sort of thing. I imagined it a smaller space, to be reserved for crews such as the one used in this footage or given as some sort of VIP perk that you had to pay extra for.
The only piece of merch I bought from this show was a pretty cool Dying Fetus t-shirt that overlayed two of their logos, their (at the time) current style and in their more typical death metal font. I remember being unsure of myself whenever I wore the shirt as I thought it would send mixed signals. Is it a statement on abortion, and if so, which stance was I taking? Anyway, it was a large t-shirt that I eventually donated to a nearby thrift store when I lost some weight, and I’m wondering if they would have even put it on their racks or simply junked it.
I can’t find a picture of the shirt on my preferred search engines, so make due with this image of me wearing it during a particularly successful game of washer toss.
I wonder what t-shirt I decided to wear to this show. I used to put more importance on shirt selection at a concert then was worth the effort, with the goal being to either choose one of the most obscure band possible or to pick one of a very like-minded group (though NOT the group you are going to see). I had very few band shirts at the time, so I’m guessing it was my Megadeth one purchased at the previous year’s gig on the inaugural Gigantour. I probably felt like a bit of a poseur wearing a more mainstream shirt to a more underground show, but the people are generally cool, and I’ve seen the likes of Depeche Mode and The Cure being represented in metal crowds without anyone making a big deal about it.
Date: November 20, 2015
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Theatre (Toronto, Ontario)
Supporting Acts: N/A (“An Evening With” format)
King Crimson may have released dozens upon dozens of their concerts in an official capacity, whether that is through their King Crimson Collectors Club or in a wider form of distribution. Still, there is something special if one you attended was immortalized in recorded form when you consider the thousands of gigs the band has played since the late-1960s. In my case, it was their 2016 Live in Toronto album, which was made readily available on most music store shelves.
Most people who attended this show had much of the same experience pre-show. Before entering the theater, I remember a sixty-something year old man warned attendees “No pictures are allowed. People were taking them yesterday, and they didn’t play Schizoid Man”, or something along those lines. Naturally, this caused a bit of a shock to some people, but this bit of gossip didn’t bother me much at all. I’d already stopped making it a habit to photograph concerts I attend, and I knew that Robert Fripp, who pretty much is King Crimson, was rather serious about this issue. I can understand the annoyance that a musician may find in having to look out at a sea of arms with cellphones obscuring the crowds faces. It takes away from the intimacy between the audience and performer. Besides, most people won’t look even at their photos or video footage all that often, or dump it onto social media one minute and forget about it the next. You’d think it was only a recent phenomenon spurred on by the younger generations of spectators, but at most shows I attend, odds are just as good that older folk are right along with them using the latest phones and tablets.
In recent years, Fripp has relaxed the rules, allowing a period near the end of the show where the crowd may take a quick photo or two or some video (an example of which can be seen here). Rules announcing their policy were posted throughout the venue, and there was even a prepared announcement by Fripp played over the PA saying to wait for bassist/Chapman Stick player Tony Levin’s cue for when photos were permitted. Nonetheless, there was a palpable fear in the air that the show could be cancelled at any minute if Mr. Fripp and Company saw one flash of light too many emanating from the crowd. I’ve just completed their In The Court of King Crimson – An Observation Over 50 Years book, and it’s brought up there, just as it is in this live album’s liner notes. You can’t find much talk about this show without finding either the word “photo” or “camera” in the midst of the text, but a Crimson show is much more than that to so many.
If you want to find samples of this concert online, you may encounter some difficulty. The group’s record label, Discipline Global Mobile are notorious for relentless copyright protection, but they do provide a teaser of the Toronto show with a portion of “Easy Money”. I can analyze the show now (it took around four years before I got around to purchasing it) and can definitely tell it was a great performance. It still didn’t dent my personal Top Five, but was strong regardless. Some of the changes made in the arrangements to accommodate this seven-piece Crimson incarnation I like, and others I’m more indifferent on, but it was just refreshing to hear them include material from pretty much their entire history. I was particularly pleased to hear “The Letters” from the overlooked Islands album as well as their epic “Starless” that concludes Red. In this particular show, they bypassed the 1980s completely, but it may have had something to do with ex-Crimson vocalist/guitarist Adrian Belew claiming right to perform that era with his Power Trio (both parties would eventually iron out a mutual agreement after some brief public dispute).
It’s rarer these days for bands to sell tour programmes, but in addition to the Red shirt I grabbed with the tour dates on the back, I grabbed their The Elements of King Crimson 2015 Tour Box. You do get a booklet that essentially serves as the tour programme, but it is accompanied with two CDs of rarities and outtakes that span the band’s history. They started releasing these Elements of King Crimson sets annually beginning in 2014, and it’s as good a keepsake as you can hope for from a concert. Well, unless that concert gets an official live release, of course.
I panicked as I was writing about this show because I thought I might have been at the third night in Toronto rather than the second. After frantically shuffling through my unorganized ticket stub pile, it turns out that I was at the November 20th show, and sat in the Right Orchestra section, Row X, Seat 30. My buddy Chris was to my right, and my brother Alex to my left.
Using Tony Levin’s stage-center shot of the audience, that puts us right around here.