King Crimson

Photograph: Andrea Theakston

Nokia Theatre Times Square; Thu 14–Sun 17

Alone among the first-generation English progressive-rock bands still striding the globe in our post-Jurassic age, King Crimson has refused to wallow in nostalgia. The group will celebrate its 40th anniversary on January 13, 2009, at which point it will launch a world tour; its current visit is a working warm-up. Any other institution of such longevity would round up the usual suspects, compile a set of classic cuts and a few deep-catalog obscurities, hit the road and cash the checks.

All of which is about as far from Crimson kingpin Robert Fripp’s method as you can get. The band’s fate has been ruled from the start by creative serendipity and the pressure of expectations. When the first has been in the ascendant, ferociously spontaneous live dates and genre-defining albums like In the Court of the Crimson King, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic and Discipline have resulted. When market forces and fractious personalities have tilted the balance the other way, the group has ceased to exist—repeatedly.

Crimso boffins know the rules, but for casual inquirers: Don’t hold your breath for “Ladies of the Road”—they haven’t played it in 36 years. Don’t shout out, “Bruuuuuford!”—that longtime drummer isn’t in the current lineup, which features singer-guitarist Adrian Belew, bassist Tony Levin, and dual percussionists Pat Mastelotto and Gavin Harrison (the sole new kid). And above all, do not snap a flash photo—you risk an abruptly terminated show, not to mention the wrath of true believers.