Travis & Fripp
Friday, 16th July 2010
All Saints Church, Pittville, Cheltenham, UK
Having been a huge fan of Robert Fripp’s work for many years I finally experienced him Soundscaping as support to Porcupine Tree a couple of tours back. I enjoyed the low-key approach and the relaxing, mesmerizing quality of the music produced by one man with guitar and Solar Voyager. The Thread album with Theo Travis added a whole new dimension, woodwind giving the music a more human face to the more esoteric delights of Fripp solo. After reading positive reviews of previous concerts I finally got my chance to see the duo close up in a gloriously decorative old church as part of the Cheltenham Music Festival.
When my wife and I arrived there was a small queue waiting for the doors to open in the evening sunshine. Upon entry we moved inside and passed a small merchandise table with copies of the Live at Coventry Cathedral disc and some LP pressing of other shows. Down the aisle to the front seats of hard wooden chairs which took their toll during the course of the evening. The “stage” was set out with Theo’s pedal board and stool to our left and Robert’s set up to our right with, I think, black Les Paul and Fernandes gold top guitars. The gold top was the weapon of choice for the evening.
There was certainly expectation from the many in the audience aware of Fripp’s history but others were clearly partaking in support of the festival. By the time the music started there was a reasonable crowd of probably 150 in attendance. Theo appeared to check his set up and chat with the engineer, Fripp gliding in much later seeming relaxed and content, strolling to the back of the church.
The evening was introduced by P.J. Crook, artist and supplier of recent King Crimson sleeve images, whose charitable work with the National Star College was being supported by this concert and another in Gloucester the night before. She surprised me by not mentioning the “no photos or recording” mantra but did remember later – shortly after someone took a picture. That was the last evidence I saw of any photography hence no pictures with this review.
The evening began with a very enjoyable half hour from a talented young trio of female vocalists called Voice who performed
a cappella medieval religious music and Eastern European folk songs. Their moving performance got a warm reception and then it was time for Travis & Fripp.
Robert moved to his position without acknowledging the audience, stood a moment facing the altar before strapping on his guitar, kissing it lightly as he did so. He didn’t remove his coat before sitting and preparing the Voyager to commence. Another pause for contemplation and he began. I was close enough to hear him strike the strings, the delays and repeats causing them to build and merge. Soon Theo’s sax could be heard from the back of the church and he approached down the aisle unexpectedly playing the melody line from The Power to Believe. The guitar and sax swirled around each other as both players produced shifting fields of notes that ebbed and flowed over which they provided additional solo themes. Throughout Fripp manipulated his rig to ensure the required sounds and settings. In all they played, I think, four long pieces, the names of which I do not know but one may have been developed from a theme on Thread. There was clearly a great deal of improvisation as they listened and responded to each other’s contributions.
The notes lived in the moment and evaporated, sometimes very slowly, the players moving on to the next idea. Themes developed, built and dispersed in sweeping patterns that made the most of the old buildings’ acoustics. At times Fripp played some particularly harsh chords and phrases; churches aren’t supposed to hear such demonic arisings and it was a sharp contrast to much of the rest of the set. Another piece opened with Theo playing the melody to Moonchild and I was pleasantly surprised at the use of these KC themes and happy that Fripp is now comfortable with their use even if not in their traditional setting. The last piece began with Robert silently picking out several series’ of notes which then built into a fully formed backdrop for Theo to add some emotional soloing. Travis’ performances throughout, varying between soprano sax and flute, were superb, fully in keeping with the demands of the music and a pleasure to hear. The two men communicated silently via looks throughout, both concentrating on their own playing and seeming to enjoy what they heard coming from the other.
Finally, after nearly an hour of ethereal music in a beautiful place Theo began the Power To Believe theme again and slowly moved up the aisle. After he left and his contribution ended Fripp started another swirling theme. He rose, unstrapped his guitar, spent a moment facing the altar again before picking up his little bag, smiling at the audience and departing. The music continued for some time after he had left. Probably the ideal situation from his perspective, home and sipping his cocoa before the audience were able to applaud his contribution! Having not spoken he had simply done his job and left without having to deal with any of the activities that he these days appears to view as pointless and peripheral to the art of making music. More power to him; I hope he was as satisfied with his evenings work as the audience were as the applause once the music ebbed away was very warm indeed.
A thoroughly enjoyable experience and a very different one from my usual gig going but no worse for that, I emerged from the church into the dusk relaxed and almost feeling cleansed. My wife does not know much about Fripp’s work but I had told her about his sometimes strange ways. She noted that if she had not been expecting something odd his entrance and exit would have been astonishing. It was perfectly in keeping with the event and I would rather see Robert perform in a situation of his choosing and under his complete control that not see him perform at all. This was a very special experience which I’d recommend to anyone who is willing to shelve their expectations and simply listen to unique and sometimes heart rending music created from nothing. It was almost magical.
Theo Travis - Official Website
Theo Travis - MySpace
Robert Fripp - Official Website
Robert Fripp - MySpace
DPRP Review of Travis & Fripp Thread