Last week I shared ideas about collaboration based on one of my favorite bands, King Crimson and its leader Robert Fripp. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many fans are out there for this is not exactly a radio friendly band.
This week I had an opportunity to learn even more as I saw Crimson's latest incarnation this past Thursday. Then on Saturday I saw their distant cousin Asia. I'll date myself here because if Asia (as a band) isn't familiar, they were huge back in 1982. You may have heard their hit "Heat of the Moment" in the more recent "40 Year Old Virgin" or the Broadway version of "Rock Of Ages". Both concerts were vastly different.
Thursday's Crimson show started off with a recorded message from Robert Fripp asking the audience not to record or video; simply to experience. I loved his words "Record with your ears and video with your eyes". Many of the audience complied but several didn't and were confronted by security. Once the show started, I saw an utterly perfect symphony of some of the richest and most brilliant music ever created. However, I left feeling rather joyless - ironic as the tour is subtitled "Venturing Unto Joy".
As I had noted last week, King Crimson is all about technical prowess, discipline and breaking boundaries. I hold to that; however, on this next part, some of you who responded last week may disagree. My challenge is that the boundary breaking happens during rehearsal. My feeling - and I felt the same when seeing them back in 2008 - is that those who attended the next night and the next etc. will hear the exact same performance as I did, note for note. Further, there is no connection with the audience. Even new singer Jakko,who is pitch perfect, exchanges nothing with the audience except lyrics.
Asia was quite the opposite. This is extra intriguing as bassist and vocalist John Wetton was a member of what many fans consider one of the most powerful versions of KC back in 1974. Three of Asia's four members are well into their 60's (Fripp is 68 by the way), two of which have had corrective heart surgery in the past six years - Wetton was nearly left for dead in 2008 and drummer Carl Palmer had a stent put in several years back.
Not only do they sound stronger than at any time I've seen them - including back in 82 and when they reunited in 2006 - but they play with a joy and appreciation for being able to do what they love. Wetton has a clear appreciation for life which comes through in "An Extraordinary Life", a tune he wrote after his near death experience. Carl Palmer at 64 is still arguably the best drummer out there and brings it every night. But most important, there was a real connection with the audience; a clear exchange of energy that invigorated both those watching and those playing - that to me is why we go to hear live music. And as I tapped along, sang the lyrics I knew so well, I couldn't help but smile and feel awful for all the people that watched the entire concert through an iPhone!
So besides a music review for old progressive rock fans, a couple takeaways for work and life....
1. Skill is valuable, Engagement/Connection is vital: When you're going for a goal - whether its creating brilliant music or building an organization - technical skills will help you move along the curve of progress. It's engagement - the ability for partners to connect at multiple levels - which will mean the success or failure of a goal.
2. Experimentation or Boundary Breaking is great in the lab but has to be taken on the Road: When KC was around in '74, they were known to test out new songs at every gig and that's where many of their shining moments came from - the interplay and energy of being on dangerous ground (in front of an audience). If you're trying new approaches to a problem, learning a skill or introducing a product or service it's the same thing. Attempting things in a workshop, lab or facilitated group gives you an indication of how something "works" but the true test is when it touches real end users. You need to do both.
3. Personnel and Collaborators can be right for some projects and not for others. As I said last week, collaborations have finite lives. A staff member or collaborative partner may be the perfect ingredient for one project but utterly wrong for another so there's a need to continually assess. As an example, John Wetton would be capable of playing anything that the new King Crimson plays - but it would be an absolute disaster for both sides as they look at music in diametrically opposed ways.
4. Love and value your opportunity to do what you do. Again, all of this is my observations so who knows, maybe the guys in KC were having a blast and I just couldn't tell. All I know is if you find yourself happy and smiling - sometimes to the point where you have to stop yourself, your probably in the right zone. That's the way Carl Palmer looked to me when he was doing his drum solo.
5. Record with Ears and Video with your Eyes. I love social media as much as anyone (why else would I write this?) but everything you do doesn't have to be recorded and posted for mass consumption. No doubt I can find a recording of what I saw on Thursday and Saturday - but it will never replace the immediacy of experiencing the music gadget free and just being in the moment with it. I know that won't work for an ice bucket challenge but it will work for everything else you're about to post.
Robert is an Executive and Business Development Coach. You can read him here or on www.younonprofitnow.com