It’s no big deal, because the recording is crisp. After three albums and tours in this incarnation, they had the set pretty much down. After a lengthy introductory improv titled “Entry Of The Crims”, the disparate pieces come together into “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part III”, and off they go. As the vocalist, Adrian Belew takes the opportunity to engage the crowd in between songs, and his vocals are still a matter of personal taste. He even takes time at the end to individually acknowledge everyone on the tour crew. Outside of excellent versions of “Red” and “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part II” (both of which originally recorded in the ‘70s, so Bill Bruford gets to show how well he remembered them), the set leans heaviest on what was the new album and Discipline, with a few things from Beat, shuffling the pile and juxtaposing more familiar (read: better) songs with ones we overlooked.
And that right there is what makes the album worth it. While the three ‘80s albums sound very cold—partially because of the emphasis on electronics—onstage the pieces have a lot more room to breathe, which Robert Fripp insists is always better anyway. (He has even more to say, about prog and the music industry in general, in the booklet.)
Absent Lovers is a highly recommended introduction to that version of King Crimson, shedding some light onto that section of the catalog and the history. (If you really want to immerse yourself into the era, the On (And Off) The Road box set presents nine CDs containing remastered versions of the three albums (with bonus tracks), live recordings, and outtakes, as well as Absent Lovers, along with DVDs and Blu-rays loaded with surround mixes and video content.)
King Crimson Absent Lovers—Live In Montreal 1984 (1998)—3½