Following renovations completed during lockdown, the Fox Theatre reopens with the screening of two films and a concert by progressive rock legends King Crimson.
Courtesy of Fox Theatre
Happily, those three will finally converge again on Tuesday, July 27, when progressive rock legends King Crimson help re-open the Fox with an evening of epic songs drawn from their decades-deep catalog. The California Guitar Trio will open what will be the fifth show of the aptly named and perfectly timed “Music Is Our Friend” tour.
Bookending the concert will be screenings of classic films, a nod to Fox history and Atlanta tradition. “The Wizard of Oz” kicks things off at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 25, complete with the return of the famous Mighty Mo organ for an early singalong and photo opportunities with costumed interpreters of Oz characters.
Then on Saturday, July 31, cult classic “The Princess Bride” wraps up reopening week at the Fox (ahead of the arrival of the touring production of “Hamilton” in late August) as part of the Coca-Cola Summer Film Series. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
Audience safety and comfort will be front and center for all three events, with capacity limited to allow for distancing, and masks required for staff and recommended for guests, as the venue eases back into operation. Mobile ticketing, contactless concession payments and security checks without removal of items from pockets should further boost patron ease. Even the air will be extra clean, with new ultraviolet technology that disinfects air before recirculating it.
It’s been a long and surreal 16 months for an empty Fox. “Emotionally,” admits Vella, “it was difficult to come to the theater every day and see it dark.”
The last event held inside its hallowed walls was a March 2020 taping of the NPR program “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me,” done without its usual crowd after a last-minute decision as major cancellations around the world increased by the hour.
“That is probably the first performance ever to occur at the Fox intentionally without an audience in the 92 years of our existence,” Vella acknowledges. “It was really sad that you watched this well-orchestrated show take place without hearing any reaction from an audience.”
But reaction from an audience is precisely what will fill the Fox when the seven musical wizards of King Crimson make their Atlanta return. The excitement is palpable in Vella’s voice: “We were thrilled they wanted to play here.”
In addition to his enthusiasm for seeing his band’s fans in seats again, Levin can’t wait to visit another set of people missing from his lockdown life: bandmates and crew members.
Tony Levin of King Crimson. The band will be the first to play the reopened Fox Theatre on July 27, heralding the return of live performances to the venerable Atlanta venue.
Credit: Claudia Hahn
Credit: Claudia Hahn
“We’re going to share the satisfaction of being back to what we do best — crew and band,” he notes.
Levin hasn’t seen his bass tech, Italy native and resident Michele Russotto, since prior to the pandemic. That’s been tough for the close friends who have been working together since 1989.
A member of King Crimson for 40 years, a longtime associate of Peter Gabriel, and a prolific session player whose 500-plus credits include the 1980 John Lennon and Yoko Ono album “Double Fantasy,” Levin has kept busy with several projects in the tour-less last year and a half.
Chief among those has been compiling and publishing his coffee table book “Images From a Life On The Road.” “I’ve been taking photos since the ’70s, on the road,” he notes.
In recent months, as restrictions have eased, he’s been playing in clubs near his home in New York state with his keyboardist brother Pete. And in between shows, he’s been busy practicing over 50 King Crimson songs.
“We’ll prepare them all, and I’ll only find out the day of the show which ones we’ll be doing,” Levin admits. Set lists, rehearsed each afternoon, are put together by band leader, founder and influential guitarist Robert Fripp.
The bassist is in the unique position of sharing the King Crimson rhythm section with three drummers (Gavin Harrison, Jeremy Stacey and Pat Mastelotto). He notes the creative arrangements they employ, never playing the same part of the kit at the same time.
Ultimately, Levin appreciates the challenge it presents: “Typical King Crimson — it was a wild idea, but I knew better than to object because I understand that Robert’s vision for King Crimson is something special.”
While their customary two weeks of pre-tour rehearsals have been cut to eight days, the musicians will undoubtedly be as prepared for their return to the stage as their fans will be for returning to the Fox. Levin will be ready with his bass guitar in his hands and his camera nearby.
“The potential is there every night for it to be life-changing, wonderful, special music that hits our souls,” he concludes. “So I love that we share that with the audience.”
“The Wizard of Oz.” 2 p.m. July 25. $15.
King Crimson with The California Guitar Trio. 7:30 p.m. July 27. $79.50-$304.
“The Princess Bride.” 7:30 p.m. July 31. $15.
Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. NE. Atlanta. 855-285-8499, foxtheatre.org.