Monday, August 27, 2007

The Adrian Belew Power Trio in Florida...or...Adrian Belew My Face Off

Julie Slick, Eric Slick, and Adrian Belew signing autographs for fans following their Saturday night (August 25, 2007) performance in West Palm Beach, Florida

Here's a review which appeared today in Tampa Calling:

Adrian Belew My Face Off

August 27th, 2007 by Leilani in Reviews

"Progressive rock virtuoso Adrian Belew performed much of Friday night’s two-set show with a shit-eating grin on his craggy face, his fingers dancing nimbly up and down the neck of his retro orange guitar, his effects pedals ensuring that the tones he produced were never quite ordinary. To Belew’s right, 21-year-old bassist Julie Slick played with her long curly hair hanging in her face. To his left, her younger brother, drummer Eric Slick, pounded out beats with changing time signatures amidst the occasional danceable grooves and spirited interchanges — dare I say face-offs? — with Belew.

All together, they filled the room with a dynamic stew of electrifying prog rock and played two fun sets of Belew originals and King Crimson numbers that were enjoyed by a mature, mostly male audience. The tremendously short set break was marked by a solo instrumental performance by Belew, the highlight a captivating cover of The Beatles’ psychedelic “Within You, Without You,” in which Belew perfectly recreated the tone of the tambura (a sitar-like instrument from India). It was the type of show that makes it hard to get a drink or take a bathroom break because you’re afraid you’ll miss something good. Belew was clearly having a raging good time with his young cohorts, their interchange spirited and a treat to take in. When the trio came out and encored with “Thela Hun Ginjeet” — a King Crimson standard – the 300 or so attendees who stood rapt and still through much of the show became an energized mass of dancing bodies."

Here's another interesting review:

..."As promised, I'm writing a few on the Adrian Belew gig last week. I first became aware of the guy when my dad brought home what was the second McKinnon family compact disc (the first being Led Zeppelin IV). Paul Simon's Graceland. I consider this one of the most important records in the development of my musical appreciation. I seem to recall The Joshua Tree and Graceland being the records that flipped the switch in my noggin which made me realize the difference between actual quality and fluffy bullshit. I still appreciate fluffy bullshit of course (we're seeing Def Leppard tomorrow, front row center thanks to a hookup with the radio station), but those two records in particular caused me to realize pop music had real artistic value. I started digging into my dad's Beatles, Who and Kinks records soon thereafter. I had a shitty acoustic guitar within the year.

Adrian was on Graceland. At the same time we got the disc, there was simultaneously an interview in Guitar World with him and Robert Fripp. I had no real awareness of Talking Heads or King Crimson (especially KC) at that time. That didn't happen until college, when I actually began to markedly improve on bass (resulting from the embarassment of playing in the basketball band and sucking out loud in front of 15,000 people at the SWC finals) and became interested in "difficult rock" (I loathe the prog nomenclature). Two years later I was in a band with my oldest friend. A year after THAT Peanut Gallery was delving into abject stupidity. Race you to the end of the song was the motto. Cramming as many time signatures as possible into a three minute pop song was standard practice. We worshipped Rush and Genesis and The Police and Talking Heads, but were playing with our egos (as a brief aside, no band should ever wear capes and write 40-minute long songs, regardless of intent or talent). Then came the rock opera, effectively the bane of the group. The Feldmans followed a year later, which was a direct response to PG in that our goal was to get together a few times a week, get drunk and write ridiculous, self-effacing/self-referential prog rock anthems. There are specific moments on the ensuing recording that could very easily be lifted directly from Moving Pictures, but in a laugh out loud sort of way. Laugh out loud if you're 100% geek, I suppose.

During that period in the late 90s/early 00s, I was practicing a lot. Not necessarily expanding my understanding of theory, but more my vocabulary. I got into the Heads (and Tom Tom Club), Bowie, Minutemen, back into Pixies and Pavement, Guided By Voices, various post-rock outfits like Sea and Cake and Three Mile Pilot, Queen, Elvis Costello and Elton John (John Deacon, Bruce Thomas and Dee Murray are probably three of my favorite bassists; so melodic and supportive, but totally distinct in their styles... and regardless of the fact I play like an Entwistle obsessed, adderall laced chipmunk). The bulk of my 20s was spent flushing out the cock-rock vernacular and replacing it with substance and quality. Maybe that's a bit pretentious to say and most likely impossible to achieve, as I am still known to drive away from work with Open Up and Say Ahhh... on the iPod and my outstreched arm flipping an unrepentant fuck you to The Man. I digress.

ANYWAY, Adrian Belew is a major component of that effort. I have nothing but respect for anyone able to forge a career in creativity without sacrificing personal principles. Whether those principles are getting laid and fucked up (a la Motley Crue) or writing and performing music for the sake of writing and performing music, the fact remains it's accomplished without denigrating whatever it was that urged them into that line of work to begin with. What I particularly appreciate about Belew, aside from his individualism, is his sense of melody and songcraft. So many times I hear someone say his music is maybe what John Lennon would be writing were he still alive today. I suppose stripped of the perfectly twisted guitar work - yes. Or maybe Adrian would be performing with Lennon, providing it. They seem cut from the same cloth. Count in the Tony Levin connection, and I s'pose it's not beyond the scope of reality.

To my mind, Belew exemplifies that iconic sort of modern-media artist, the Kubrick or Warhol or Prince, who is just creatively relentless, but populist. How does one live like this? That constant output, all within the public eye. I know for a fact creativity isn't the sole element of those people's successes. I know plenty of creative people who don't do shit. Who sit at home waiting for something to happen to them, waiting for someone to recognize the power of their genius. There's more to it than creativity, obviously. Self promotion, conceit, work ethic, awareness that an audience exists for whatever it is you have to say (although Rush has an exceptional philosophy on the role of the audience in the creative process, I'll refrain from discussing here as I know most of you bastards loathe Rush) - components. And like anything, if you become bored the art declines and you eventually just... stop. Or you resent success and those who established it. Jaz Coleman. Kurt Cobain. Et cetera.

ANYWAY, while I started this post as a review of the Belew show, I quickly realized it's been years since I've written a rock show review and had lost track of my goal by the second graf. I apologize for the sophomoric ramblings, then. I do want to say that seeing Adrian play with, well, kids... kids half his age... siblings Eric and Julie Slick... who can easily hold their own against the best in the business, probably walk all over them actually, motivated his performance to a different level. He's always good, certainly, but everyone seemed to enjoy this gig more than the last go-round. Not that the last go-round was lacking, but that this one was looser and kookier..."

From Janet:

"New and cool in this tiny corner of the world....I saw the most awesome concert last weekend...thanks Mark!!!!!! The Adrian Belew Trio came to Asheville. Even if you aren't into prog rock, there can be no denying the talent that was collected on that stage! Most astonishing was that 2/3 of the group was half my age ....and their talent was almost freakish! I haven't enjoyed a concert that much in ages. I found myself giggling uncontollably for a few moments as a couple of "new agers" found their way next to me at the front of the stage. They were surely enjoying whatever trip they were on. Asheville certainly is a fun place to people watch!"

A few cool messages from Eric's MySpace page:

"Hi Eric,

I can't thank you enough for the amazing performance in West Palm Beach last night. Seriously my ALL TIME FAVORITE concert (and I've seen some good ones!).

You ALL looked like you were having a BLAST! That really transferred to your audience; it made US enjoy it all that much more."


you guys ROCKED the theatre last nite! aside from getting to see adrian (1 of my 2 favorite guitarists - words can't describe how much his music means to me), it's so nice to see a band have fun while they play. and to top it off... have a good attitude toward the fans after the show. :)

took a buddy of mine (an opera singer) w/ me to the show. as much as he enjoyed the show, his favorite thing about the show was your drumming ability.

blessings + peace,

"Hi Eric,

The show last night in West Palm Beach was AMAZING! You are incredibly talented, but I know you've heard that from the BEST already. :^)"

A comment on Adrian's blog:

Saw you last night in West Palm Beach and I have to confess I am still buzzed! By far THE best show I have seen in a long time. Julie and Eric are amazing and your energy is mesmerizing. Hope to see you again SOON!"

Okay, I am totally exhausted, jet lagged, and still on a huge high from my weekend in Florida with the Belew clan. So either later today/tonight or tomorrow I will give you my first-hand account of the show complete with photos and some personal little anecdotes. Cool? Cool!