Thursday, August 23, 2007

Adrian Belew Power Trio - More From the Tour

Photo of the Adrian Belew Power Trio taken by Cleek

So it's almost impossible for me to blog today. I received so many overwhelmingly incredible emails and reviews of the last few Adrian Belew Power Trio shows that I'm literally sitting here all verklempf. But I will try and wipe away the sappy tears and get my thoughts in order so that I can at least write something coherent.

Or at least use the cut and paste feature coherently.

Where to start, where to start.

I think I will begin with a blog entry made by an absolutely amazing artist named Kate Kretz, and I cannot urge you enough to click on that link and look at her work. I am blown away.

I'm only going to post an excerpt from her blog as it's very lengthy so again, if you want to read the entire entry, I encourage you to click that link as well.

"...As I have only known my husband for 3 ½ years now, one of the things that we enjoy sharing with each other is the music we do not have in common. We both LOVE blues, funk, classic rock, but from there, we diverge. We have spent the last few years trying to introduce each other to those divergent areas. Last night’s Adrian Belew concert was one of those territories.

It must be said that my husband is a musician when he is not being a scientist: he’s been playing tenor sax for decades, but also composes on a combination of keyboard and computer. He worships at the altars of Frank Zappa and Peter Gabriel. His attempts to introduce me to Prog Rock often leave me feeling ashamed of my ignorance and unsophisticated taste. I am certain that it is similar to the feeling he gets when we go to a museum together, and he points out a Renoir that he likes, even though he knows that I think it is pure bubble gum....

...So last night, while we were waiting in the rain at The Cat’s Cradle with two other people an hour before the doors opened, Kevin started to talk to me again about King Crimson and Adrian Belew. I said that back in high school, when I was the only girl in the Mathletes club, most of the guys listened to King Crimson. Kevin responded that, funny I should mention it, King Crimson fans, and prog rock fans in general, tend to have higher IQs than other audiences. We eventually got out of the rain, got our hands stamped, and went into the dilapidated black box of a room. Fans were photographing Adrian’s guitars that were already set up onstage....

...But the obviously humble and down-to-earth, iconic Adrian and the dazzlingly talented Eric and Julie Slick (a.k.a The Adrian Belew Power Trio) blew me away. SO tight and on-spot with the most complex compositions (“duh”, I can hear my husband say), they expanded my understanding of what music could be: like the Grinch whose heart grew three times larger that day, the portion of Kate’s brain that processes music has been stretched, and will never be the same.

Apparently, Eric and Julie Slick were featured in the movie Rock School, a film we have heard about but have never seen (and have since moved to the top of our Netflix queue). They are brother and sister music prodigies, 20 and 21, playing drums and bass, respectively. I want to email their Mom, Robin Slick, who is a writer, and ask her what she did to/for them when they were tykes. I defy any audience member to keep from falling in love with the bass player Julie, blessed with Pre-Raphaelite beauty as well as soul, sinew, and fever.

(Photo courtesy of "Mentally Guitarded" and go click on his site as there are many great photographs and videos)

Adrian seemed to be having a great time while he did mesmerizing things with guitar that I didn’t know people could DO with guitars. I felt truly fortunate to catch him in such a small venue, where I could really see what he was doing. And after pulling out all the stops on stage in an amazing performance, this legend stayed after the show to sign autographs.

I’m no music critic, but even a sonic sophomore like myself could not deny that this show was not even a shade shy of brilliant. Catch it if you can, and take someone whose mind you love."

Oh man, that was so cool, Kate. And I can relate. My husband -- before we were married and he was my childhood sweetheart -- turned me on to King Crimson, too, back in the early seventies when we were little baby hippies. My advice for raising kids? Surround them with art and music and love. And treat them as people -- as you would like to be treated yourself, with respect and dignity, from the time they take their first breath.

After reading your blog and visiting your website, I think you and Kevin will be awesome parents.

So that review was from the Cat's Cradle Show -- I seem to be working my way backwards and I'm thinking I'll do a separate post later today on the Atlanta show last night.

Here's an email/blog comment I received from "HTL" which really made me smile:

"Just wanted to say hi. I got here from Youtube, unusual in that I was talking to Eric in the same spot where, nine years ago, I was tossed out after Eddie Vedder bought me a beer. Small world!

The show was amazing. Julie shot Eric a few amused, incredulous big sister looks: he mouths "five" -- now? you can't be serio -- CRASH! CRASH! CRASH! CRASH! CRASH! -- and they're somewhere else. The snare gets an in-flight tune-up. A cymbal limps over: to ratchet the thing back up calls for another free hand so, shrug, it'll wait.

Adrian, as ever, is having the time of his life.

Can't wait for the CGT tour."

Err...the CGT Tour? Do you know something I don't know, HTL?

Actually, I did see on Eric's MySpace page that Paul from the California Guitar Trio left him the below message on August 5:

"Eric!!!! I just got a message from our agency saying that they are working on some shows for Belew Power Trio and CGT early next year! Yes! Let's play something all together this time. It will be the CGT/Belew Double Trio!


Oh man, I know I'd be so, so into that!

By the way, if you click on Eric's MySpace, there are some great messages, including one very cryptic note from Tree Montoya which naturally has me intrigued. Note to self: Remember to ask Eric about this.

Still backtracking, here's a review from the Stella Blue show in Asheville Sunday night, courtesy of M. Couture's Live Journal:

"I finally saw Adrian Belew in concert. He plays with a couple of youngsters, Julie and Eric Slick. Together they form one powerful power trio. The sounds of Adrian Belew's guitar were still ringing in my head (in a good way) hours after the show had ended.

I would describe Adrian Belew as a "sonic" guitarist. His playing is not primarily lyrical (which is not to say that he is incapable of lyricism) but rather, his bag is sound itself. His sound is large, by turns screaming, growling, oozing, spacey, precise, and futuristic. More than any other musician I can think of, he explores the sonic possibilities of the electric guitar. Needless to say, he is liberal in his use of the whammy bar, the echo delay, and other several other devices.

His top-notch rhythm section, Julie Slick on bass and Eric Slick on drums, is an ideal counterpart to Adrian Belew's tidal wave of electric guitar sound. The very picture of nonchalance, Julie Slick sometimes plucks, sometimes picks, and plays as if excellence were simply a matter of course. Eric Slick kicks it on the drums and grins impishly after playing an amazing fill.

Part of what makes this band great is that they are obviously enjoying themselves on stage. Adrian smiles and makes faces while he plays, and then pumps his arms like Charles Atlas after a tune. His happiness is infectious, and makes the show that much more enjoyable.

There were some problems with sound that night. Apparently, their usual sound man was not on the job. For my tastes, the volume could have been turned down from eleven to ten. It would have made the lyrics more intelligible and it would have made the different components of the sound more distinguishable. But even so, the show was superb. Greatness can't be neutralized by a few technical glitches.

I particularly liked a solo version that Adrian did of (I think) the Beatles' "Love You To." At first I thought it was something borrowed from Electric Ladyland. It was one of the night's most lyrical moments, and afterwards, Adrian said, "that was fun."

This band is avant garde, it explores new sonic landscapes with vigor and verve and makes you think about the possibilities of the power trio...and the three obviously have a blast playing their music. See this band if you get the chance."

Here's a comment I lifted from Adrian's blog about the very same show:

"Dear ABP3: I saw y'all at Stella Blue, Asheville, NC, on August 19th, 2007. I will remember this date for the rest of my life as one of the biggest BLAST's of my life, no kidding! Bigger than Genesis in Atlanta in 1978. Bigger than Rush in Glasgow in 1977. Bigger than King Crimson at the Orange Peel, Asheville in 2003.

I have been a fan of Adrian Belew since I first heard "Discipline." At Stella, I was right underneath Adrian in the "mosh pit." The biggest thrill came when you guys were playing "Big Electric Cat", and Adrian locked eyes with me as he started to rip one of my all-time favorite guitar solos. No big deal for him, locking eyes with a shell-shocked fan, I'm sure, but the raw intensity of Adrian practicing his craft and connecting with one of his audience, specifically ME, made it a very special moment! Chills up and down my spine!

The SlickSibs: Tight, powerful, passionate. Stunningly so. You are so lucky that Adrian has taken you under his wing, but deservedly so. When I wasn't being dazzled by Adrian, Eric was stunning me with his virtuosity and enthusiasm. I mean, Eric blew me away! Who needs a Bruford? Julie so cool, so in control, such a rhythm-leader while taming her wild brother and her crazy Uncle Ade. Phew. The world is your stage.

Adrian: Thanks, thanks so much. Thanks for your passion. Thanks for your prolific career, and for keeping you craft new and dynamic. Thanks for recognizing the Slicks, and paying homage to Zappa's tutelage of a young Adrian by adopting the amazing Slick Rhythmatists.

I can't wait for the first studio ABP3 album, y'all: "Power Triage?" You guys saved my jaded Rock n' Roll Soul. Gimme more sugar!"

Okay, compose yourself, Robin. Take deep breaths. Have some coffee or, wait, better make that green tea. Decaffeinated.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not post a news article which appears today in the Brandenton Herald:

"Adrian Belew driven by love of music
Special to the Herald

Author Stephen King - one of the most prolific page-fillers of the 20th century - once wrote something to the effect that a writer who only produces one book every seven years is just plain lazy.

Looking back over Adrian Belew's professional history, one gets the impression that the revered guitarist would agree with King's views on the flowing of creative juices. Belew is many things - gifted experimental guitarist, storied sideman, producer, prog-rock icon - but one thing he isn't, is artistically slothful.

"Once or twice, yeah," he responds with a laugh when asked if he's actually slept since 1978. "There have been a couple of times when I accidentally fell asleep. I didn't mean to."

Belew originally came to cult prominence when the legendary Frank Zappa saw him playing in a cover band that year, and hired him as a touring musician. These days, he's perhaps best known as a member of long-running progressive-rock outfit King Crimson. Between those two stations is a résumé and catalog of groundbreaking music that's both astonishing and largely unrecognized by pop-music culture at large, despite Belew's hefty contributions to its canon.

Let's be clear: There's not enough space here, or in any mere feature article, to comprehensively document this journeyman's career thus far. Some outside the circle of dedicated listeners, omnivorous sonic adventurers and music-scholar types that form the core of his fanbase know about his stint in David Bowie's band, and his long-running pop project The Bears, and his contributions to such classic albums as Talking Heads' "Remain in Light" and Paul Simon's "Graceland." But what about his work with avant-garde artist Laurie Anderson? His many, many solo and collaborative albums? His playing on Nine Inch Nails' "The Downward Spiral" and "The Fragile," on Tori Amos' "Strange Little Girls," on William Shatner's 2004 release, "Has Been?" His many production credits, which include Jars of Clay and popular Mexican rock en espanol act Jaguares? The list really does go on and on, shaping a portrait of a singularly restless player.

"My original plan when I was a teenager was to follow the normal path, to write songs, to have my own band, to maybe get a record deal," says Belew, now 57. "But it all seemed to happen from a different perspective for me, almost through the back door. And along the way, I realized I enjoyed all those things, the collaborations, the working on other people's albums, getting with people you've never worked with before - it all adds up to what it is that I like (about making music). If it was just one thing, maybe it wouldn't be as interesting."

As Zappa once did for him, Belew likes to provide talented unsung musicians with whatever opportunities may come from an association with him. He often includes more obscure artists in his projects and is currently touring in a power-trio format with a largely unknown rhythm section composed of siblings.

"The power trio is really almost unexplainable, you have to see it to really believe it," he says. "I can tell you it's me and Eric and Julie Slick, a brother and sister team from Philly. Eric is 20 years old and his sister, who plays bass, is 21. They're totally focused on music, and they're sensational musicians. They don't even seem like kids to me, they're both right up there with all the great players I've worked with."

Belew goes on to admonish those longtime fans tempted to take that last statement with a grain of salt, given his star-studded résumé, that he's not exaggerating:

"I tell people this because I don't want them to miss the show, and then be told later that they missed the best thing that's come through town. It shocks people. Power trio is a good term for it because it really is powerful, it's very energetic. It's taken all this music I've fed into a trio format, and revitalized it. It's somewhat free-form, there's a lot of improvisation but we're also covering stuff from all of my solo career. Plus a dozen King Crimson songs, and they sound as vital and enthusiastic as they did when they were written, whether it was 1981 or 1990."

As excited as he is about his current undertaking, it's unlikely that Belew is thinking of settling into any routine, much less of retiring. He's concurrently releasing music from his long-awaited box set of rarities, Dust, regularly on his own Web site,, as well as maintaining a personal blog and promoting his latest solo album, "Side Three," which features Primus principal Les Claypool and Tool drummer Danny Carey. There's little chance of him becoming the experimental-music equivalent of a lazy novelist in the foreseeable future.

"I'm driven by the love of it," he says. "It's the creative part of it that I most enjoy. I always seem to have new ideas or challenges. I love performing as well, but I'm not driven to perform, I'm not an entertainer. Mostly, it's just that I love playing music, you know? There's so much left to do. I don't think I'll ever get tired of it."

If you go

What: The Adrian Belew Power Trio

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: State Theatre, St. Petersburg

Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 day of show

Information: (727) 895-3045"

Okay, that's enough for now. I will be back later with reviews, comments, and emails regarding last night's packed concert at Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta, Georgia. From what I've read, they blew the roof off there, too.