Saturday, March 01, 2008

Adrian Belew Power Trio: Colorado

So this weekend the Adrian Belew Power Trio hits Colorado for the first time, with a show tonight in Aspen at the Belly Up (and that's a very cool link to click on) and tomorrow night in Boulder, Colorado at the Fox Theatre.

Here's an article about the trio that appears in the Boulder Weekly:

(Yet another brilliant Burton Lo shot of Julie Slick)

The lone rhino talks that trash
Adrian Belew has been integral in shaping the past 30 years of rock, and it looks like he has 30 more left in him
by Dave Kirby

"Publicists typically schedule their touring clients’ interviews before the artist is actually on the road, under the assumption that they’re more relaxed at home and not dealing with hotel room phone systems, missed airline connections, trying to find a bite to eat or finding the venue in time to do a rushed sound check.

But it’s Saturday morning, two days before he gets on an airplane, and Adrian Belew, at his home outside Nashville, is too busy to talk… at least, at the appointed time for his Boulder Weekly interview.

“Can you call back in… I dunno, 10 minutes. I’m kind of tied up… but I’ll be free shortly.”

We give him 20, call back, and the guy is off like a rocket.

Working on the guitar rig? We saw something on the blog about that being a project…

“Heh, no. The rig is finished and it’s already shipped off. No, there’s just a million things to do before I head out — household stuff, do a little pre-blogging…”

Hey, isn’t that cheating?

“No, we do a download thing once a week out at the website, just rarities and odds-n-ends, and I don't want people to freak out if I miss one.”

Fair enough. Belew is a guy who you sense has a deep and abiding connection with his fans, and why not? Some of them extend back to the late 1970s when Belew, a quirky and energetic singer and a guitarist of uniquely angular ambition, first emerged as a curious presence straddling the post-new wave and alt-fringe rock circuit. Debuting on the big stage as a Zappa sideman in 1977, his grinding, screeching, tweeter ripping guitar formulations became a much sought-after elixir on records by the Talking Heads, David Bowie, Laurie Anderson and others.

As a producer, he demonstrated a keen ear for pitting texture against lyric, big sounds against small, the artist as provocateur of blue-noise chaos, sometimes its prey. As a solo artist, he modulated between Beatle-esque song economy, frequently dressed with bewildering sonic eccentricities, and flat-out experimental excursions into guitar technology.

And, of course, he wound up being the front man for one of progressive rock’s most revered and surprisingly resurrected franchises, King Crimson.

But there was time yet to get with the past, never a working musician’s favorite subject. He was buzzing on the upcoming tour with his Power Trio, with siblings Eric and Julie Slick, the former on drums and the latter on bass guitar.

“I am so excited by this band. Here’s the thing — four or five years ago, if you had told me that I’d be in a power trio thing, I wouldn’t have believed you. But the amount of energy and power that comes out of this group is just unbelievable. It’s really put the fire back into this material, and back into me.

“The show is a sort of a grand sweep of stuff — half a dozen Crimson songs, various stuff from my solo records. I do have some new material, but I’m not sure how much of it is really ready for the stage yet — things we’re still working on. Not sure if we’ll be playing them, but you never know.”

Belew says the group came about a bit by accident.

“Paul Green, who founded the Original School Of Rock in Philadelphia, asked me to come and be a guest professor. While I was there, he said, ‘I want you to meet my two best graduates, Eric and Julie Slick.’ These kids had grown up together with a dad who had something like 5,000 albums, and they just learned everything — King Crimson, Zappa, the Heads, and as it turns out, pretty much everything from my own solo career.

“So, I said sure, let’s play something. We tried an old Zappa tune, and they were completely on it. Knew every break and nuance. It was uncanny.”

Belew toured with the Slicks last year and recently released Side Four, a live document of the band in action in Cincinnati last February.

“It’s just such a wonderful feeling playing with these two. They’re so eager and so grateful to be up there playing this stuff… none of this jaded attitude, ‘Hey I got a mortgage to pay.’ None of that. This is pure fun. They’re in it for the music.

“It’s made me a better player. We include a fair amount of improvisation and no matter how far out there we get, they always come back together at the same time. They have this…

Sibling telepathy?

“Yeah, that weird thing that some siblings have, like they always know what the other one is thinking. I mean, they’ve been playing together their whole lives.”

Scary thing though, isn’t it? The power trio has always placed a huge burden on the guitarist, carrying harmony and melody, setting the pace and textural profile, especially for a guy who’s standing in front of Robert Fripp for two and a half decades.

“No, it’s the just the opposite. I feel like it’s very liberating. It allows me to explore the songs a little more, take them places they couldn’t go otherwise.

“Stuff like ‘Dinosaur’ or ‘Three of a Perfect Pair,’ that’s material that wasn’t originally arranged for a trio, it was two guitars. Playing them on just one really opens them up.”

We asked Belew about a little video biography he has posted on his website, a self-narrated tour through his past and the vast associations (he’s played on over 150 albums) he’s enjoyed the past three decades. We enjoyed it — it was funny, proud without boasting, succinct and chock full of terrific images.

“Yeah, we did that a couple of years ago. I just thought I wanted something out there for those people who hadn’t heard of me… or who had but weren’t aware of all the things I had done. It was a fun little exercise. It made me go through a lot of archive stuff, a lot of stuff I had forgotten about or forgot I even had.”

We thought we’d throw out a name. Talking Heads.

“Yeah, I worked on Remain In Light, with Brian Eno. Then I went on to produce The Catherine Wheel, David Byrne’s solo record, and a couple of solo records by Jerry Harrison.

“The really odd thing was The Tom Tom Club. Chris [Franz] and Tina [Weymouth] invited me to their place in the Bahamas, just to play a few songs and have some fun. We never really intended to make an album, but then they put it out and it turned into this huge hit. We were totally caught off guard by it.”

But by far Belew’s best known association is as singer and guitarist for King Crimson — crafter of words and right-brain alchemist subversive to Robert Fripp’s merciless left-brain metronomic.

Fripp brought Belew onboard for a reformulation of the band in 1981 — a second guitarist, gasped the skeptical old guard — and Discipline (with its signature “Elephant Talk”), and its follow-ups suddenly re-animated the band, extending its life well into the new century. Belew’s manic, avant-informed lyrics and tortured guitar figures washed over Fripp’s meticulous guitar lines and arrangements like churning lava over a steam grate.

“When I started out as a musician, I guess I figured I would write some songs and just get a few on the radio, if I was lucky. But to me, the height of the rock thing was King Crimson, you just didn’t get any higher than that. And there I was, actually playing in King Crimson. I mean, I know how I got there, but it was a realization that I had come very far from where I thought I would end up. I wasn’t going to be a pop star, I was always going to be kind of ‘out there.’”

So, we’re in 2008, 40 years since King Crimson’s first appearance on the British rock prog scene, and we had to ask. Is King Crimson a chronic condition, or is Belew fully recovered?

“I’m afraid it’s a chronic condition. Right after the power trio wraps up its tour, Robert and the band will be knocking on my door. We’re going to do some rehearsals, maybe some new music, and I think we’ll be doing a few dates this year — probably Chicago and New York. I’d be surprised if we did much more than that. We may talk about tentative plans for next year.

“I don’t want to speak for him, but I think Robert doesn’t really want to travel very much anymore. King Crimson is a huge enterprise. Big production, big expectations. It can be exhausting, and I think Robert’s reluctant to take on too much of that these days.”

And what about you?

“I could do more than that, sure. I feel great and have every intention to play the rest of my life.