Monday, March 17, 2008

Adrian Belew Power Trio Tour - Recap One

Well, life back in Philadelphia is back to normal, kind of...the month long, cross-country Adrian Belew Power Trio tour ended Saturday night in Vienna, Virginia and my family came home yesterday. While I am thrilled to see them, there's a small part of me that's depressed. The music fan/proud mother in me wanted this tour to go on forever -- to come downstairs every morning for the past four weeks to glowing reviews and great You Tubes of the trio in performance is pretty much as good as it gets. Wait. Let me amend that. Seeing them three nights in a row in Philadelphia, New York City, and Harrisburg...well, there's nothing quite like that in the world.

So I last left you with my impressions of the Philly show. Let's play catch up. I have a feeling this may be a two or three part post but we'll see. Not only am I mildly depressed, I think I'm getting Adrian's flu...yep...the last week of the tour he was really really sick - so was John Sinks, engineer...but these guys are such amazing professionals you would never know it. Fans in New York, however, knew something was up...but more on that in a minute.

Speaking of New York, here's a couple photos of the trio shot by proud dad Gary Slick. The following evening in Harrisburg, I don't know how it happened, but Gary figured out the perfect setting for his new camera in low light and I can't wait to post those and the ones from Virginia because they are beyond spectacular but because I am apparently very OCD, I must do things in order so here's some really neat ones from B.B. Kings Thursday night.

So Thursday morning in Philadelphia Gary and I had breakfast with the band at the University City Marathon Grill...and as I had already known from the night before, Adrian was fighting a flu bug that was turning into something respiratory or bronchial. He is so amazing - it was obvious he wasn't feeling well but he kept smiling and discussing future plans and concepts he has for the trio and we just kind of sat there with our mouths hanging open...the usual. The man is so brilliant...he's the musical version of a mad scientist.

One of the really cool perks of the tour was that the trio got to visit several factories along the way - Julie, who as you know is endorsed by Lakland Bass, toured their facility and I have to tell you, it was the unanimous consensus that getting that Bob Glaub signature bass right at the start of the tour (do you know they had it waiting for her at her hotel in Seattle on the very first night?!) totally changed her performance. She went from incredible to other worldly. Everyone noticed it - it's like she picked up that bass and magic happened. She lost the "John Entwistle" stance (not that there's anything wrong with that!) and rocked out all over the stage. Pull up any You Tube from this tour and have a look/listen to say,"A Little Madness" and you'll see what I mean.

Let me just take the opportunity to thank Lakland for endorsing Julie and for coming to the show. Did you guys have a good time?

In Massachusetts the day before they played in Philadelphia, the Adrian Belew Power Trio visited the Bose Factory and they left there completely ecstatic. Bose has a brand new, revolutionary sound system which they allowed the trio to try out for the remainder of the tour. To say it is incredible is putting it mildly. At every single venue, all of the techies rushed the stage, wanting to know what it was. The sound was the best it's ever been. Again, a huge thank you to the wonderful folks at Bose...I know owning one of your systems is high on Adrian's wish list...maybe even coming in at number one. It's all we talked about for the rest of the tour.

Which is why I knew it wasn't a sound problem when Adrian suddenly left the stage after five songs at B.B. Kings on Thursday night, saying "The band is going to take a break. We'll be back shortly." Eric jumped up from the drums, Julie and Ade quickly put down their instruments, and fled the stage.

So yeah, I knew it wasn't a sound board problem; I didn't see Andre or John on stage so I knew it couldn't be equipment related (and the instruments were left on stands on the stage) so I looked over at Gary in alarm, only Gary wasn't there. He was sitting at a table closer to the stage so he could take photos; I sat in a booth behind him with my pal Kim Wetherell, who cracked me up post concert because as a special favor to me, since I missed the premier in NYC due to Eric's appendectomy in December, uploaded Why We Wax, the short documentary in which I have a (hilarious) role, to her iPod so I got to watch it while the band broke down their equipment for the night. It's entered in several film festivals and I'm laughing because watch, I'm going to end up being in competition with myself for my other short film entered in festivals - the one based on Daddy Left Me Alone with God. How did I end up connected with two movies? Life is so very, very strange but I'm loving it. And where is my photo, Ant Neate? (as I previously blogged, he's the actor in film and he is HOT)

(Just kidding...having some fun with Gary)

And I've completely gone off track, haven't I.

Back to New York and B.B. Kings. So I look over at Gary's table, and he's not there, which meant he knew something bad had happened. Don't ask me how I knew that, I just did, but I mean, it was pretty obvious. In the two years since I've known him, Adrian has never left the stage - he never even divided his show into two sets unless it's something like the Tokyo gig last summer where the band played two full shows per night. (How did they ever pull that off? So much energy goes into just one god...Ade is superman with the mind and body of a twenty year old).

I'm digressing again. Sorry. It's been a long while since I did an actual diary style post here - I've basically been cutting and pasting reviews and trust me, I have a ton of those, too which I haven't put up here yet. Anyway, I was completely freaked by the empty stage and Gary's empty table. I debated what to do. B.B. King's was really crowded and there are a million waiters milling about with trays of food and drinks so my getting backstage would have been difficult. I figured if God forbid anything was really wrong, Gary would come get me. I just could not imagine what happened - could it be Julie? Eric? Was Ade sicker than he let on? You wouldn't have known it by the first four songs. But I did notice he kept wiping his forehead with a towel. It was incredibly hot in the club, I was melting myself, but I just chalked it up to a senior moment, i.e., a dreaded hot flash. But apparently everyone in the place was burning up (do they turn up the heat so you order more drinks?) and that, combined with Adrian's fever (yep, he had one), almost made him delirious on stage. Gary said he noticed it during "A Little Madness"...he said Ade looked over at Julie and he just didn't seem "right".

Anyway, backstage Ade got cold compresses, ice, a lot of love, and ten minutes later the trio was back on stage, putting on a mind-blowing show.

Oh, while we were backstage before the concert, two things happened that were way cool. First, the manger walked in with a business card and asked for Eric Slick.

"This gentleman is here to see you," he said to Eric, handing him the card.

Here, it was Tim from Paiste Cymbals, who of course endorse Eric and Eric had called Tim with an emergency -- he cracked a cymbal at the show in Philly. Tim already had plans to attend the New York show so he got there early and brought Eric a brand new cymbal. How is that for service? Eric is going to kill me for saying this but I have to and maybe a few of you will get to read it before he asks me to delete it (because he's humble but maybe I can talk him into letting me keep this in here because he knows everyone is aware of my over-exuberance when it comes to these things)..but anyway, Tim told Eric he loved the show so much that if he didn't have to deliver cymbals to the drummer for Iron Maiden the next day in New Jersey, he would have driven 100 miles to the Harrisburg show that night.

Then the manager at B.B.'s showed up again with another business card, this time for Adrian. It was from Steve Olsen, the owner of the West Bank Cafe on 42nd Street in New York. He is a HUGE Adrian Belew fan and asked that the trio and guests come to his restaurant after the show where his chef would prepare a very special meal.

Despite not feeling well, how could Ade pass up an offer like that? Besides, there's nothing like an exquisite gourmet experience to make a person feel better, you know? And Ade got to knock back his favorite, lemon drop martinis, so we were in pretty good spirits the minute we sat down. Actually, we were in great spirits because throughout the meal, the owner played nothing but Adrian music. It was as it should be! What a pleasure to see the joy on Adrian's face and Steve's (the owner's) face as he sat with us and talked to Ade and the band. And then Steve's chef, who also attended the show, brought out plate after plate of the most amazing food ever.

Oh, a funny side note: When we first walked into the restaurant and were seated, Eric leaned over and whispered "Ha - guess who we are sitting next to? Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers." Martha (Ade's wife) dared Eric to go over and introduce himself because what a freaking coincidence, a couple of weeks ago Gibby was a School of Rock guest professor -- which of course is how Ade met Julie and Eric two years ago. So Eric and Gibby talked a bit and naturally what was Gibby's first question: "What kind of rig does Adrian use?"

So that was really cool but enough of the small talk -- let me tell you what you really want to know -- how was the food at West Bank Cafe? Oh. My. God. We had three vegetarians at the table, so they made some subtle adjustments in their menu, like, they brought out skillets (some of the meals are served sizzling in miniature, so cool) of ricotta cheese gnocchi with wild mushrooms, basil broth & scorched fontina cheese...normally this dish also comes with shredded duck...oh God...I'm swooning just remembering how unbelievably good it was. Oh, wait, first they came out with several plates of grilled peppered shrimp with Florida grapefruit, avocado and fennel salad. That was followed by, for the meat eaters, Beef short ribs and chips with caramelized onion, manchego cheese and blue corn tortilla chips. Think that's it? Guess again. Plates just kept appearing...each one better than the next. Pan Seared Sea Scallops with celery root, leeks, potatoes, wild mushrooms and truffle vinaigrette. Pan Seared Bronzino with eggplant purée, orange peel, fennel, spinach and citrus sauce. Winter Vegetable Plates with winter spiced butternut squash, Chinese forbidden black rice, currants, swiss chard and walnut-sage pesto. Truffled Mac-n-Cheese (yeah, you've never had mac and cheese like this before...oh my God...the truffles...and it also had mascarpone cheese in it). A steak sandwich which was really filet migñon on a toasted brioche with french fries and sauce béarnaise. The alcohol kept flowing, and then they brought out clean plates and silverware and we're like, oh no, please tell me they are not bringing any more food...

Wrong. Out came plate after plate of the best desserts I've ever had anywhere. Peanut butter mouse. A flourless chocolate tart with fresh whipped cream. Berries. Rice pudding that had to be made with heavy cream...I've never tasted anything like it in my life. I know there was more, but by then I was so full even though it was killing me, I could not eat another bite.

So the bottom line here is, next time I am in New York, I will be back at the West Bank Cafe and here's my official endorsement for any of you in the's now in my top five restaurants and I've eaten all over the world. I'm sure by now you've all clicked on the link but just to make it easy, they serve lunch and dinner and are located at 407 West 42nd Street.

Oh, and as I said, the whole time we're having this religious food experience, we're listening to songs like Three of a Perfect Pair.

It was heaven.

We rolled out of the restaurant at 2:00 a.m. and did not get home until 4:00 a.m. We knew we had to be up early the next day for the Harrisburg show but we did manage to sleep in a bit and then Gary had to run up to his mom's house and drop some things off so we ended up getting to the Whitaker Center Friday night about an hour before show time, just in time to grab a quick bite.

Okay, obviously my Harrisburg post is going to have to be a separate one. This post is a mini-series, eh?

But here's a quick tease for my next post - Friday night I met the California Guitar Trio, who opened for the trio that evening, and asked that Julie and Eric sit in on a song. Eric knew it, Julie had to learn it, so while Gary and I were having dinner...

From Bert Lam's diary:
"Friday eve, jamming backstage with Eric and Julie Slick of the Adrian Belew Power Trio. They played Pipeline with us at the end of our set: fun!" (photo by Kurt Berthelmehs)

Okay, and on that note, I leave with you with a very mellow and beautiful version of Matchless Man from the Harrisburg show...where by now, Adrian has a full blown case of the flu and is still insisting he's fine. What a pro. What a guy. What a band.