PAINTING WITH GUITAR HAS ADRIAN BELEW GIVING NEW MEANING TO THE PHRASE ONE MAN SHOW!

Adrian Belew brings his art and music together in one place, The World Cafe Live.  Photo by Lynn Vala

Adrian Belew brings his art and music together in one place, The World Cafe Live. Photo by Lynn Vala

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Again, the Friday Flashback reaches deep into our available archives to bring you a groundbreaking review.  There is a sordid history behind this one which will explain some of the mindset when this was composed.  You see, yours truly was involved in a global controversy because when I first started this column thousands of years ago, I used artist websites as a source of information.  I had been scouring both the website journals/blogs of Adrian Belew, Robert Fripp, Tony Levin, Trey Gunn and Bill Bruford (pertinent to this story and King Crimson).  On Belew’s site I gleaned some information.  On Fripp’s site, I gleaned some contradicting information.  Not knowing which was the truth, I presented what I believed was the truth.  Belew became immediately incensed and called me out on the former PREX blog.  I dismissed it as an artist not wanting to be portrayed as “the bad guy”.

Turns out, Belew was correct.

I was offered the truth by Belew’s power trio bassist Julie Slick’s mom Robin.  A respected author in her own right.  I declined.  I had been caught in the crossfire enough and I will forever go down in history as the patsy who took the fall and reported the end of King Crimson.  NOT my proudest moment, and a tremendous personal loss to me.  But as it turns out, Fripp would go on shortly thereafter to retire from public music performance as Bruford had done shortly after the release of his autobiography.

One more tragic note:  There were literally thousands of photographs taken for this show.  Unfortunately, due to the crash of an IBM machine (yeah, fuck you Bill Gates) those photos were lost forever.  They were great shots as well.  One is utilized in the header to this blog and I will not repeat it here.

Also, this was originally presented as four parts (a photo blog) on PREX and a two part blog on the rest of the syndication.  It is going to be condensed into one humongous blog here because, well, I can!  This was the show where I apologized to Belew afterward and I made up for my transgression by reviewing his previously released e disc, as well as the live DVD of the power trio show and Julie Slick’s debut CD.  For the whole story, read on…

Philadelphia PA – I had seen the warnings on the suburban Philadelphia news channels.  But no one told me JUST how bad the highway construction was going to be getting down to Philadelphia.  I had seen multiple automobile accidents, right from the time I left my house before I even got on a highway, a few blocks from home was a triple-car rear ender.  I knew the show was going to be worth the delays, I hoped it would be worth the apparent danger.

We were basically dodging bullets to get there.

Upon realization that when we got tickets, we should get my best thing to ever happen to me a photo pass for this event.  It would be the first time I would meet face to face with Belew, and I had some unfinished business over this whole “who ended King Crimson” nightmare.  So if he was gonna punch me, I wanted photographic evidence!  We approached the venue and the artist.  The venue was helpless, but the artist, however was not only agreeable but requested photos be submitted as they are always needing some.  We were happy to oblige.

We were told to find one Daniel Rowland who was Adrian’s computer tech.  We were not pointed in any helpful directions until a very tall curly black haired fellow started looking rather quizzically at me.  “Lynn” he asked, knowing only the photographer’s name.  I pointed to my best thing to ever happen to me and introduced her and myself, at which point he expressed relief at seeing us.

?!?!??!

After having a brief confab with Daniel, and fending off rabid venue personnel, we got to our seats and did some preparatory work (such as what you are reading now).

I love the intimacy of this club.  Right before us Julie Slick walks backstage.  She will be opening for Belew, a nice bonus as since she lives in Philadelphia…

People are starting to filter in, the overwhelming scent of Patchouli fills the air.  I gotta lay off the Bollywood movies.  Then a robust group of, as Robert Fripp would call them, boobies, sit down at our table.  So full of one-sided knowledge about music, instruments and all things musical, and equally eager to display said “knowledge”.

UGH!  Also as Robert Fripp has said, “How I suffer…”

I must temper myself as I will be back here in two weeks to catch Laurie Anderson.  Check back for that one…

Then suddenly a twist, the camp has been spotted and identified!  It seems that my best thing to ever happen to me has not only found out that the infamous Birdwoman of blogs past is here, but that my best thing to ever happen to me bought the Julie Slick disc (the one I was coveting in the pre-promotion blog for this very show) but she let it slip to Birdwoman that the same duncebucket that said Belew ended KC is buying said CD.

Good thing my will is made out…

In an effort to get the word out about this here blog, I have been hard at work passing out my contact card to whoever I can.  Daniel has one, the venue has one, Birdwoman has one so she can hate me across the whole syndicate.

Remember, I suspect it was her who clued Belew into what I said about KC…

At this point during the show’s anticipation, I am approached by Ryan the manager of World Café Live.  We briefly talk about acts that we have seen here (some before his tenure) and promotion, things of that nature.  Apparently I am being passed along to the marketing department at WCL.  Definitely not a bad thing.

After this I am approached, BY ROBIN SLICK!  It’s been an OK life…

Apparently my fears were not founded, or perhaps Belew has advised her that I have found evidence to support his claim that, he too, was on the outside of the truth about King Crimson’s demise, as she was very friendly, personable, even after letting her know that I was NOT the person she thought was connected to the Paul Green School Of Rock.  A very nice woman, I only hope she continues to allow me to call her Birdwoman as it is a term of endearment and not derogatory (Robin, bird, Birdwoman, I couldn’t call her birdgirl as the producers of Harvey Birdman Attorney At Law would have my head) but I rarely refer to people by their names if they frequent my blog, I prefer to maintain privacy for people.  If she has a complaint about it, she has my contact card and can stop me if she wishes.  She’s so nice, I would for her.

But our conversation is limited as her daughter Julie is poised to take the stage after her father Gary introduces her and reminds the crowd that Belew will be out later.

Slick then OWNS that stage as she starts her offering with a manic sounding track (having found out after listening to the disc that I THINK it was “Mora”), administering some crazed music (that’s a good thing) and some most unbassly sounds!  When we hear her play the instrument with little or no effects, it is masterful.  Here we go with more amazing lead bass, Jeff Berlin, what have you wrought?

I wish I knew the name of this track and I hope it is on the CD we purchased, this is killer!  When she gets into the song, you can see it in her face, she is one with the muse.  In between songs, she even talks tech about the equipment she is using to make more sound than one person should be allowed to on a public stage, mindblowing!

I’m in love!

She describes her process of recording her solo album before she breaks into another from her self-titled CD, the track “Many Laughs”. With some synths and a killer drum line from Marco Minneman, and not her brother Eric as was intended, it’s an infectious melody that I find staying with me 2nd only to Laurie Anderson’s “Only An Expert” from her new album Homeland but I’ll speak to that in a later blog.

After Slick loops her bass line, she wails on lead after pulling a pick from her teeth.  Once her fingers started spidering up the neck, that is when the track came afire.

I can’t wait to get home and listen to this disc.

After more bass acrobatics, she ends this track with a bass chord.  Closure.

For her next piece, “Aphrodite” she talks to the audience about getting Pat Mastellotto to play drums.  A catchy hook starts “Aphrodite” and it riffs into a catch-me-if-you-can kind of chorus.  Then with the push of a pedal (Slick prefers to play barefoot) a rather hackneyed break comes in.  The break gives Slick a chance to flex her fingers.  She is the definition of refined talent.

The only complaint I could muster is the backing track got kind of lost in the mix when the bass kicks in heavy.

For her track “Spice Trade” Slick details how she attempted to get Robert Fripp to play on her track.  He replied with his usual basic ‘no” but this time with a twist; She could sample any of his previous work if it would suit the track.  Slick them went on to confess that she was not familiar with a lot of his Frippertronics, Soundscapes and other works outside King Crimson, and now she had to sort through that mountain of work trying to find bits that might work.

No easy task.

During the change from the intro to the main section, I thought I had detected a glitch.  Such are the pratfalls of live performance.  But the dynamic change was distinctly noticeable from the power section ending on, it became a sorrowful song.  Beautifully composed, but sad in context, it seemed.

Another diatribe about the help of her brother  on the track “The Rivalry”.  A heavy bass accompanies a harrowing, spooky track.  She really needs to get some vocals on these songs as several have traces of pop appeal.  Right up to the succinct ending.

Her last track, which I missed the name of, is another manic track.  With eerie synths, this time the track is louder than the bass, even with the harmonizer on the bass.  Even a fake-out stop can’t break her concentration; she counts it off, comes right in on time and wails to the end.

Ever shoeless, the thanks us and exits the stage having conquered it.  During the intermission she disappears into the crowd.

After a brief change over to remove Slick’s equipment for the most part, Daniel Rowland comes out and starts the show with a midi-generated track, but no Belew???

The device playing the midi has a display on it that illuminates in a monochrome yellow, similar to earlier computer games and screens.  Looks kinda like Asteroids.

I guess I will call this “Track One”.  But it just plays by itself, instruments sounding like pan flute and wood flute-type sounds.

Why are the ones I pick to follow so hard to describe?!?!?!

The addition and subtraction of instruments and tracks is the hook.  As the song fades, Belew takes the stage.

He starts off with the Bears “Doodle” from Eureka.  Where are Nyswonger , Fetters and Arduser when you need them???

As he leaves the loop playing he explains that he won’t be doing pop songs anymore as the song currently looping was stolen by a national hoagie chain.  He also explains his attempt to sue them.  Good luck Ade, I bet that hoagie chain has a team of skeezie lawyers.

At that point he goes into one of those trademarked squeally solos we all love.  Then he tries to play the two parts at once explaining that it being able to loop saves him the cost of a hotel room and per-diem.

Industry lessons, too much!

He breaks into a song from Side One called “Walk Around The World”.  Expertly playing the parts as the looper accompanies him.  As he attempts to break the song down he accidentally cuts the entire volume off.

Whoops!  That live thing again…

“Variations Of Wave Pressure” sounds much like previous gamelan musics Adrian has done before.  But he also adds that this song could not have been done three to five months ago, the technology used is THAT cutting edge.

Technology moves that fast.

He solos using a familiar guitar synth patch, it may be a variation of a Mizmar sound on a Roland Guitar Synth.  A patch I love.  Get a lot of mileage out of it.  He lets the loop die and finishes the solo.

And it STILL fills the house.

Back to counter playing with a delay…

It really seemed like Belew knew what we wanted to hear.  His old tricks as he spends some measures using the volume knob to rush up the signal from null.  Then back to some gamelan.  Belew then bounces in his chair to the beat.  It’s gotten to the point where I can’t keep track of where the sounds are coming from?  “When did he play that?”  He even makes wiping the guitar stings sound good!

Some car horns and feedback bring the piece back to life for one more animated go-round.

A very oriental-sounding backing track plays while Belew adds some sparse guitar.  This is a quick piece over which Belew narrates his discovery by Frank Zappa.  A hysterical tale about life with the Zappas follows, expletives deleted.

Q&A time!

Questions are posed about his guitar, his computer set up, then about the possible KC 1981 line-up reunion, a question about Talking Heads and a question I won’t repeat here.

“Europe By Rail” employs that device I described for the first song, which Belew has since identified as the Tenori device.  Surprise of surprise, this one has lyrics!  It’s gotta be released somewhere, it’s awesome!  His falsetto is a little hurt, but it is the last show of the tour…

The guitar starts to pan from side to side as the effect intensifies toward the end.

“Drive” is next from Side Three. A near perfect rendition, even including the nods to the Beatles “Within You Without You”.  The distortion solo section shook the house.  Now even nods to “Indiscipline”, MUCH longer than the album version.

Then a sparse, pianoless version of “Time Waits” from  Op Zop Too Wah and also on Coming Attractions.  Too bad that one wasn’t stretched out.

Belew then announces that his album e will be performed by an orchestra in Amsterdam.  He then attempts to play “d” from his e album.  After two times he gets his loop right.  After that, flawless.

He seemed pleased with it.

A second Q&A, more about the technology.  I won’t go into the technical details.  I find questions about technology and influences do not make for a good read.  What was entertaining was his diatribe about his painting “hobby”.

“Elephants” is offered next from Side One.  A distorted bass sound accompanies Belew’s squeal-fest guitar solo.  Complete with a sample of Ian Wallace from the disc.

“All Her Love Is Mine” again from Op Zop Too Wah is intimate but not lacking any of the power of the original, except with a new solo voice at the ending.

Very nice!

Another unidentified tune is up next.  It was full, with lots of pick slides and scrapes.  Again, some of this stuff is indescribable.  I saw it coming.

Belew then offers that if anyone buys the DVD of the Power Trio, he will send them one of the recorded pieces from tonight’s show, as he has been recording everything in his computer!

He ends his night graciously and with a bit of a techno-jam with his guitar triggering an after-touch generator.  Something usually a midi keyboard does.

Story of the night, guitar doing what keyboards usually do.

He invites people to “dance on out of here” to his improv.  We ain’t goin’ nowhere  Belew announced that he and Julie Slick will be signing the DVDs sold outside.

The plot thickens.

We decided to stay and take part in the signing.  I came prepared in the event (one thing I have learned, you never know when you can have your items “fetishized” as Fripp believes) he might sign my items.  I fetished my copy of the KC bio, the Japanese imports of Lone Rhino and Twang Bar King, and as I mentioned, the Julie Slick CD and the Power Trio DVD.

All the while MBTTEHTM is taking pictures upon pictures, but after the show stopped, and the writing stopped, she did not.  There were people taking pictures of her taking pictures of Belew.  All in all, she took over 1200 pictures that night.

And yes, I did eventually (when it seemed less endless) join the queue and spoke again with Birdwoman, let Julie Slick know I will be reviewing her portion of the show (something that I am notorious for NOT doing, when I reported on one NIN show, I omitted the Jane’s Addiction portion entirely).

But Slick garnered my interest.  That never-ending quest for new, good music.

Then there he was.  The guy in the flesh.  I had to do what I had to do.  I apologized to the man.  I shook his hand for the entire time and said it loud enough that the entire room heard me.  Hey, I wronged the guy.  I wanted to post a public apology when I wrote up the e review a few weeks ago.  They asked to preview it and asked that I remove it.  They forgot to ask to preview this so far, so I finally get to publicly announce that Adrian Belew and I are on good terms.  I can look at the stack of Belew’s discs that I have nearby for reference and verification (hey, some of those Side One Two Three titles get confusing) with the same pride I took in collecting them.

Upon reconciling, Belew suggested that I write nice things.  Would that I could, but sometimes the truth isn’t so nice.  But I can see why he would say that.  He is the most happy-go-talented guy in existence.

Thanks to a tremendous club, some other really nice people, and Adrian Belew and his people, Julie and Robin Slick, and their people, and I also want to thank Art Russakoff for his quality security work, and Amanda Newman for technical assistance.

I also think you may want to head over to Adrian Belew’s site for a complete list of artists that Belew has played with as a way to connect with Belew, a way for you to realize, “Hey, I HAVE heard this guy play!”  Read more about him at adrianbelew.net and get the true scope of the permeation Belew has in modern progressive as well as pop, country, and other genres.  Take a look at his discography and you will be amazed.  Artists of all calibers call upon Belew for his most unique style and sound.

I wish I could have done more to promote what could wind up being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Belew admitted to the crowd he may never do this again.

Can’t say I didn’t warn you not to miss it…

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