Sunday, February 24, 2008
Gershwin Shmershwin - Rhapsody in Belew
Super Tuesday found me in Boulder Creek, California. As I was driving in this small mountain berg tucked away amidst a giant Redwood forest, I accidentally made a wrong turn down a narrow alley that appeared to dead end at some houses. I realized the error of my way, quickly stopped the vehicle, and prepared to back out. As I checked to make sure it was clear to proceed, I spied a familiar person walking briskly toward the fire station located across the street. He was ten feet away from me. The window powered down, and as we made eye contact, I said, "Hey, Jim, are you going to Belew?" Jim had no idea who I was, or what I was talking about, and replied, "Uh, I'm going to vote." gesturing to the polling station across the street. I realized that he didn't remember me, so I clarified, "Adrian Belew is playing at Slim's next month, and I was wondering if you knew about it."
"Adrian Belew?" he reiterated excitedly. "Yeah, on February twenty-third." I volunteered. "Is it sold out?" he asked. "I doubt it," I said, and continued to give him what details I knew. He said,"Thanks! I'll see ya there."** and quickly jaunted across Highway 9 to vote. I hollered, "Vote for Ron Paul" but I don't think he heard me.
Few people have influenced music more than Adrian Belew. Gershwin*** himself couldn't claim the monumental impact of this master of sound. Adrian Belew's list of accomplishments and collaborations would take a blog of its own to describe. Although Adrian Belew is virtually unknown to the masses, his name and influence is well known in the music industry.
The Power Trio
I've seen Adrian Belew perform live a few hands full of times with various bands over the past couple of decades, and every time I walked away with my jaw dragging behind me.
A couple of years ago, my son and I drove to the "big city" to see Belew play at Slim's in San Francisco. That particular version of the Power Trio featured Ade's friends Mike and Mike, on drums and bass, respectively. We were surprised to find that Slim's was a tiny venue. Maybe I expected more grandiose ambiance for such a renowned performer... a musician who is no stranger to large coliseums. The show was great, and everyone had a really good time, and although the performance was no doubt better than anything else in town that week, or month... I somehow felt that Belew deserved more power than what the Mikes were willing or capable of contributing. Then came the Slicks.
Three of a Perfect Pair
A brother and sister duo, Eric and Julie Slick are the best thing to happen to Belew since the war. With these two solid young performers, Belew has everything he needs to pull off the best show you've ever seen, or heard. I saw them perform two nights in a row in November of 2006. At Montalvo in Saratoga, the California Guitar Trio opened and played a sparkling set. Adrian joined them on stage for their last tune, then CGT left the stage, and soon all three members of the latest and greatest incarnation of the Power Trio took the stage, prepared to blow the roof off the ritzy theater. Unfortunately, a dozen people or so stood up and walked out the moment the first song came to an end. Adrian looked stunned. How painful it was to watch the ignoramuses mooing and bumping as they made their getaway from the loud rock music, and retreated to the safety of their multi-million dollar homes in the hills above Saratoga. "Good riddance," I said as I moved to a recently vacated seat in a better location of the small theater. The show was great, but I suspect that the mass exodus may have affected the performers more than they made apparent.
On the following night, my friend Aaron, joined Mighty Mo and myself as we peddled our bicycles to the Catalyst in Santa Cruz to again see this powerful music trio. It was Aaron's first time to see Belew, and he said it was one of the best shows he had been to. Even though the trio played basically the same set as they had the previous night, it seemed like two completely different shows. No one walked out in Santa Cruz.
Return of a Crimson King
Last night the Adrian Belew Power Trio made their appearance at Slims... their fourth stop on their 2008 tour. Once again I was impressed at the quality of showmanship on the stage. The small venue was packed with barely enough room to walk around. Apparently news of these remarkable musicians has gotten out. The sound was crisp and clear, and thanks to my trusty ear-plugs, it wasn't too loud either. The three performed their set flawlessly, and presented the crowd with a fine selection of songs. Krimson fans were rewarded with a goodly number of songs, such as Dinosaur, Frame by Frame, Three of a Perfect Pair, Thela Hun Ginjeet, and Elephant Talk. I was amazed to watch the Slicks play these complex pieces so proficiently. In my mind's eye, I could see Robert Fripp smiling.
* I met Jim at an Adrian Belew show at Slim's back in 2005.
** He did. We happened to stand next to each other in the merchandise line which featured a drawing for an Adrian Belew autographed Parker P-44 Guitar.
*** Gershwin shmershwin!
Rhapsody in Belew!
He doesn't hold a camel to you