Adrian Belew Live at The Lincoln Theater, Raleigh NC
Adrian Belew Live at the Lincoln Theater, Raleigh NC 3/15/19
This is the third time I’ve seen Adrian Belew and his band in the past two years or so, and I think I’ve finally realized why I love him so much. The music is superbly technical, and could be described as prog-rock, but it also has an overwhelming Beatles influence. As a huge fan of Belew-era King Crimson and of The Beatles, he’s right up my alley.
Belew wasn’t a minute into his first song, King Crimson’s ‘Matte Kudasai,’ when I realized the fun and the joy he and his band have playing music. Belew, singing and making all manner of unrecognizable sounds with his signature Parker Fly guitar, had a smile plastered on his face the entire show. It was as if he was saying “isn’t this great,” like we were all in on the joke.
And his band, oh my. The Power Trio has a new member, Saul Zonana, who sang backing vocals and rotated between keys, percussion, and guitar, making for a quartet. Jordan Perlson was a stalwart on the drums, but the real VIP of this band was bassist Julie Slick. What she added was always in perfect service to the song, whether thunderous root notes, thrashing chords, or threading through intricate scales on her five-string Lakland, Slick is as good a bass player as I’ve seen this side of Tony Levin. Adrian and Julie also were having the best time up on stage, and the feeling was infectious.
The set was broken into two acts, Act One featuring Crimson’s ‘Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With,’ as well as the aforementioned ‘Matte Kudasai.’ The Beatle-y ‘Big Blue Sun’ was a standout, as were ‘Ampersand’ and ‘Fish Head.’
Set two featured some stellar songs from his brand-new release, Pop-Sided, including a wondrous song called ‘Wait To Worry.’ This was followed by a great version of ‘Big Electric Cat,’ and ‘Men In Helicopters.’ The end of the set featured The Bears’ ‘Superboy,’ an astoundingly funky version of Zappa’s ‘City Of Tiny Lights,’ and a suite of Crimson covers (‘Three Of A Perfect Pair,’ ‘Frame By Frame.’ ‘Sleepless,’ and ‘Neal And Jack And Me’). An amazing encore of ‘Theela Hut Ginjeet,’ and this joyous show was over. Every member of the audience was beaming, happy and excited. Adrian’s joy is contagious. While prog rock can sometimes feel more like slog rock, Belew makes this music ecstatic.