Adrian Belew still blasting

Guitar legend keeps looking for uncharted territory

Adrian Belew

Adrian Belew

Adrian Belew

Adrian Belew

Adrian Belew at Big Ears 2010

  • With: Short Wave Society
  • When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 27, 2010
  • Where: The Square Room, 4 Market Square
  • Cost & info: $15; www.bigearsfestival.com

Adrian Belew Power Trio

  • When: 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, 2009
  • Where: Bijou Theatre, 803 S. Gay St.
  • Cost & info: $17.50 advance / $19.50 day of show; www.knoxbijou.com

Listening to Adrian Belew's guitar playing over the years is like hearing an explorer finding new lands. While he's normally tethered his playing to a catchy melody, his guitar is always wailing and squalling and shrieking its way into new territory. A new guitar pedal is like a new ship.

"I think that's a natural part of my musical character - I always want to find new things to do," says Belew in a call from his home in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. "If I get a new pedal or something I'll dig around with it until I find something that I've never heard anyone else do. That'll push me forward to do something else. You find something that the machine is not supposed to do. That's the most exciting one!"

Along with Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and a few others, Belew is one of the post-Jimi Hendrix guitar gods - artists who not only mastered the instrument, but redefined what it was capable of. Yet Belew found a following of more than just guitar aficionados. Belew first found a national audience playing with Frank Zappa in the late 1970s. He followed his tenure in Zappa's band by joining David Bowie on Bowie's albums "Stage" and "Lodger." Followed that playing with the Talking Heads on "Remain In Light" and "The Name of This Band Is ..." and co-wrote "Genius of Love" in the Heads' rhythm section's side project Tom Tom Club.

In 1980, Belew joined Robert Fripp, Bill Bruford and Tony Levin and revived progressive rock band King Crimson. With the release of the band's album "Discipline," the group became even more revered than it was in the 1970s. While continuing with King Crimson (which is still a sporadic entity), in 1982, Belew began releasing solo albums. He's also one-fourth of the band The Bears.

Belew's latest venture is the Adrian Belew Power Trio with rock-prodigy siblings Julie and Eric Slick.

"It's the first that I've been able to be the only guitar player with a rhythm section that can do anything at the blink of an eye. And, Eric (drums) and Julie (bass), having grown up together, they have their own unspoken kind of ESP."

Belew says he encountered the duo when did a workshop at Paul Green's School of Rock. Green told Belew he'd like him to hear the two best students who had ever come through the program. Belew was already looking for musicians to play the music from his last three albums on tour and the Slicks signed on.

"Eric and Julie are very mature for their age, musically and otherwise. It's not like playing with kids. It's like playing with older people who don't have mortgages and car payments. Musically, they're right there with anyone I play with in the world. The energy is so different. King Crimson is an older, more mature gang of people, if you can call it a gang. What I get from Eric and Julie is this whole fresh, unbelievable energy and it translates to the audience and it translates back to us from the audience."

The trio has now played to crowds from 50 to 150,000 - the latter being a festival in Russia.

Belew says King Crimson and the Bears are still going sporadically, but he's most excited about the Power Trio.

"I could probably at this point do nothing but the solo stuff," he says. "But I think it's healthy for me to take a break from me being in control and put some effort into collaboration or play on other people's records. It excites you and gives you new experiences to work from."

Get Copyright Permissions © 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2009 Knoxville.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Already activated? Login