Coming to the Stage: Adrian Belew

(above photo by Chris Nochowicz)


Personnel: Adrian Belew (vocals and guitar); Saul Zonana (guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals); Julie Slick (bass); Jordan Perlson  (drums)

Where: The Old RockHouse (St. Louis, Missouri)

When:  March 8, 2019


I’ve seen Adrian Belew in concert nearly a dozen times in three contexts (with King Crimson, The Bears, and solo) since 1996. While this hardly qualifies me for “Deadhead” status, it does put me in a position where I am rarely surprised by what comes forth from the stage, as much as it may please me musically. So when I say the Adrian Belew concert I saw last week was full of surprises, that’s saying something!

Belew is back on the road, this time to celebrate the release of his new album, POP-sided. And while much was familiar about his set, Belew made a few subtle changes that breathed new life into his live show (which was always pretty lively).

For starters, Belew changed the band itself. After more than a decade of touring with his Power Trio, the group has been expanded to a quartet, enabling the leader to expand his set list and play songs the trio couldn’t. Julie Slick remains by Belew’s side on bass (a position she has held for 13 years now). New to the group are guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Saul Zonana (who opened the show with a marvelous set of his solo material) and drummer Jordan Perlson, who replaced Tobias Ralph. The band’s overall sound was strong, despite a couple of minor clams in the first set. The second set was tighter than the first, as if the band cranked a musical screwdriver while they rested.

The show’s first surprise came quickly, as Belew opened the show with King Crimson classic “Matte Kudasai.” Of all the rock-oriented concerts I’ve seen over the years, this is the first time I can recall anyone opening the show with a ballad. The show’s pacing was the equivalent of a slow burn, like lighting charcoal. By concert’s end, the band was white hot!

The concert was a career retrospective, going all the way back to Belew’s first major gig as a professional musician. Nearly every era was touched on in one way or another. A couple of his Power Trio standbys, like Crimson’s “Dinosaur,” have been eliminated. But they were hardly missed, given the classics replacing them.

The new band more than capably supported their leader. Zonana provided the guitar foil Belew once had in Robert Fripp, while Slick’s five-string bass thundered in a way that would make Tony Levin proud, yet she has her own voice on the instrument and is beholden to no one. Perlman seemed a bit more restrained in his approach than Ralph, but it’s easy to imagine that changing as he settles into the gig. That being said, he is more than capable.

The Old Rock House (one of Belew’s favorite venues) was sold out, and highly energetic from the get-go. The band noticed, seeming to feed off the hoots, hollers, and whistles that followed every number. It was easy to see how much fun everyone was having.

The band is on an extensive tour over the spring and summer. One can only imagine the music getting stronger and tighter as they gain experience. Speaking of experience, I defy you to prove Adrian Belew is pushing age 70. The man is a live wire full of energy!

Chances are, this band is coming to a town near you. It would be in your best interest to be there.


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SET 1:

  • Matte Kudasai
  • Big Blue Sun
  • Ampersand
  • Happy with What You Have to be Happy With
  • Young Lions
  • Beat Box Guitar
  • Everybody’s Sitting
  • Incompetence and Indifference
  • Back in the Day
  • Fish Head
  • b

SET 2:

  • What Do You Know (part 1)
  • Of Bow and Drum
  • Big Electric Cat
  • b3
  • Men in Helicopters
  • What Do You Know (part 2)
  • Wait to Worry
  • Superboy
  • You Never Know
  • City of Tiny Lights
  • Three of a Perfect Pair
  • Frame by Frame
  • Sleepless
  • Neal & Jack & Me
  • e


  • Thela Hun Ginjeet



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