with the Irresponsibles
Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA • June 17, 1999
Roi J. Tamkin
Just as Buckwheat Zydeco is the hardest working man in Creole music, Adrian Belew is the hardest working guitarist in rock/pop music. Admitting he is currently working on five different projects at once, the prolific musician arrived in Atlanta to a crowd comprised of mostly white males in their thirties wearing King Crimson T-shirts.
The opening band was a pop music trio from Boston, the Irresponsibles. Using acoustic guitar, bass, and a bizarre drum kit sporting a giant pig head, they played a set strongly reminiscent of XTC. With songs of girls, psychos and flying pigs, the trio scored a lot of points with the homogenous, cerebral crowd.
The lead singer explained the association with Adrian Belew that led to him producing their last two releases. After their bouncy, jangly set, many people called out their congratulations and other good words.
With the stage set in a circle of amplifiers, acoustic guitars on stands, and numerous foot pedals, Adrian came on stage to perform his one-man show. Part music, part comedy, and part Q&A with the audience, Adrian charmed, wowed, and delighted his audience for two hours. Smiling throughout the entire set, Adrian started by wailing out some bizarre sounds through his Strat — a sound that captured recognition and respect from everyone from David Bowie through Frank Zappa.
Asking for the house lights to come up, Adrian invited everyone seated in the theatre to step right up to the Stage. Suddenly, I felt like I was in his living room with 150 invited guests. With everyone up close, Adrian demonstrated his patented “Belewps.” With the foot pedals, Adrian created an interactive loop of guitars that he could alter at any point and virtually became his own rhythm guitar to accompany his lead. Giving the audience a sneak peek at a new song, “Walk Around the World,” I saw quite a few musicians in the audience fall to the side, slack-jawed and glassy-eyed. Then heading to an acoustic guitar, Adrian popped out two songs, “Young Lions” and “Men in Helicopters.” Then stopping to answer some questions, he announced an upcoming King Crimson tour to resounding whoops and hollers. He took a few requests and continued to demonstrate sounds and songs from two forthcoming solo projects and a third project with the Bears.
At one point he had to admonish audience members for requesting King Crimson songs from before his time. “Learn your music history before you come here. I didn’t join King Crimson until 1981.” One request was a song from 1972 and another from 1969. But he finally put the smiles on their faces by playing “Dinosaur,” which got everyone singing along.
With the interactive looping of Belewps and pre-recorded music, Adrian was able to play new songs from all five of his projects-in-process.
The show ended with an autograph session in the theatre’s lobby. There I got to shake his hand and tell him ” Big Electric Cat changed my life, man.” He smiled. I left happy.
You can catch all sorts of interesting facts and the history of Adrian’s long musical career at http://www.murple.com/adrianbelew