Stuff That Works: Review of Stickmen - Adrian Belew Power Trio


Wow - I could not believe that Adrian Belew AND Tony Levin (along with their assorted band mates - see poster above) were coming to my neck of the woods. What a great thing - I bought a pair of tickets immediately for the show. Even if you THINK you don't know who these guys are, you have probably heard some of their work. Between the two of them - besides their involvement in the ever changing band called King Crimson - they have done a TON of work. Belew's guitar work can be heard all over the place - Talking Heads, Paul Simon, Bowie, Tom Tom Club, etc. Lots of us have enjoyed Tony Levin when he played bass, er and that Chapman Stick bass gizmo, on several of Peter Gabriel's tours.

In addition, Tony has had one of the longest running web blogs in cyberspace. I can remember reading his reports of music he was playing all over the world years ago - when I didn't hardly know what the heck a blog was. He has taken a bazillion pictures of people who attend his concerts - all in all it is a wonderful place for music lovers to check out: Tony Levin's Blog.

Randall and I were in for a night of it. Tony Levin took the stage with his Chapman along with King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto and touch guitar player Markus Reuter.

Tony Levin and his Chapman Stick.
 Right away Tony, Marcus, and Pat let us know that they were happy to playing for us - a small but enthusiastic crowd - with a wonderful wall of sound. I don't pretend to understand much about the Chapman stick, but Tony has been playing it for decades and he can produce a wonderful range of sound from it. His lung clearing bottom end along with Pat's drumming provided a solid foundation on which Markus Reuter was free to dance with his touch guitar. (Never heard a touch guitar? Neither had we - it seems a lot like the Stick and a little investigation led me to find out Markus is a co-developer of it. Check them out: Touch Guitars.)

Pat Mastelotto
Pat Mastelotto loves what he does. He smiles about as much from behind his kit as Chris Frantz of the Tom Tom Club. Not only does Pay love his work, but he doesn't miss anything even from behind his kit. Sitting in front of us in the VIP area was a young man with his dad. He was maybe 8-9 years old and was very much into the drumming all evening. Before he left the stage for the final time, Pat went forward and gave the young man a pair of sticks. How cool is that?
Markus Reuter
 Anyway - the Stickmen did themselves proud. They played original compositions - "Cusp" was really great - and some King Crimson early music along with their adaptation of Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. These are musicians musicians for sure. Their music is fairly complicated, but these guys are tight! They played an enjoyable set and as they left the stage Adrian Belew Power Trio stepped up to THEIR side of the stage.
Julie Slick and Adrian Belew make music.
 Adrian Belew has a blast doing what he does and he communicates that to his audience with a big smile - rolling eyes and bouncing eyebrows. He was having a great time and so was the audience. The two young people Adrian has making rhythm for his wild six string antics are amazing. Julie Slick handles the bass while Tobias Ralph drives the whole thing along with his insane drumming. He has the fastest feet on the double bass pedals I have ever seen/heard. His hands keep up and he makes it look effortless. My only complaint with these two is that Julie needs to face the audience more - HEY, we are out here. Don't be afraid to look us in the eye while you shred along with Mr. Belew.
Tobias Ralph.
Adrian is a master to watch on the guitar. (He did mess up a bit setting up a loop to play over on one song, but no one seemed to care.) He would play standing and then plop back on a spring loaded mushroom of a stool and work his magic from a seated position. The Power Trio was a bit too loud for me, but man oh man can they play together. Tight was the word for the night. The crowd whooped and jumped to its feet on many occasions as they ripped through their set.

We were promised The Stickmen, the Power Trio AND an "onslaught" tribute to King Crimson music by all six musicians. Belew left the stage and warned us to prepare as Pat jumped into his kit and he and Tobias launched into a double drum solo with Markus soaring over and above the beats. Being a drummer, this was pure joy for me - these two have different styles and when they battle it out the audience wins! Pat looks smooth and effortless as he throws in fills, thrills, and electronic chills from his array of accoustic and electronic instruments. Tobias has amazing speed in his hands and feet - his licks were stunning.

Gradually the rest of the players stepped in and we were off to the races with another set of music that pulled some of my favorites from Discipline: Frame By Frame, Elephant Talk, and Thela Hun Ginjeet come to mind. The assembled multitude tore it up. The encore featured another battle of the drummers that had them going back and forth and pulling out all of the stops. At one point Pat did a brief solo with some kind of rubber squeek toy and never missed a beat.

If you enjoy top flight musicianship delivered by people who love what they are doing, then snap up some tickets to see these people play - you will love it.
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