Adrian Belew Power Trio
Opening Act: Saul Zonana
Blueberry Hill - Duck Room
University City (St. Louis), MO
Thursday, April 16, 2009
"Hi Rhea. How you doing?" I had just seen an extraordinary concert from Adrian Belew, and now he was signing autographs for fans. And that was how he greeted me. I am still not used to him knowing my name and not giving us the usual "it's you guys again". I was kinda pleasantly shocked, so I came up with "Hi. Wow. Thanks." in reply and then rushing to say how much I liked the new songs A and B. I need to be cooler next time. Afterwards, I had to ask Roy if I really heard Adrian say it.
Earlier in the day, at work, I went to a lunch-time presentation called "The Polished Professional". The presenter talked about the impact you make calling people by name. That was sure made clear to me after the show. The presentation also went into how you present yourself, clothing, projecting a professional image. I think I broke every rule between yesterday and today:
- I left work early yesterday to go to a rock concert.
- I got into work late today because I stayed up too late at said rock concert.
- Showed up to work with my hair still damp
- They stamped our hands on the way into the show last night, and I couldn't wash it off completely, so there are remains of blue ink on my hand
I was tempted to take today off as a vacation day, but I needed to support a meeting. I joked about all of this with my coworkers and told them I'm going for the eccentric genius image rather than the professional one.
I had worked extra hours earlier in the week so that I could leave early on Thursday. The day went by pretty quickly. I left at 3, and came home to change my clothes and get ready for the concert. And for waiting in line. I have this thing about needing to be in the front row and in my spot. So for general admission concerts, my comfort level is such that I need to be in line long before the next person shows up. No close calls. Roy doesn't love this, but he understands and goes along with it. We walked over to Blueberry Hill around 4 for dinner, and got in line afterwards, around 5. The doors were going to open at 8.
We passed the time by reading and discussing what Yes shows we wanted to see on their summer tour. Only one other fan was there when Adrian and his band arrived. He said hi to us and shook the other guy's hand. More people got in line, and we recognized some of the people towards the front of the line from previous shows. Truthfully, they recognized us. I'm bad with faces, especially when I'm meeting a whole bunch of people at once. But everyone seems to remember me. It puts me at a disadvantage, because people will come over to talk to me and I can't figure out who they are. (But I remember minutia and dates well.)
The doors opened, and Roy and I got our spot. Front row, standing right in front of Adrian's mike stand. This is just about my favorite place to be in the world. There were tables and chairs off to the side, but front and center was set up as a dance floor.
The last time we saw the Power Trio and their opening act, we were in Cleveland. It was during a blizzard, and we were worried about traveling in the bad weather. Now, I was much more relaxed and I enjoyed the opening act Saul Zonana more. He did a cover of the Beatles' Across the Universe and turned it into a singalong.
There was a setlist taped to the floor of the stage. I could see the bottom part of it. I don't think it was used - the songs were played out of order and at least one song I saw was not played.
The band came on just before ten, my usual bedtime. They opened with an instrumental that reminded me of a reworked instrumental Neurotica. It got really good as it went on. Really really good. This first piece was really tracks "A" and "B" of the power trio's upcoming album E. The next song was Young Lions, one of my favorite Adrian songs. Great start to the show.
The rest of the song order is a blur - I know we heard Big Electric Cat, Writing on the Wall, Ampersand, Beat Box Guitar, Madness, Drive, Of Bow and Drum, and some others that I didn't recognize. Adrian had blogged that he'd be playing "some past favorites you haven't heard in a while", but nothing fit that category for me. I saw "Rhino" on the setlist, but they didn't play Lone Rhinoceros. They also played another new piece E. Roy and I had heard that one in Cleveland last year. It meandered and didn't have the punch that the opening songs A and B had.
There were a whole bunch of little issues, but they didn't detract from the experience. One thing that did detract was the heat. It was so warm in there, and there was no air movement. I was sweating even before the show started. Adrian was sweating so much his guitar pick slipped out of his fingers. The biggest mistake of the night was the band fizzling out during Madness. I guess people thought it was the end of the song, because they applauded, but Roy and I just looked at each other. They started the song back up again. It didn't seem to faze the audience. Adrian has such a complicated setup, a couple times he stepped on the wrong pedal and caused a humming sound or got the wrong sound out of his guitar.
Those little things didn't seem to matter. I felt like I was in the moment and really feeling the music rather than letting my mind wander. Adrian's band is great and he's got a wonderful presence on stage. Roy and I talked afterwards about how much eye contact Adrian made with us; it makes me feel like I'm part of the excitement rather than an observer. A couple times, it felt like he was speaking to us rather than to the audience - mentioning how hot it was and asking if we saw where his pick fell. The crowd response was great too. I can only imagine that most of them weren't familiar with all the material, but they were really getting into it. It was that back and forth between the band and audience that made this my favorite of the power trio shows I've seen.
The setlist had a major gap in it. No King Crimson. I had seen part of the setlist, and the main set ended with "3", and Thela was one of the encore songs. But the main set ended without Three of a Perfect Pair. The band came back out and encored with Thela Hun Ginjeet. As much as I love Adrian's solo music, these Crimson songs are the reason I became a fan. I enjoyed that one. And then the show was over.
Or was it? The time was something like quarter-to-midnight, it was a week night, but the crowd wanted more. The audience was still cheering. Adrian's bandmates are a brother and sister. Their dad was at the concert, filming it from the back of the stage. He was gesturing for us to keep cheering. It got loud. I could see the door to the backstage opening a few times and glimpses of the band getting ready to come back on stage.
The whole idea of an encore is that the audience expresses their intent that they enjoyed the performance and would like more. In reality, encores are planned. The band goes off stage, people applaud, then the band comes back on stage. Yes saves Roundabout for the encore. I've seen Springsteen play an hour long encore. I've seen real encores before, generally at festivals when a band plays their allotted time, there is great audience response, and the stage managers give the band more time. This time was different, because the band could set their own performance length, what songs they wanted to play, and they played them.
I have to admit, I wasn't applauding all that loudly. The show was over. But something could happen. I stayed in my spot. The audience did it. Adrian and his bandmates came back on stage. It was such a thrilling moment. Adrian looked overwhelmed by the response and told us that he'd like to play for us all night, but they'd do one more song. It was Three of a Perfect Pair.
After that, the show really was over. When everything goes right, live performances can really be transcendent. This night was like that.
Adrian and his band came out to sign autographs afterwards. Roy and I were going to wait until the crowd got smaller and then walk up. At first, everyone was gathered around Adrian, and he was signing things, but it was all moving very quickly. I prefer when there's a line and then some one-on-one time. Someone else decided that we had been there longer and gave us some space. Adrian saw us and said "Hi Rhea, how you doing?" (I had to write that again.) I'm still not used to that. I wasn't looking at him at the time and was not expecting a hello like that. He signed my Young Lions CD. I told him how much I liked the new pieces A and B and then rambled about how we had seen E last year. Adrian told us that they haven't played the other new pieces C and D live yet. The whole thing was really quick.
We talked to some other fans. One guy liked the show Adrian did here a few years back with his other power trio better, because they played more Crimson songs. I think the current trio is much more exciting.
Roy wanted to tell Adrian a particular story. When the crowd got smaller, Roy went up to him again. We bought a Bears tshirt from their tour in 2002. I call it the Big Electric Bear shirt. Roy happened to be wearing it when we met artist Roger Dean at a festival, and Roger said he liked it. He thought it was a dog. We told him it was a bear, and he said "Even better!" I could hear Roy telling the story, and Adrian replying that Roger Dean knew his art. Roy also talked to Adrian's bandmembers, Eric and Julie Slick, telling them how we saw them last year in Cleveland. Eric remembered the venue was the Beachland Ballroom.
We walked back through the restaurant, and the Talking Heads Burning Down the House was on the jukebox. I sang along, and we walked back home. It was nearly 1 AM. I sent out an e-mail to my boss that I'd be in late the next day. I wasn't ready for sleep, too wound up and excited from the experience. I sent a note to the Adrian Belew Yahoogroup about the extra encore and did a few other things on line.
The next morning, my boss IM'd me to ask if it was a late night and then, if it was worth it. I wrote back "oh yes". Sometimes it feels like I live in two worlds, between the music fandom and my career. I don't know how "professional" it is to share my other life with coworkers, but I'm glad I can and that they take an interest in it. We all have other lives outside of work.