Concert review: No World Series game but plenty of power with Two of a Perfect Pair tour at the Old Rock House, Wednesday, October 26
I entered the Old Rock House on Wednesday evening two hours before show time to see the Two of a Perfect Pair tour featuring Adrian Belew‘s Power Trio and Tony Levin‘s band Stickmen, for a VIP meet and greet.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had been steeped in excitement for months after the announcement of this event, but unsure if my enthusiasm was to be shared. Much to my amazement any doubt was quickly erased. Standing before me were at least 60-80 people. There was Tony Levin — bass player for King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, John Lennon and Pink Floyd — standing just inches from me surrounded by others as enchanted as myself signing autographs, posing for photos and chatting away just like he was at a neighbor’s backyard barbecue. At this point I knew I was in for something special.
On stage there were two mammouth drum kits, two laptops, two towering bass rigs and a comfy stool. What was to come from this array, might just be the club concert of the year. Taking the stage shortly after 8 p.m. was Tony’s band the Stickmen. From my position crammed in the corner of the stage over by the drums (by now the room was filled to near capacity), I witnessed one of my heroes Pat Mastelotto climb behind his drum kit mixed with both acoustic and electric components. My adrenaline started to flow. Joining Pat and Tony on stage was Markus Reuter the Austrian born inventor of the Touch Guitar.This instrument is both guitar and bass in one played by “touching” the strings. This is how the band may have come about it’s name. Tony uses a Chapman Stick, which is played similarly by striking the strings on the fretboard. Of course Pat uses “sticks” to caress his playing surfaces on his drums: Ergo, the Stickmen.
Once the group were settled in behind their respective equipment, they soared into King Crimson’s “BBoom.” I could swear I saw many a chin hit the floor. To the uninitiated, this was a sight to see. Pure energy. For the next 45 minutes, the band played several songs from their CDs “Soup” and “Absalom.” A couple of my favorite selections being ”Crack in the Sky,” featuring eerie vocals from Tony, a quirky hypnotic groove from Pat and soundscapes oozing from Markus’ Touch Guitar triggered from his laptop, and a cover of Robert Fripp’s “Breathless” from his solo album “Exposure” that is very rarely ever played. Then the musicians capped their all-too-short set with an amazing rendition of the “Firebird Suite” by composer Igor Stravinsky.
After a 10 – 15 minute break, the evening’s headliner hit the stage: Adrian Belew’s Power Trio. Adrian was dressed in his usual dapper slacks and t-shirt, carrying his signature Parker guitar. Joining Adrian on the stage were Julie Slick on bass and Tobias Ralph on the drums.
Adrian began the evening by thanking the crowd for coming out, and referencing the cancellation of the World Series game, he proceeded to race into his song “Young Lions.” The bass howled, the guitar soared and the drums exploded into a cacophony of power. The power trio had hit the stage. Mr. Belew then introduced the band. When it came time to introduce himself, he said we should just call himself “Lois.” He then played a smoking set consisting of tunes from his storied career covering songs from King Crimson and his albums “Op Zop Too Wah,” “Here,” “Side One, Side Three” and “e.”
My attention was drawn to the playing of the young bass player Julie Slick. To say the least, she is a monster. She simply destroyed her guitar, aggressively manipulating every tone to rip right through the mix, marrying distortion and clean sounds as effortlessly as walking through the park. Halfway through their set, the crowd could be heard chanting “JOOOO-LEEEEE” in support and admiration. Her performance, shredding barefoot like a curly-haired dervish, was worth every penny of the admission price. Tobias Ralph kept the beat in this odd world of outrageous time signatures flawlessly, with reckless abandon. His sheer brutality in striking the skins of his kit looked like part labor of love mixed with unadulterated passion as he mixed polyrhythm after polyrhythm.
All in all, this trio encompassed the term power. As their time came to a close during the title track to the album “e,” Adrian said, “Don’t go anywhere, we are just getting started,” and left the stage to thunderous applause of a very hungry crowd. Hungry, because they knew what was coming next: The Crimson set.
Coming back again after a short break, three-fourths of the last King Crimson band hit the stage and appropriately began playing “Three of a Perfect Pair” and “Sleepless” with Tony strapping on his thunder fingers (small drum sticks attached to his fingers to strike his bass strings). As fantastic as the evening had been so far, it was obvious this is what the audience had been waiting for.
Everyone pushed forward in what appeared to be an effort to absorb the vibe this amazing trio was throwing out. Markus came up and joined the fun by launching into the Crimson classic “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” assuming the textural role usually held by Robert Fripp.
The show finished with Ralph and Slick rounding out the double trio that Crimson toured with during the ’90s to play several tunes from the infamous ’80s era. “Indiscipline” and “Dinosaur,” which Adrian said was the closest to a Beatles tune King Crimson ever had, and “Thela Hun Gingeet” finished an incredible night.
As the bands gathered to mingle with the crowd afterwards, I found myself feeling like I had just watched a World Series game. I was euphoric and exhausted — and had seen all kinds of power.