Adrian Belew at the Hill

By Paul Moffett

In an effort to find the proper superlatives for the Adrian Belew show at the Phoenix Hill Tavern on April 16, I emptied my thesaurus onto the page. Looking over the pile of -iest words, I decided to just mash them together, boil them down, extract the essence and use that.

Clever openings aside, the point is that Belew and crew whipped a first-rate, tight, tasty, superlative-exhausting show on a packed house at the Phoenix and, when the band was last seen heading up the alley, the crowd was still screaming for yet another encore. After four hours of standing at the bar, I was still bouncing, as my calves reminded me the next morning.

It was, as I told my spouse, what rock 'n' roll was 'sposed to be. On a night when rock/blues legend Bo Diddly was also playing in town, the number of musicians in the Phoenix Hill was a testament to the drawing power of Belew and band.

Catching a band of this quality on the opening leg of a new tour to support a new album is one of the great pleasures of rock 'n' roll. Belew is a guitar whiz, no doubt about it, as well as a man who understands what signal processing is and how to put it to good use in a performance. Whale songs and a scratchy growling guitar alternated with plain old hot rock picking. It sounded like his orange guitar was going to erupt, which, in a sense, it did.

Songs from the new Inner Revolution album were dominant in the hour and three-quarter show, but favorites from prior albums were mixed in, including the wonderful tune "Lone Rhino." Belew writes solid rock songs that evoke the best of the British invasion of the the Sixties and Seventies, but with Nineties sensibilities.

The quartet, which expanded at one point to include a violinist, consisted of guitarist Rob Fetters, formerly with one of Belew's bands, the Bears, and currently with the Psychodots; bassist Brian Lovely; and drummer Mike Hodges, who played on David Bowie's Sound and Vision tour.

Belew's musical history includes work with Bowie, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Paul Simon, Mike Oldfield and the Bears. Their influences, while apparent to the discerning listener, in no way overshadow his songwriting and performing. With fourteen years of professional performing and recording and seven solo albums in his past, Belew is in the prime of his career, and his skills are put to good use to entertain his fans. Belew also took a turn on the drums, while the bassist and second guitarist swapped instruments.

The opening act, Across the Rhine, presented a set of cool and cerebral tunes which were well received but in no way compared or conflicted with Belew. Watch for this band or its members down the line.

Pardon me while I rub my legs and smile.