Six string power
Belew continues to pioneer rock guitar
Posted: November 17, 2010
Belew has been expanding the limits of his instrument since the 1970s.
Andrian Belew's distinct guitar style was an open secret to club goers in Nashville in the 1970s. It was there, in a funky little place called Fanny's, that the Kentucky-born guitarist was discovered by Frank Zappa and subsequently swept onto the world stage on the latter's Sheik Yerbouti album and tour.
Belew has since established a reputation as one of the world's most extraordinary rock guitarists, working with Talking Heads, David Bowie, Lady Gaga and others.
But Belew's most enduring ascent to fame happened when he joined King Crimson as lead vocalist and guitarist in 1981. The thrill of that moment still buzzed in Belew's voice as he told The Prague Post, "I loved King Crimson second only to The Beatles, so that will tell you how happy I was the day I ended up joining that band."
King Crimson co-founder Robert Fripp allowed Belew's eccentric guitar style to fully flourish, liberating him from the role of sideman. Belew's lead vocals injected a positive energy into the band they had not enjoyed for some time.
When: Thursday, Nov. 18, at 9
Where: Retro Music Hall
Tickets: 595 Kč, available through Ticketportal
The progressive sounds of King Crimson and The Beatles were primary influences, but Belew is also quick to point out that the blues-rock experimentations of Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Jimmy Page were also key in shaping his playing. Audible elements of these influences include guitar sound effects that were pioneered by Beck and Hendrix and have become central in Belew's sound.
1960s guitar workouts may have helped expand his sonic vocabulary, but Belew also claims another source of inspiration closer to home.
"Some of the most exotic music I heard as a youngster was in soundtracks. Of course, this music was mixed into whatever else was happening, whether it was a street scene or a mountain stream. So I just assumed that nature sounds and modern sounds go hand in hand," he says.
As an aspiring guitar player, Belew was enchanted with The Beatles' effect-laden album Revolver, which he calls "a turning point."
"Once I heard the sound of a guitar backward, I never stopped loving it. I still utilize it now, and I've finally found a way to do it live. It's a tricky thing, but that sound so enchanted me that even years later, I'm still utilizing it," he says.
Belew learned a great deal from his masters, including Zappa, who taught him "the practical day-to-day nuts and bolts of being a recording artist, things like traveling as an international player, how to run your own business, how to tour properly and how to make records," he says.
"I watched carefully his ability with arranging music, because I thought he was brilliant at that as well," he adds.
Since forming the Adrian Belew Power Trio in 2006, Belew has continued to build on his vast experience and inexhaustible appetite for guitar experimentation. Talking about the set he and his band are playing on his current tour, Belew says, "We have added some new things that I've been writing, more Crimson material as well as versions of earlier material from my solo career."
Belew never fails to bring his own personal sense of musical joy and discovery to the stage. With Marko Minimum on drums and Julie Slick on bass, there is no reason to doubt Belew when he says, "We all are going to have a wonderful evening."
Darrell Jónsson can be reached at
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