I initially got into Adrian Belew in my early 20’s, mostly by way of listening to bands like Talking Heads, King Crimson and David Bowie, all of which he had notable stints with. It wasn’t until an employee at ear-x-tacy recommended his latest album (at the time), Side One, which to my delight also featured Les Claypool (Primus) and Danny Carey (Tool). As time would pass I would buy Side Two and Side Three, and would dig into his earlier work as well, most notably (for me) his Desire Of The Rhino King record, a compilation of three of his better albums from the 80’s. While his otherworldly guitar tone is unmistakably one of the most recognizable in rock n’ roll, his voice is also fantastically soothing, sounding sorta like a mashup of David Byrne and Brian Eno.
Over the years, I’ve missed out on seeing him perform as he seemingly always would be playing just out of my driving range (I won’t go far, mind you). So when I caught wind that Belew would be performing at Zanzabar in Louisville, I was fucking ecstatic. Not only would I finally get the chance to watch one of my favorite guitarists, but I’d also finally get to check out the new and improved Zanzabar.
We (my girlfriend and I) arrived about 20 minutes before 8 o’clock, which was when the show was advertised to start, which is awesome because I didn’t want to stay up too late because I had to work early the next morning. We had just enough time to buy a beer and walk around and explore the remodeled Zanzabar, which to be blunt is fucking awesome. The new room is pretty big and the stage is raised, giving folks in the back a much better line of sight than before. Definitely impressed, and can’t wait to get back for more live music.
Anyway, the show started almost precisely on time without a hitch as opener Saul Zonana hit the stage. He went on to perform a slew of progressive power pop tunes (aka “Dad Rock”), all of which were fine, but not really my thing.
Before I go any further, I have to mention that during Zonana’s set I quickly began to notice that I was among the youngest people in attendance (I’m 33). I’d say the median age at this show was probably 50 or more, and this might have something to do with how fucking fun it was. I didn’t experience one drunk asshole or any other sort of bullshit you normally encounter at a bigger show such as this; everyone was even keel, mostly positive and pretty relaxed. Plus, a lot of people wanted to sit down in the back making it pretty easy to get to the front of the stage with no resistance. Hell yeah, don’t mind if I do.
Not long after Zonana was finished, Adrian Belew hit the stage with a much younger bass/drum duo consisting of Julie Slick and and percussionist I didn’t recognize, both of which would go on to prove themselves as more than capable of keeping up. Below waltzed out wearing what looked like a custodian’s jump suit and a ball cap, not exactly what I expected, but it was pretty cool nevertheless. It was immediately evident that he didn’t take himself too seriously as he consistently had a big, lovable grin on his face while playing and constantly joked in between songs. He seemed to be having a lot of fun, and his attitude was infectious as his audience apparently were, too.
The trio would go on to play a number of awesome songs, ranging from his early Rhino King days all the way up to the Side One record. He also played a few King Crimson songs which got the crowd pretty excited. It’s also worth mentioning that they sounded really good in Zanzabar’s new space, much better in my opinion than anything I’d heard before on their old set up.
Here’s a short video I took of Belew while playing “Big Electric Cat”:
As awesome as Belew was, I couldn’t help but notice how badass his bass player was. I’m normally not that impressed with bullshit guitar noodling, but she acrobatically played her 5-string bass like I’ve never seen before. Check out a short video I took of her playing below:
On my Lyft ride home I thought to myself about how awesome this show was. I mean, this gig only had two acts on it, started on time, and it sounded great, not to mention that Adrian Belew & company were amazing. All of which, in my opinion happen to be the finest ingredients to a great live music experience, which this undoubtedly was (even if I had to duck out a bit early because of early work obligations). So here’s a huge thank you to Belew and Zanzabar for making this night so unforgettable!
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the original posting of this show review, we mentioned that along with Julie Slick, her brother Eric was there playing drums. Apparently we were wrong and he it was a different drummer. Never Nervous regrets the error.