The Adrian Belew Power Trio has to be the best name for a rock ’n’ roll band since The Jimi Hendrix Experience — it’s simple, with no frills, and perfectly describes the group.
The point was made abundantly clear at the trio’s concert Sunday night at Revolution Hall in Troy. As Belew himself said in an interview with The Gazette about two weeks before, the band is “three sort of virtuoso musicians playing their butts off,” and that’s exactly what the audience got.
There was no slacking in this group. With Belew acting as veteran band leader providing the group’s core, the trio smashed its way through newer tracks from the “Side” trilogy of albums, as well as classic Belew solo and King Crimson material.
Eric and Julie Slick, on drums and bass respectively, injected fresh-faced energy and monstrous playing into Belew’s already monstrous guitar jams. At nearly two decades Belew’s junior, the Slick siblings commanded the stage with their infectious grooves, at times even threatening to overpower their front man.
But the show was clearly all about Belew. The best moments came late in the evening with the last two songs of the band’s second set, a ripping run-through of “Futurevision,” off the 1994 Belew solo album “Here,” and a stunningly majestic performance of King Crimson’s “Three of a Perfect Pair.” These two songs were worth admission price alone, and received the loudest and longest audience approval.
These tracks, along with “Big Electric Cat,” “Of Bow and Drum” and encore “Thela Hun Ginjeet,” made up a chunk of “classic” Belew material buried deep in the second set. The trio was indeed strongest on these cuts, although the group’s performances of more recent material early on were still powerful, to say the least.
Belew could be seen grinning ear to ear and beaming with pride at his young musical foils throughout most of both sets, as he strangled unearthly noises from his Parker guitar on lyrically sparse cuts such as show opener “Writing on the Wall” and “Ampersand.” The instrumentals, including “Beatbox Guitar” and the appropriately titled “Madness,” offered showcases for the trio’s depth and range of abilities. The two brand new songs performed, “E” and “Planet E,” both instrumentals as well, proved to be the most gymnastic and musically demanding cuts the trio played, and were well received.
“Drive,” which opened the second set after a much needed breather, gave Belew a chance to shine solo, and shine he did, quoting George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” and producing some of the most interesting noises that could possibly be made with six wire strings and a chunk of wood.
Chris O’Connor opens
Early in the evening, Chris O’Connor opened everything with some modest guitar heroics of his own, performing an hour’s worth of acoustic instrumentals. His tunings between songs did become a nuisance after a while, but with the level of musicianship the audience was treated to, this complaint is minor.
His intricate playing offered new twists on some old favorites, including Vince Guaraldi’s “Charlie Brown Suite.” But O’Connor was best on his original pieces, especially the moving “Wishful Thinking,” which he performed with help from Eric Finn of Hair of the Dog.