I've seen the rock musician Adrian Belew probably five times now in various bands and musical assemblages – with King Crimson, with his Power Trio, and solo at least once if not a couple of times – but until a few weeks ago I always saw him playing his own music.
But Adrian Belew has participated in so many bands over the years that I should have expected him to show up with a friend in tow and do most of the friend's songs, which happened a couple of weeks ago at the HOB* in Boston, when he showed up with a member of the Talking Heads.
You may point out that Jerry Harrison isn't the main Talking Heads songwriter; however all songs on the album Remain in Light are credited to Talking Heads and Brian Eno, so Harrison gets credit for all of them. And since the name of the tour was "Jerry Harrison & Adrian Belew REMAIN IN LIGHT" I feel confident that a court of law would exonerate me from charges of falsely claiming that the band was playing mostly Jerry Harrison songs.
You're probably wondering if this is the part of my music review when I start writing in flowery and verbose language, highlighting nebulous, esoteric aspects of the concert, casting light on little bits of melodic nuance that would have gone over the head of the average concertgoer. Or, maybe the average person wouldn't have noticed the subtleties I focus on, such as contending that the power and elegance of Adrian Belew's singing was brought into sharp relief when juxtaposed to Harrison's croaking style, because the subtleties really weren't there, and I'm reading way, way too deeply into the music. Maybe I'm just using this concert as a way of calling attention to me instead of the band.
That's not my style.
I will tell you in the most straightforward, easy to understand expository prose that Talking Heads music is still great decades later, and that the musicians assembled played faithful renditions of it, with Harrison and Belew and a backing funk band called Cool Cool Cool generating a big, energetic sound that mimicked the Talking Heads stage act at the height of their popularity. Yeah, sure, it would have been great for it to be an actual Talking Heads show with David Byrne singing, but Adrian Belew can still bring it in his 70s, and not only did he collaborate with Talking Heads in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but he can sound a good deal like David Byrne when he wants to.
I can't talk about this night without mentioning the type of mildly irritating fan you might encounter at a general admission rock concert that makes you wish they would go get another beer and get stymied trying to return . Often it's a large man who needs about a six foot radius around himself at all times to enable him to shake and shimmy and dance the night away, while the rest of us are jammed together like a pack of cigarettes. Then he elbows you in the eye socket and turns to you with his hands raised like it's a stickup to indicate that he didn't mean it. But he goes on needing all that floor space the whole night. In this rather different case, I weaved my way onto the floor after the opener had left and stopped behind a man and his son who were best pals, arms slung over each other's shoulders, high fiving, hugging, and so forth. It was kind of sweet! But after the concert started, the tipsy Dad who was sloshing around his second or third tallboy can of beer kept pulling the teen boy close so that their heads touched and I couldn't see the show, even with my big shoes on. I kept eying vacant floor space so that I might slip away from peculiarly amorous father-son act. You're thinking, what's the big deal? Too many fathers and sons don't show love for each other so why complain about these two being best buds? Trust me, it got weirder and weirder as the man got more and more hammered. Plus, like I said, I couldn't see the show.
Eventually, I was able to slide to the left so that I didn't have to keep bobbing and weaving like Joe Frazier to see the musicians between the tilted heads of this overly-close pair. Meanwhile, my buddy Tim abandoned the area headed to the back of the venue floor to get away from them. It wasn't just me.
I'll probably keep going to Adrian Belew shows until they don't exist any longer, or I don't exist, which, if you were paying attention to my early blog posts of several years ago, may be a long way off, as I expect to live quite a bit past 100. Just need Adrian Belew to do the same.
*(I don't like to expand the acronym because my friend Todd hates the HOB).
I’m trying to decide if the most apt Mountain Goats song to describe the past 365 days locked up in our homes and masquerading as 1970s surgeons is “This Year.” It seems like a reasonable choice, given that it includes the line, “I am going to make it through this year, if it kills me.”
However, “Going to Lebanon 2” might be more suitable because the surrealness of the last 365 days is captured in the verse, “Take note of what will be gone in the blink of an eye, the blue blue water, the bone white sky.”
I cast my vote for Going to Lebanon 2 because a) it was released during the pandemic from hell, which suggests to me that John Darnielle wrote it to describe the feeling of being denied the simplest of pleasures when the disease struck; and b) because I have scads of Lebanese cousins, so what the hell.
As with many Mountain Goats songs, it’s really hard to understand why this one was named Going to Lebanon 2. It could have been named almost anything else and you’d be no farther from guessing what the song was about. There is no mention in the lyrics of going to Lebanon or anywhere. You’d think that something about the architecture of Beirut or Mediterranean beaches would be in order.
OK, I’m clearly diverting our attention from the bigger story: the last year has really stunk. Did you know that I had tickets to 3 rock shows that got canceled, including Nick Cave. (As if that’s a problem, with half a million Americans dead.)
J'Biden Era Haikuage
People's Arms. That's right!
200 million shots
In 100 days
We are good people
But we still have far to go
Repair. Restore. Heal.
There's nothing new here
The Affordable Care Act
We're restoring it
Democracy is fragile
The world is watching
Strategy is based
On Science, not politics
Truth, not denial
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