Catching up with Adrian Belew before Beaver Creek performance |

Catching up with Adrian Belew before Beaver Creek performance

Alan Sculley
Last Word Features
  • What: Jerry Harrison & Adrian Belew "Remain in Light"
  • When: Feb. 18, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek
  • More info:

Guitarist/singer Adrian Belew has been busy lately revisiting a pair of key collaborations in a career that has seen him work with some of rock’s biggest stars both on stage and in the studio, while building a solo career that is now some two dozen albums deep, playing in the excellent pop band the Bears and perhaps most famously, fronting King Crimson from 1981 to 2009.

Last fall, Belew was a featured player and singer in the Celebrating David Bowie tour, which also included Todd Rundgren, Royston Langdon (frontman of Spacehog) and singer Angelo Moore (of Fishbone).

Participating in that tour made sense for Belew, considering he toured with Bowie on the 1978/79 “Isolar II” tour, played guitar on Bowie’s 1979 album, “Lodger” and was musical director and guitarist on Bowie’s epic “Sound + Vision” tour in 1990.

Now Belew, who began his career playing with Frank Zappa and went on to work with Paul Simon, Tori Amos and Cyndi Lauper among many others, begins what figures to be a busy 2023 by teaming up with former Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison for the “Remain In Light” tour.

Named after the Talking Heads’ influential 1980 album, “Remain In Light,” the show finds Belew and Harrison fronting a large band that will play that album, which fused the Talking Heads’ earlier quirky rock with African music influences to create a fresh sound that was heavy on rhythms, complex, yet highly approachable.

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Once again, Belew had a direct connection to the “Remain In Light” project, playing on the album and serving as featured player in the expanded band the Talking Heads took on tour to promote the album.

Belew and Harrison have done a couple of one-off performances of the “Remain In Light” show, and at first he wasn’t sure it would be feasible to take the “Remain In Light” show on the road.

“It’s a large band. It’s always hard to know, to make that work out economically and otherwise,” he said. “But it sure is fun and we sure get a great response. And I love working with Jerry and the band and I love doing that record in particular. We’re trying to sort of take as our blueprint the 1980 live Rome concert that’s on YouTube that hundreds and hundreds of people say it’s the best concert they ever saw. We started with that and we tried to emulate it a bit. It’s a show that if you really love that band, you can’t miss it. It’s a happy show, a joyful show.”

Ironically, the first time Belew encountered the Talking Heads, he wasn’t impressed with what he saw.

“I saw the band, the Talking Heads, when they really were nobody yet, in 1977,” he said. “I saw them at a little club, and they weren’t very good, honestly. It’s amazing how quickly they became really good. And in my mind, I compare that show in which I walked away kind of ‘Heh, I don’t know what all the fuss is about’ to what we did only a few years later, three years later, and I think ‘Wow, how quickly they transformed themselves.’ Brilliant stuff, great players and just completely different musical ideas.” 

Belew said he began to understand how much and how quickly the Talking Heads (which also included singer and main songwriter David Byrne, drummer Chris Frantz and bassist Tina Weymouth) had developed when he heard the band’s third album, 1979’s “Fear Of Music,” which began to introduce an African element into the band’s music.

“That was about the time that I finally ended up playing with them,” Belew said. “Then I went back to the earlier ones (albums). But still, ‘Fear Of Music’ was my favorite until we did ‘Remain In Light.’”

Once the “Remain In Light” tour wraps up, Belew figures to do more touring behind his 2022 solo album, “Elevator.”

The album finds Belew balancing the pop sense of earlier solo albums like 1990’s “Young Lions” and 1992’s “Inner Revolution” with the more adventurous, experimental side of the music he brought to King Crimson and on solo albums like “Desire Caught By the Tail” (1986) and “Op Zop Too Wah” (1996). And as a guitarist famous for conjuring unconventional tones from his instrument, “Elevator” has plenty of the wild and inventive solos and fills.

In a real sense, “Elevator” encapsulates the range of music that Belew has made over the years.

“I’m telling people if you don’t know my music that well, there’s a lot of catching up to do because there are 25 solo records now, but you should start with ‘Elevator,’” Belew said. “Then you’ll know what you think and you can go back in time and pick up whatever you want because I really feel it sort of epitomizes what I do on my own, apart from working with famous people. And I’m happy with the way it turned out, very happy.”

A Dale Chihuly-designed, Rippeto Family chandelier hangs in the upper lobby of the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek. The work of art is fittingly 25 years old and was dedicated in Dec. 2022 as part of the venue’s 25th anniversary celebration.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

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