Sunday, 27th February 2011
Paradiso, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Article and photos By Ian Butler
Adrian Belew chose to premier his work E with an orchestra at the Paradiso in Amsterdam.
Upon entry to the concert hall, three quarters of it was taken up by the orchestra.
This meant little room for the audience, which made for a very 'gezellig' and personal experience indeed.
Adrian Belew appeared on stage, dressed in black with red shoes, sporting his usual amicable and positive smile.
I am not sure if anyone knew what to expect, but the evening was very intense and unique.
The first part was Adrian Belew by himself, layering and looping guitar parts using intricate notes and rhythms to create his music.
It was typical Belew style, setting guitar rhythms and melodies intersected with 'uncomfortable/difficult' notes and noises in places.
It was like the Bozzio, Levin, Holdsworth, Mastelloto concert I went to a while back,
really difficult to digest and more impossible to accurately describe!
If you know Belew's work, then you'll have an idea of how eccentric that things can get.
To help you, here's a great YouTube clip, very good quality picture.
The second song was an unrecorded song which was the most bizarre and peculiar combination of layered small riffs and soloing with car samples too.
It sounded like organised chaos! Here was someone actually being 'progressive' and pushing the boundaries with the guitar.
His third song was a little more conventional with a funky edge and guitar soloing over the top.
The second half was the premier of the E work with the orchestra, conducted by Jules Buckley (if my ears weren't mistaken).
The start was very 'Corpus Christi Carol' I thought, of which Jeff Beck and Jeff Buckley have done versions (I am not sure who wrote the original though).
It was quite challenging to listen to a combination of quiet and intricate parts followed by the whole orchestra.
A full orchestra with 2 electric guitars, electric bass and drums provides a very full, moving and emotional sound indeed.
The audience seemed to be a mix of mainly classical fans with only one drunken prog fan constantly talking in my ear the whole way through.
The music in E takes many turns, as you would expect, from quite parts to the orchestra playing those unique angular Belew riffs.
It struck me how natural these parts that I associate with the guitar sound so good with an orchestra.
It makes me think that well written and composed music can be played on any instruments and it remains good.
It also made me think that perhaps there is far bigger classical influence in King Crimson's and Belew's work than I thought before.
One of the highlights for me was the two xylophones playing King Crimson-esque runs, totally unexpected, but genius!
The performance quite rightly deserved a standing ovation.
I have found a link from YouTube which shows the beginning of the orchestral part.
The event was sponsored by the Dutch government and perhaps that's why he then played A postcard from Holland, a very normal song in comparison!
He finished with a rendition of Frame By Frame, which brought the house down!
Belew looked moved and absolutely thrilled at the success of the evening, whilst punching the air.
It was a very unique evening which I think will come out on DVD too.